Summer is finally here!! The colors are vibrant, the flowers are blooming, and the season of fresh fruit and veggies has made its way back into our lives yet again. One of the best things about the summer time is the access to these in-season items, giving us great choices to fill our pantry with. Given that the summertime can be the more difficult time to create and stick to a well rounded health plan, we thought it would be helpful to recommend some of the better "gut healthy" choices to stock your pantry with this month.
Before we learn what we should and shouldn't eat for the sake of our gut, it is best to understand what a healthy gut microbiome actually is. This is the diverse community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract and are essential to our health. These bacteria help to maintain a healthy metabolism, energy levels and digestion.
Knowing the Gut
I won't bore you with too much science behind the structure and function of our gut - but I will inform you that our digestive tract is the key to keeping our immune system and digestion in order.
Our digestive tract is full of good and bad bacteria. Healthy bacteria needs your help along with the right foods, to fight off pathogens and keep your immune system in check. Refined and processed foods as well as antibiotics can also lead to an imbalance of the gut microflora (bacteria).
Two things that are best used to balance your gut microflora are probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are good live bacteria that we get from fermented foods and drinks which fight off the bad bacteria and support a good digestive system.
Prebiotics are the non-digestible parts of food that help feed the probiotics. These prebiotics are mostly found in fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Utilizing fresh, in-season food items during these summer months will heavily impact the good and bad bacteria in our systems.
Healthy Gut, Healthy You
The phrase "you are what you eat" does not just imply that you can gain weight or something of that nature from the foods we are eating. It is more that these ingredients can heavily impact our gut health which will cause a plethora of reactions such as skin issues, greasy skin and hair, and even affect our pH levels - otherwise known as body odor.
Choosing foods that are processed, fried and lacking nutritional value will simply decrease your good bacteria and allow an overflow of the not so good bacteria. The result will most likely be poor immune system, skin breakouts and of course, weight gain.
Know What to Get
Have no fear, we are getting to why you came here! Knowing how to shop this summer for the sake of your gut health is extremely simply yet important. Buying smarter choices to allow for snacking and cooking to fair a little healthier will be a crucial part of nourishing your gut. You can still cook fun and tasty foods even if you are choosing a healthier route with the ingredients and recipe.
Veggies sit high in both essential nutrients and friendly fiber. Cruciferous items such as broccoli and cauliflower contain a compound that has been found to lower inflammation, support liver function, and improve the natural detoxification process within the body. Aim to fill your plate or dish with more than half of these delightful greens!
Similar to veggies, fruit can also have benefits for our gut health. They contain lots of fiber which as we know, feeds our gut with good bacteria. Some examples of these to keep an eye out for are
Now these are not to get confused with carbs. Whole grains contain fiber and help in lowering our blood sugar spikes after we eat, whereas carbs tend to be processed and not as wholesome. The ones I recommend best for the summer months are
Rice (especially brown and wild)
Beans + Legumes
This category of food really helps to enhance our gut health by improving intestinal function AND providing fuel for our gut microbiome. If you are in need of lessening symptoms of GI disorders, this food group will be crucial!
Herbs + Spices
Aside from providing some awesome flavor profiles for our food, herbs and spices actually provide antioxidants as well as decrease inflammation all while supporting a healthy gut. Some other benefits are decreasing abdominal cramps, decrease bloating AND lower stress levels. Take it from me, you'll want to stock up with these (fresh if you can)!
We already talked about how probiotics are bacteria that live in our gut as well as naturally in some foods. Consuming probiotics helps to feed this good bacteria which helps digestion and lessen bloating. The best ones to reach for this summer are:
Healthy Fat + Proteins
Protein is a staple when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance with our nutrition. Consuming the right kinds of proteins as well as fats that are high in Omega-3 have been know to optimize brain and heart health as well as carry anti-inflammatory properties for the gut. When the right dietary fats and proteins are consumed, you will feel fuller longer as well as a balance in your healthy blood sugar levels. Strive to keep these items stocked up:
Meats + Fish
Now for the main attraction of our pantry list....the meats! First and foremost, we need to be on the lookout for ethically sourced animal proteins as well as farming practices that use ethical ways to raise and care for the animals. All of these will affect the outcome of the meat.
When meat is pasture raised, it contains three times the Omega-3s and 50% more vitamin A, D, and E. Chickens raised this way eat a varied diet and are also given access to sunlike and fresh air which keeps them stress-free and well kept.
Fish that is caught in their natural environment will have a more diverse diet than farm-raised fish and alternatively are given more ability to move freely in the water. Even though wild fish may be more expensive, the fish is leaner and actually healthier which makes it a better choice anyway. Consider these items when choosing your meats:
Pasture raised eggs
Pasture raised chickens
Wild caught salmon
Now this list is not extremely extensive but it is important to be aware of our own lifestyles and what foods will best accommodated our gut health. Healthy eating doesn't always mean boring and expanding our diets to include some of the listed items can help broaden your cooking horizon for more fun, colorful foods. Your body, and gut, will thank you in the end!
If you are seeking some fun summer recipes using these items, be sure to subscribe to get notifications for weekly recipes!