“Did you know we are only 10 percent human? Ninety percent of our cells are nonhuman, microbial cells. Since our diet influences our microbes, it’s true: We really are what we eat.”
Microbiota – balancing our gut flora
Balancing our gut flora, or as it’s now called, microbiota, is a major part of maintaining our overall health. Unfortunately, modern diets lack a lot of the good bacteria typically found in fermented foods, which would be plentiful in the days before refrigerators. Processed foods that are high in additives and sugar, decimate the beneficial bacteria whilst allowing the harmful ones to thrive. For this reason it’s important to maintain a balanced diet and regularly include fermented foods.
The importance of a healthy gut flora goes far beyond what most of us realise. It’s important for a lot more than just passable stools. Gut flora actually synthesise essential vitamins such as biotin (B-7), B-12 and K. A deficiency in these nutrients is believed to contribute towards cases of common gastrointestinal and respiratory issues, obesity, diabetes, eczma, hair loss, anemia, internal bleedings, seborrhea, ulcers, strokes, cancers, autoimmune disorders and degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
On mercola.com, Dr. Mercola writes: “A new study in the journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice shows that microorganisms in the human gastrointestinal tract form an intricate, living fabric of natural controls affecting body weight, energy, and nutrition. The findings may offer new ideas on how to treat nutrition-related maladies, including obesity and a range of serious health consequences linked to under-nutrition.”
Additionally, healthy intestinal flora is also vital for prevention of constipation, maintaining your primary immunity (phagocytosis), shielding your large intestine from colon cancer, and for averting yeast infection inside your mouth or vagina. Bottom line is we need that good gut flora, and the good news is that you can get those microbes to flourish simply by eating the right kind of foods.
Start transforming your bacterial colony with these yummy foods:
1 – Bananas
Great for breakfast, a snack or baby mush-food. Often recommended in cases of an upset stomach and for good reason. Bananas restore the health of the bacterial community by working to maintain harmony among microbes. They also reduce inflammation due to high levels of potassium and magnesium. The Minions have got it right!
2 – Jerusalem Artichokes
I’ve never eaten them myself, so this is one to try to seek-out. Apparently, they are quite harsh on a sensitive digestive tract, so if you easily get an upset stomach, this might not be for you. The Jerusalem artichoke (also called sun root or topinambur) comes from a species of sunflower, mainly cultivated for its tuber and used as a root vegetable. 14 to 19 percent of its weight is composed of inulin fibre. This fibre ferments into healthy micro flora once in the colon after travelling through the small and large intestine. Don’t worry, Jerusalem Artichokes are not the only source of Inulin fibre, you can also find it in asparagus, leeks, onions and bananas.
3 – Polenta
If you’ve never had polenta chips with a sweet & sour dip, you haven’t lived! Here’s a tasty polenta chips recipe for some meal time variety.
Polenta has a fermentable component which earns credit for fostering a healthy gut. Packed with insoluble fibre which ferments in the colon, multiple strands of gut flora are cultivated and it does us a whole lot of good.
4 – Cruciferous Vegetables
Such as cauliflower, kale, broccoli and cabbage. These veggies have metabolites containing sulphur which are broken down by microbes in our gut. These broken-down elements then release substances that latch onto harmful intruders and flush them out. This protects against inflammation and cancer, in fact, studies show people who eat the most cruciferous vegetables reduce their risk of colorectal cancer by almost 20%.
5 – Beans
Good for the heart, brilliant for the brain and great for our gut flora! Legumes help release healthy fatty acids which strengthen intestinal cells, improve absorption of micronutrients and aid weight loss. Researchers have just recently published a study in the journal Obesity that finds beans (pulses) improve weight loss by enhancing satiety. Basically, our good gut bugs love beans, and this revs up the immune system. Beans are also highly nutritious, packed with protein, fibre, folate and B vitamins.
6 – Fermented Foods
“The ideal balance of beneficial to pathogenic bacteria in your gut is about 85% good bacteria and 15% bad. Maintaining this ideal ratio is what it’s all about when we’re talking about optimizing your gut health. Historically, people didn’t have the same problems with their gut health as we do today for the simple fact that they got large quantities of beneficial bacteria, i.e. probiotics, from their diet in the form of fermented or cultured foods.” – Dr. Mercola
You can still find delicious fermented food nowadays in most grocery stores, so not to worry. The popular picks being sauerkraut (pictured), pickled ginger and beet radish kimchi. These fermented goods directly inoculate the gut with live micro-organisms that overcrowd and snuff out the bad bacteria. This tactic then results in an improved absorption of minerals and elevation in overall health.
7 – Blueberries
I’m guilty of only consuming blueberries in a cheesecake topping, crumble filling or classic muffin. What? I like my baked goods, alright. The key here, is to eat them fresh and un-baked. Quite simply, this delicious berry works to modify the microbiota in our systems which enhances immune function. They’re also brimming with antioxidants and essential vitamins such as Vitamin C, K compounds and vital mineral manganese.
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