Best Foods for Gut Health
A new study may have uncovered how obesity leads to diabetes—and it has to do with the bugs that live in and on your body.
Obese people have different bacteria colonies on their bodies than healthy-weight people, say researchers. Now, a new study in the journal mBio indicates these bacteria colonies could be one factor in the metabolic changes and chronic inflammation that lead to diabetes.
Microbiologists at the University of Iowa found that when rabbits are chronically exposed to a toxin produced by staph bacteria—a superbug found in higher concentrations on the skin of people who are obese—they develop the hallmarks of type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and inflammation.
“These staph colonies change the ecology of our body biomes—the balance between healthy and unhealthy bacteria on our skin and in our digestive tracts,” said lead researcher Patrick Schlievert, professor of microbiology at the university.
The good news is that you can empower your body biome and help it fight back against these invaders by feeding your gut bacteria the foods they—and you—need to stay healthy. Here are some of the best foods for your gut—a selection of the best superfoods from Zero Belly Diet.
What’s so magical about this combination? Each ingredient provides insoluble fiber that helps feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you trigger your gut to produce butyrate, a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. In a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. Shed pounds easily—and in minutes—by cooking up these essential, delicious and proven recipes for overnight oats that help you lose weight.
A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. To enhance the effects, try pairing your chocolate with some apple slices: The fruit speeds up the fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
Fiber-rich plant foods like quinoa feed our gut bugs, while helping to turn off the genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. But while most whole grains and fiber-rich vegetables help this process, quinoa deserves a special place in your daily diet because of its status as a complete protein—one of the few plants that can replace meat entirely. That’s important, because a Harvard study recently found that a diet based primarily on animal protein—especially one that involves a lot of food packaging and burger wrappers—can quickly alter the delicate balance of microbes in your belly. And reset your entire body—and mood—with this recommended and cleansing one-day detox plan.
In one Canadian study, subjects who were supplemented with a type of gut-healthy insoluble fiber called oligofructose not only lost weight but reported less hunger than those who received a placebo. Researchers discovered that the subjects who received the fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger—and lower levels of blood sugar. Ogliofructose is found in onions and leeks, as well as rye, barley, and Jerusalem artichokes.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the offerings at Pinkberry are going to do your body biome right. All of the processing that frozen yogurt goes through kills off most of the healthy cultures. And even most yogurts you buy in the dairy section are so high in sugar that they’ll do more for the bad bacteria in your belly than they will for the good. If you choose to eat yogurt, look for the words “live active cultures” on the label, and for brands with less than 20 grams of sugar per serving. Most Greek yogurts are higher in protein and lower in sugar than their non-Greek counterparts. If you want to make it even easier to choose a healthy option on the run, use our list of the best yogurt brands for weight loss.
Recent studies have found that gluten can negatively impact gut bacteria, even in people who are not gluten-sensitive. Gluten-free whole grains (like brown rice or quinoa) contain a nutrient called betaine, an amino acid that positively influences the genetic mechanism for insulin resistance and visceral fat.
You can think of every bean or lentil as the equivalent of a little weight-loss pill. That’s not far from the truth: legumes like peas, beans, lentils and peanuts are rich in resistant starch, which has a very minimal impact on your blood sugar levels because it passes through the body undigested, feeding the healthy bacteria at the bottom of your digestive tract. That’s just one of the life-changing flat belly tips from our exclusive collection.
It may be counterintuitive to eat raw fish to help improve your belly biome, but choosing raw or lightly cooked meats over other forms of protein can give your gut bugs the edge. When you cook meat at high temperatures, chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced. According to a study in Nutrition Journal, increased intake of HCAs causes changes to our gut microbiota that increases the risk of colorectal cancer.