Ok, so you keep hearing words like gut health, the human microbiome, fermented foods, probiotics, prebiotics and good bacteria bandied about. Sounds a bit complicated… and maybe a bit gross? Let me break it down for you into very simple terms.
Hear this for mind bending… Your body is 90% bacteria and 10% human!
That is, it is now estimated, that the human body contains 100 trillion microbes. And we are learning over time just how important these are to our health. Scientists continue to make links between our own gut bacteria makeup and many chronic health conditions such as allergies and obesity. There are even significant scientific findings liking gut health and mental health.
Optimal health is now known to be achieved by more than just nurturing your human cells but your gut bacteria as well.
By looking after your gut health you are putting yourself in the best position to optimise your physical and mental health.
This is a very complex and new frontier of medicine and I am no expert. If you are suffering from gut health issues there are many steps that need to be taken to restore balance. If this is you… hopefully you can find holistic health care professions who can guide and support you through the process.
Two areas of gut health that particularly interest me are… you guessed… related to veggies!
The first is the support of healthy “good bacteria” by eating a diet high in prebiotic foods.
Secondly is regular inclusion of fermented foods in your diet.
So what are prebiotic foods? And what do they do for me? Or more importantly what do they do for my gut bacteria?
Prebiotic foods contain a type of dietary fibre that feeds the good, friendly and desirable bacteria in our guts. We all know how important it is to include fibre in our diets. A high fibre diet keeps our digestive tract moving, helps in regulating blood sugars, keeps our immune system levels up and protects us from many diseases including bowl cancer. The fibre that I am talking about, the one found in prebiotic foods, passes through our GI tract undigested so it can find it’s way to the bacteria in our large intestine. Think of it as the food for your gut friends! Keep them fed and they will thrive and multiply.
I will include a list of probiotic foods at the bottom so you can have a little read but I once heard it said that but eating your stalks and skins you are helping to boost your probiotic food intake. So keep including your broccoli and cauliflower stalks in your meals and keep the skins on your apples and carrots when you can.
So now you ask… where do fermented foods come into this equation? Well the answer is fermented foods are alive with all the good, friendly and desirable bacteria that we need to populate our guts with. As an alternative to probiotic capsules, eating fermented foods, is a cheaper, more potent and tastier option.
Fermented foods come in many forms and the majority of the healthiest cultures in the world have their own traditional fermented dishes. You might be familiar with Kimchi, Sauerkraut and Miso. The fermented drink Kombucha is currently taking the hipter world by storm and is for sale almost everywhere.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a Mastering Fermented Foods workshop with Sammi Zajko from Fermenting Australia. What an eye opener! The process of fermenting your own foods at home… turns out is dead simple, cheap, fun and creative.
During our class we learned about the process of lacto fermenting foods. That is utilising the natural good bacteria (Lactobacillus) present on the surface of vegetables and fruit and fermenting them in a 2% salt brine. If you have the opportunity to attend a course like this jump at the chance. Sammi runs courses all over Australia so take a look below to see if she is coming to a venue near you.
Sydney, Central Coast, regional and more:
This list comes courtesy of Monash University
Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, leek, shallots, spring onion, asparagus, beetroot, fennel bulb, green peas, snow peas, sweetcorn, savoy cabbage
Legumes Chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans
Custard apples, nectarines, white peaches, persimmon, tamarillo, watermelon, rambutan, grapefruit, pomegranate. Dried fruit (eg. dates, figs)
Bread / cereals / snacks
Barley, rye bread, rye crackers, pasta, gnocchi, couscous, wheat bran, wheat bread, oats
Nuts and seeds
Cashews, pistachio nuts