It’s Winter and coronavirus is still lurking around, so we really need to be making sure we are looking after our immune system and overall health the best we can. The health of our digestive tract and the levels of our good gut bacteria play a huge role in our overall health and immune function.
Our digestive tract, mainly our colon, contains trillions of friendly and beneficial gut bacteria, known as good gut bacteria. These good gut bacteria positively affect our health in many different ways. However, the balance of these beneficial gut bacteria can be easily disrupted by some dietary and lifestyle factors, which results in negative health effects, poor mood and decreased immune function.
What exactly does our beneficial gut bacteria do for us
- Assists with digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Synthesises B group vitamins (helps give you energy)
- Supports and stimulates up to 70% of our immune function!!
- Enhances bowel function by improving motility, stool formation and helps keep you regular
- Inhibits the invasion of pathogenic, disease causing bacteria and viruses
- Is linked to improving and preventing depression & anxiety symptoms
- Produces over 80% of the happy hormone serotonin
- Assist in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s)
- Helps with weight loss and sustained weight management
What disrupts our good gut bacteria balance?
- A diet that is low in fibre and polyphenol (antioxidant) rich foods
- Processed foods, artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, trans fats and pesticides
- Excessive sugar intake
- Increased physiological or physical stress (increased cortisol levels)
- Antibiotics and medications
To help maintain beneficial levels of good gut bacteria it is important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet that is high in fibre and polyphenol rich foods, avoid smoking and artificial ingredients, and limit your intake of alcohol, sugar and processed foods.
Our good gut bacteria includes many different strains that are fed and strengthened by different coloured prebiotic fibre and polyphenol rich foods. Therefore, eating a wide variety of different coloured, good quality, fibre rich foods will ensure you are feeding and strengthening all strains of your good gut bacteria in your digestive tract not just a few of them.
Below I have provided a Immune Dahl recipe, that is high in a variety of fibre rich polyphenol foods to help feed and strengthen your good gut bacteria. Give it a try, it is delicious and freezes really well so is great to made in advance or in bulk.
Prebiotic and fibre rich polyphenol foods
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that ferment in the colon to make short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids feed your good gut bacteria and also assist in repairing the gut wall. Polyphenols are the coloured pigment of the fibre rich food. These also feed and strengthen your good gut bacteria, as well as help clear free radicals from the body.
Examples of some prebiotic and polyphenol fibre rich foods to include into your diet regularly are:
- Orange foods – sweet potato, carrots, apricots, orange lentils, pumpkin, orange capsicum, fresh turmeric
- Brown foods – mushrooms, brown lentils, almonds, chickpeas, ground flaxseed, chicory root, cacao, brown rice
- White foods – garlic, onion, cooked and cooled white potatoes, traditional rolled oats, leeks
- Green foods – brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, green leafy veg, celery, artichoke, green tea, fresh green herbs
- Red foods – raspberries, tomato, red capsicum, strawberries, cherries, red kidney beans, beetroot, apples
- Black foods – black rice, wild rice, black lentils, black beans, blackberries
- Purple foods – purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple sweet potato, purple grapes, purple cabbage
Probiotics are good gut bacteria that when ingested increase the amount of healthy gut bacteria in a person’s digestive tract. They help to re-balance your digestive tract.
Examples of probiotic foods to include in your diet are:
- Greek yoghurt: chose plain, natural, Greek or coconut yoghurt with NO flavours or added sugar
- Tempeh: fermented soybeans, similar to tofu but has a nutty taste and much better for you
- Miso: fermented soup base from rice, barley or soybeans.
- Kefir: fermented milk drink, similar to drinkable yoghurt, found in health food stores & some supermarkets
- Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage, can buy in health food stores or make your own – recipe here:
- Kombucha: A fermented tea drink that can be found in health food stores or brewed at home – instructions here:
- Probiotic supplements: Great to use after taking a course of antibiotics, if you are feeling immune compromised, or if you are under high levels of mental or physical stress.
Immune boosting Dahl recipe
- 2 brown onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp of virgin coconut oil
- 1 tsp of fresh ground turmeric
- 1 tsp of fresh ground ginger
- 1 tsp of mustard powder
- 1 tsp of curry powder
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
- ½ tsp of cayenne
- 1 cup of dried green lentils
- 1 ½ cups of veggie broth or chicken broth
- 1 can of organic pure coconut milk
- Fresh parsley or coriander to serve with
- Brown rice
- Veggies to stir-fry, e.g. shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, red capsicum and green beans
- Cook onion and coconut oil in med pot over med heat.
- Add spices and cook for 3 more minutes, then add the lentils, veggie broth and coconut milk.
- Bring to boil and then reduce to low heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes (until lentils have absorb most of the liquid)
- While lentils are cooking stir-fry your veggies in some coconut oil or grass fed butter and tamari sauce
- Turn off heat, add the garlic immediately and stir for 1 minute.
- Serve the dahl with veggies, some brown or black rice, fresh parsley/coriander and a large dollop of plain Greek or coconut yoghurt