It's all about a healthy gut these days.
It's about the importance of having good bacteria in your gut and how to keep these bacteria happy by feeding them the kind of food they like.
Our bodies are full of bacteria - both good and bad. Most of them are incredibly good for us – they supply the gut with energy, manufacture vitamins, break down toxins and medications and train our immune system.
We all need an army of good bacteria for healthy digestion of the food we eat and for keeping our immune systems strong.
Harmful, bad bacteria can cause infection directly, or produce toxic substances that contribute to inflammation and cancer, particularly of the digestive tract.
The good bacteria inside us to a large extent keep the bad ones under control and what the good bacteria need is the kind of food they thrive on - prebiotics - which is insoluble fibre, or roughage.
Most of our bacteria live in the lower part of our digestive tract - the colon. If your digestive system is working well it will produce digestive enzymes which break down most of the food you eat into tiny particles which are absorbed by your body before it reaches the colon.
Your body needs a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to be able to produce these enzymes - see The Raw Truth.
The one thing these enzymes can't break down is insoluble fibre so it reaches the colon intact and this is what good bacteria love and feed on.
Bad bacteria, on the other hand, cannot use prebiotics to produce harmful chemicals.
Vegetables, fruit and wholegrain are rich in fibre, both soluble and insoluble, prebiotic fibre.
Certain vegetables are extra rich in prebiotics. These are vegetables from the lily family - asparagus, onions, garlic, leek, spring onions and chives - and vegetables from the sunflower family - endives, Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes and salsify.
Raw vegetables contain more prebiotics and when it comes to bananas, green bananas are the ones with a lot of prebiotic fibre.
Have you ever tried raw Jerusalem artichoke (or fartichoke as it's jokingly called)? It is sweet and delicious. Another easy way to add prebiotics to a meal is by topping a cooked meal, or salad with raw sliced spring onion and/or chives.
Probiotics are live bacteria which can be found in certain foods - fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tofu and other soya products and sourdough bread.
Eating fermented food is a good way to increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut but a lot of these bacteria are killed off by stomach acid and don't reach the colon where most bacteria reside.
You can also take a probiotic supplement, preferably one that contains the two main types of beneficial bacteria - lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
To give as many bacteria as possible the chance to survive the acidic stomach bath and reach the colon, a probiotic supplement needs to contain anything between 100 million to a billion of each type.
PS: The photo at the top is my gut-friendly pesto made with kale, watercress, spinach, chives, walnuts, sunflower seeds, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil.
PPS: I love the book "Gut", by Giulia Enders. It's a bacteria page-turner!
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