Fuelling a Heathy Gut

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Dr. Will Bulsiewicz (Dr “B”) is a world-renowned gastroenterologist. In his book, Fiber Fueled, he discusses how gut health is essential to weight management, overall health and well-being.

If the gut is not working efficiently, the body cannot receive the necessary nutrients for its cells. When food particles and other substances are absorbed incorrectly, the immune system goes into high alert, and it attacks them as pathogens.

This immune response, creates inflammation in the bloodstream, and it moves throughout the body. It causes digestive distress such as bloating, heartburn, or diarrhea. Interestingly, the most common symptoms for poor gut health symptoms show up in the brain: depression, anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, and poor memory.

Probiotics are our healthy gut bacteria, and prebiotics are the foods that enables them to thrive. Fibre is a prebiotic and it is part of a plant’s cellular structure. If you want to get fibre naturally, the most efficient way to do it is through eating more plants. One of the most extensive studies on microbes, published by Dr. Knight in 2017, shows that the single most significant predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is incorporating a diverse range of plants into the diet.

Research suggests that we should be eating up to thirty different plants per week to support a healthy microbiome. Every plant type feeds a unique microbe community, and the more varied the plant intake, the more diverse the microbiome in the gut.

Dr. Bulsiewicz outlines an easy way to incorporate more plants into our diet through following the acronym, F-GOALS. This acronym stands for: fruits and fermented foods; greens and grains; omega-rich nuts and seeds; aromatics; legumes; and sulforaphanes. And although it can be intimidating to begin with, here is a list of plants to get you started. You can use either frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables. Dry legumes (beans), seeds and nuts are an inexpensive and accessible option and they add fibre-rich protein into the diet; these items can be purchased from most bulk foods or grocery stores. Be careful when using canned options, however, as there is often added sugar and salt, so read the ingredients carefully.

Fruits and Fermented Foods

A study from Cornell University shows that eating a combination of fruit results in increased antioxidant activity in the body. Berries are incredibly nutrient-rich, and one study shows that eating two servings of berries per week, can reduce Parkinson’s disease by 23%.

Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha, are rich in healthy bacteria, or probiotics. Almost every culture on earth has fermented foods as part of their food tradition because it is excellent for health and it is an efficient preservation method. Here is a link to ten fermented foods that you can easily make at home.

Greens and Grains

When it comes to grains, Dr. B encourages dropping the refined options, such as white rice and highly processed bread, and incorporating whole-grain options. One particular ten-year study of dietary patterns examined 37 different food groups and showed that whole grain consumption had the most potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body. 

Omega-3

The most efficient way to get more Omega-3 is by incorporating more seeds into your diet, such as flax, chia, and hemp seeds. Seeds are easy to incorporate into salad, porridge, smoothies or just by sprinkling onto a meal for texture.

Aromatics

Aromatics such as onions, leeks and garlic contain an enzyme called allianase, which is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. In order to activate this enzyme, Dr. B suggests using the “Chop and Stop” method. Chop up your garlic or onions and wait ten minutes before adding it to the frying pan.

Legumes

Legumes are packed with fibre. A cup of green peas contains 7 grams of fibre and lentils 16 grams. If you combine a legume with a whole-grain, such as brown rice, it creates a complete protein.

Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is unique to the cruciferous family of vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. He especially encourages the consumption of broccoli sprouts, which you can grow at home for a very low cost.

I found this book to be really informative and I appreciated the recipes and resources provided. Dr. B lays out the complex science behind gut health in a simple, factual and accessible manner. He also recently released a more extensive cookbook, which helps to put the F-GOAL concepts into action. Both books should be available to borrow through your local library. If not, there are also a lot of great free resources available online providing delicious, plant-based recipes, such as this one.

If you do not have time to read the books, or cannot easily access them, I highly recommend listening to this great interview with Dr. B and Rich Roll. It provides a comprehensive summary of the key concepts and why they matter to your health and well-being.

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