Eat your fruits and veggies
While all the different foods that make up your diet can influence the gut microbiome, it is the fiber – the carbohydrates in our diet that we cannot break down ourselves but the bacteria in our gut can use readily – that drives the formation of a healthy microbiome. Eating a diverse and abundant selection of fruits and veggies is a great way to feed some of the most health-promoting bacteria in our gut.
Add resistant starch
Most of the starch in our diet – like white bread and pasta – is quickly broken down and absorbed. But a fraction of that starch is resistant to digestion and acts more like a fiber, feeding the bacteria in our gut. Resistant starch has been identified as particularly beneficial for supporting all of those healthy functions of the gut microbiome. Some sources of resistant starch include potatoes and legumes. All sources of starch can also become more resistant after cooking and then cooling in the fridge. So those leftover potatoes and pasta, cold or reheated, may have some added microbiome-promoting punch.
Experiment with different fibers
Not all gut microbiomes are the same and not all fibers are the same. Certain fibers and microbiomes will mix better than others, depending on what functions are present. This means that you need to do some experimentation to see what fibers will make you and your gut feel the best. You can do this with fiber supplements or with different categories of fiber sources such as whole grains, legumes or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Give your microbiome a couple of weeks to adjust to each fiber source to see how it responds.
Exercise for both you and your microbes
Regular physical activity is not only good for your heart, it is good for your gut, too. Studies recently showed that some of the lactate produced during exercise can impact certain gut microbes – although we don’t yet know how and why. Start slow if you haven’t had regular physical activity as part of your daily life. If you start on New Year’s, by Valentine’s Day you could be walking daily, or doing some time of activity that you like, to help your heart, mind and gut.
Add probiotic foods into your diet
What are probiotic foods? These are foods that contain microorganisms that have a health benefit. There are several different kinds of helpful microorganisms that are added to foods like yogurt, or are naturally found in other fermented foods – like sauerkraut or kimchi – that give them a health-promoting effect. Give one of these foods a try in the new year. You might be wondering if probiotic supplements are as beneficial as probiotic food. So far there isn’t enough evidence to say that – so stick with food.