Your immune system depends on your gut
Immune health remains a hot topic, and you may be aware that your gut health plays a role. But did you know that your gut microbiome, made up of billions of different yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms, is responsible for up to 70% of your immune health? What you eat can hugely influence your gut for the better or for the worse. Try our tips below to give your microbiome and your immune system some support.
Eat some fermented foods
Fermented food contains some of the beneficial bacteria that contribute towards a healthy microbiome. In Ireland, yoghurt is one of our traditional fermented foods is an easy option to include in your diet daily. We always recommend natural yoghurt to avoid the sugars and sweeteners found in most flavoured varieties. Just sweeten yourself with fruit, jam or a little honey. Many other fermented foods and drinks are widely available including sauerkraut, kimchi, miso paste, kefir and kombucha. It’s best to include a variety as each one includes a different range of beneficial bacteria. We also recommend introducing these in small amounts e.g. 1 tbsp sauerkraut, 75ml kombucha, especially if you have sensitive digestion as they can initially cause bloating.
Feed your bacteria with prebiotics
Prebiotics are the new buzzword in gut health – the fibre that we don’t digest ourselves, but that provides food for our beneficial bacteria. An easy way to boost your fibre intake is to include 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit in your diet daily. Add extra veg to your usual recipes and include pulses where you can for an extra prebiotic boost, like our butternut squash and chickpea recipe below. Chose wholegrains over their white counterpart and include a portion of nuts or seeds daily to support a healthy microbiome.
Watch your sugar intake
Eating a diet high in sugar has many downsides, including a potential reduction in our beneficial bacteria. It’s a good idea to think 80: 20 and limit your treats to a couple of days per week e.g. the weekend. Watch also where sugar may be sneaking into your diet. Common culprits include cereals, yoghurts and sauces, with some stir-fry sauces having as many as 6 tsp sugar per portion. Bear in mind that fruit juice also counts towards your added sugar limit, so dilute with water or sparkling water, especially if serving to children.
Look after yourself
Research shows that both stress and lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our microbiome health, just one more reason to prioritise stress management and at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
Heather Leeson, Senior Nutritionist with The Wellness Crew and Glenville Nutrition Ireland