While the science is still new in the area of gut health and mood, early research shows that our gut health plays a role in our mental health. Our gut is filled with trillions of microbes – or friendly bacteria – that make up each person’s microbiome. We are only starting to understand all the functions this community of bacteria has and how we can support them. We do know that having a healthy gut microbiome and including gut-friendly foods could play a key role in lowering stress  in the body and, in turn, boosting overall health.

Good nutrition is one of the ways that you can feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. Here are 3 categories of foods to add to your eating plan to promote a healthy gut.

1.  Consume Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that when taken in adequate amounts help us digest food, support gastrointestinal health and could promote a favourable gut flora.  They are added to some foods such as yogurt, kefir and kombucha. Not all probiotics work in the same way. Research has shown that different strains have different effects on health.  It is important to note that these foods need to be consumed regularly for the most benefit as the good bacteria will not survive for more than one or two weeks in your gut. For more information, consult a Registered Dietitian.

2.  Include Prebiotics

Prebiotics are the food for the “good microbes” in your microbiome. They are non-digestible carbohydrates that help the “good” microbes multiply and stay in your digestive system. Having a good number of prebiotics in your diet helps ensure the beneficial bacteria are well-fed and keeps populating your gut. Examples of foods with prebiotics are bananas, beans and lentils, onions, garlic and whole grains.

3.  Choose Fermented Foods

Fermentation is a process where carbohydrate in food is broken down by yeast or bacteria. The result is a food that may contain live bacteria shown to be beneficial to gut health.  Examples of fermented foods are yogurt, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut (unpasteurized).

Good gut health improves nutrient absorption, supports immune function and may play a role in regulating mood. The key to a healthy gut is including the foods mentioned above on a regular basis to reap the benefits.  For more information or individualized questions, reach out to a Registered Dietitian.