What’s the deal with gut health?
After a long-weekend of indulgences, you may be thinking about your families and your own health. A few too many hot dogs, scoops of ice cream or handfuls of chips may leave you with some unpleasant effects in your tummy. A poor diet can cause good bacteria in our gut to go out-of-wack. An imbalance in the bacteria can cause side effects — like an upset stomach — that are mild and temporary. While occasionally, more serious side effects can occur, most often, your body can balance gut bacteria on its own.
This month at Kids & Company, your little ones are learning about digestion and the human body in their nutrition curriculum. Digestive health, microbiota and good bacteria are all terms that are buzzing in nutrition information lately but can be hard to understand. So what’s the business with gut health? And how do you keep your gut healthy?
The essence of gut health is simple. There are naturally occurring bacteria in your digestive system that become unhappy when disturbed. Your first thought when you hear the word bacteria may be bad, but there are actually many bacteria that are essential for our health. A common misconception is that your digestive system’s sole purpose is the digestion and absorption of nutrients. In reality, your intestines also have a huge part to play in your body’s immune function, blood sugar control and energy production. It’s obvious why we have to take care of our gut in order to keep the rest of our body in top shape!
The microbiota and microbiome are two terms that are widely used in the world of gut health. Essentially, they refer to a set of tiny organisms such as bacteria, that exist within everyone’s digestive tract. Each person has a unique set of little creatures living in there which is why everyone has to eat slightly different foods to be their most healthy. Depending on your life stage, your diet and a host of other factors, your microbiome may change slightly. So what kind of foods can help keep our guts happy and healthy?
Fibre is one essential component of a well-balanced microbiome. Fibre quite literally feeds the good bacteria that live in our intestines and help digest our food. If we feed the biome what it likes, they increase in size and number further benefiting our health. The best advice for fibre in your diet is to try to consume a variety of different types and to consume them often. Some great recipes to help increase your fibre intake from the Kidco Kitchen include Peppy Pumpkin Crunch, Quinoa Crusaders, and our Bean and Barley Stew.
Typically, a diverse microbiota is a healthy one! A diet consisting of different food types can lead to diverse microbiota. The typical American diet is not very diverse, so do your best to include a variety of whole foods in your diet.
Another consideration for feeding a healthy gut is fermented foods. These foods contain good bacteria from the fermentation process which create further benefits when they get into our intestines. It is important to note that not all fermented foods are created equal. Wine and soy sauce are two examples of fermented foods that do not contain live cultures and therefore have less of a benefit to our intestinal health. Alternatively, yogurt, kefir and kimchi are fermented foods that still contain live bacteria that upon ingested will benefit your microbiome. These foods with live cultures will add to the bacteria in your gut and further aid in digestion, and immunity among other great effects! Looking for some tasty fermented food ideas? Try our Kidco Kitchen Tangy Tzatziki, or our Blueberry Smoothie Bowl.
The science behind gut health is rapidly emerging but the general rules are simple. Eat a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein with an emphasis on plant-based sources and a limited amount of processed foods. The Kidco Kitchen provides your little ones with a balanced diet every day that contributes to good health and a happy gut!
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Chef Lisa Ruscica
Chief Food Ambassador