Time for a Healthy Gut Check
Shari Steinbach, MS RDN teaches us about maintaining a healthy gut
The human body is host to tens of trillions of microbes and the largest population of these live in the gut – our gut microbiota. The right balance of these microbial cells is vital to normal health. As studies on the microbiota expand, we are learning how closely these microbes influence our metabolism, immune system and possibly brain functions.
In their book, “The Good Gut,” authors Justin and Erica Sonnenburg discuss how our western diet, potential overuse of antibiotics and the focus on a germ-free environment may have disrupted the healthy diversity in our gut to a point where it is likely impacting our health in negative ways.1
The good news is there are lifestyle changes we can make that can help promote a healthy gut and improve our overall wellbeing. Understanding the effects that a poor diet and antibiotics have on our gut health can empower us to take action and give ourselves a healthy gut check.
Start with Your Diet – Tips for Creating a Healthy Gut:
– Make sure to eat high fiber foods at every meal. Gut microbes rely upon complex carbohydrates (dietary fiber) to complete their functions in the gut. They digest fiber that come from plant material; fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Follow these tips to ensure you consume plenty of prebiotics, or “food” for the good bacteria in your gut to feed on.
o Eat more whole fruits and vegetables like apples
o Consume whole grains and use whole grain flour for baking
o Eat at least ½ cup of legumes per day
– Eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso and sauerkraut. They contain probiotics (various types of healthy bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacterial) to promote a healthy colon.
– Avoid fad diets that eliminate whole food groups. Diets should include diverse food choices, in moderation. Research is showing that the microbiota has a great range of needs that a diet with a variety of foods can help provide.
Add these foods to your grocery cart:
Fruits and Vegetables:
o Leeks and onions
o Black beans
o Dried peas
o Garbanzo beans
o Pinto beans
o Kidney beans
o Whole grain hot and cold cereals
o Whole grain crackers
o Whole grain buns and bread
o Whole grain pasta
o Brown rice
How Apples Help our Digestive Tract:
A medium apple has only 80 calories and over 4 grams of fiber! An apple is a great way to help achieve the goal of 30+ grams of fiber daily.
Apples are specifically known for providing a beneficial type of soluble fiber called pectin:
1. Pectin absorbs water in your intestinal tract to soften stools, while the insoluble fiber in apples provides bulk to ease elimination. Apples are nature’s laxative!
2. Apple pectin serves as a prebiotic for the friendly bacteria in the intestines which allows them to replicate and thrive to create a healthier gut. 
Apple recipes for a healthy gut:
Apples make a great grab-and-go snack and are a versatile ingredient in everyday meals and recipes. Substituting an apple for chips or candy can save calories and while adding filling fiber and important nutrients. Besides being eating whole as a snack, apples can be added to healthful salads, beverages, side dishes, cereals and even desserts.
These delicious recipes provide the digestive benefits of apples with other healthy ingredients like whole grains and vegetables:
Tutti Frutti Museli
Source: Eating Well, 2010
Maple Walnut Apple Crisp
Source: Cooking Light, 2000
1. Sonnenburg, Justin and Erica. The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood and Your Long-term Health. Corgi, 2016. Print.
2. BMC Microbiology 2010, 10:13