Eat These Foods to Give Your Gut Health a Boost

Danielle Zickl
Photo credit: gbh007 - Getty Images

From Bicycling

  • According to new research presented at UEG Week 2019, consuming plant-based foods or foods part of the Mediterranean diet can help improve gut health.
  • Incorporating foods such as fish, legumes, nuts, and vegetables into your diet can boost your performance on the bike as well as your overall health.

The bacteria in our guts plays a bigger role in our health and performance than we may think. Research has shown that having a healthy gut microbiome—which is comprised of all the microorganisms in your GI tract—can boost your metabolism, energy availability during a workout, and recovery after a workout. A healthy gut microbiome can improve your brain function and reduce your risk of heart disease, too.

Time for the million dollar question: How do you ensure that your gut microbiome is up to snuff? According to new research presented at United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Week 2019, consuming plant-based foods or foods part of the Mediterranean diet can help.

When researchers from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands assessed the diets and gut bacteria of over 1,400 people, they found that those whose diets were rich in bread, legumes, fish, and nuts had less potentially harmful bacteria and less intestinal inflammation in their guts. Those whose diets were rich in meat, fast food, and refined sugar had less of the good types of bacteria in their guts, as well as more intestinal inflammation.

According to the study, plant-based foods help your body produce short-chain fatty acids (SFCAs), which are the main sources of energy for the cells that line your colon. Plant proteins, specifically, increase the amount of Bifidobacteria—a “friendly” type of bacteria—found in your gut.

Foods part of the Mediterranean diet—such as fish, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and red wine—also increase the amount of “friendly” bacteria in your gut and provide the cells in your gut with the energy they need. These foods reduce the amount of bacteria associated with inflammation and obesity.

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“What was surprising was to see such a clear association between what we consider a healthy diet and a healthy gut microbiota composition, and on the other hand, less healthy dietary patterns associated to pathobionts [organisms associated with chronic inflammatory conditions—such as inflammatory bowel disease] and inflammatory markers,” lead study author, Laura Bolte, B.Sc., told Bicycling.

Bolte goes on to say that diet can be a good way to help prevent these chronic inflammatory symptoms like bloating or diarrhea from occurring in the first place.

The bottom line is this: Not only can following a plant-based or Mediterranean diet can improve your heart and brain function, but they can improve your gut health, too.

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