Five Ways to a Healthy Gut
1. Increase Fiber Intake
Dietary fiber plays an important role in the health of our digestive tract. Besides lowering cholesterol, fiber also feeds the healthy bacteria and helps them to flourish. The best sources of dietary fiber are actually whole grains such as whole wheat, brown rice, and whole oats, along with beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds, then fruits and vegetables. Shockingly, most people get only half of the daily recommended 20 to 35 grams fiber. But be careful to increase your fiber intake gradually, otherwise you’ll most likely experience some unpleasant and painful gas and bloating. Be sure to get plenty of fluids at the same time you eat fiber-rich foods in order to soften the fiber during transit. A hearty bowl of oatmeal and a cup of tea should move things along nicely.
2. Load up on Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Eating a variety of whole fruits and vegetables as opposed to fruit or veggie juice is a great way to get more fiber. Fruits like pears, blueberries, raspberries and apples all contain a minimum of 4 grams of fiber per serving. Vegetables such as red bell peppers, leafy greens, broccoli and sweet potatoes also have a hefty dose of fiber. The pulp of the fruit and veggies are what help scrub your digestive tract and allows better absorption of nutrients and antioxidants.
3. Try Yogurt for Lactose Intolerance
Research suggests that many people who are not able to properly digest lactose, the type of sugar in milk, can tolerate yogurt with live active cultures. Yogurt is relatively high in lactose, but the bacterial cultures used to make it produce some lactase, the enzyme needed to digest the sugar. Great news for those who are lactose-intolerant and looking for good sources of calcium!
4. Read Labels for Hidden (Lactose-Containing) Ingredients
Milk and foods made from milk are the only natural sources of lactose. But many prepared foods, including bread and other baked goods, processed breakfast cereals, instant potatoes and soups, margarine, lunch meats, salad dressing, candy, protein bars and powdered meal-replacement supplements contain milk derivatives. So be sure to read labels carefully if you are lactose intolerant.
5. Good Bacteria for Your Gut?
Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria found in the gut that help us digest foods and fight harmful bacteria. They also include live, active cultures used to ferment foods, such as yogurt. To get the potential benefits offered by probiotics, mix a cut-up banana into a cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt—with a “Live & Active Cultures” seal on it—for a midday snack or turn it into breakfast and add some granola. Try different kinds of yogurt to see which one works best for you. Mix fresh or frozen berries, peaches and banana with yogurt and a couple teaspoons of ground flax seeds for a delicious breakfast on the go or snack. For optimal levels of the good stuff, look for a high quality probiotic supplement that contains several different strains of yeasts and bacteria.