Gut health has become an increasingly popular topic in recent years, and a healthy gut has been linked to health benefits including weight management, a stronger immune system, and better overall mood. But what do we mean when we talk about a “healthy gut?”
1.Our intestines contain countless different species of bacteria. Collectively, they’re referred to as “intestinal microflora” or simply “gut bacteria.” We’ve known for decades that humans (and every other animal species) form a mutually beneficial relationship with these bacteria. Although we’re far from uncovering the exact species of bacteria in our guts, the existing body of research suggests that certain dietary patterns tend to promote the proliferation of the most beneficial groups. Alternatively, a bad diet may promote the overgrowth of certain groups, throwing our gut (and our entire body) out of balance.
2.The supplement and dairy industries have seized on this research to promote their products, particularly those containing probiotics--living cultures of beneficial bacteria. However, many scientists are skeptical about the benefits of these probiotics, pointing out that the bacteria might not even make it to our intestines alive. After all, our stomach acid is meant to destroy microbes before they can gain access to our bodies and do us harm.
3.Because of this, some researchers have shifted their focus to prebiotics. These are simply foods containing compounds beneficial bacteria like to “eat.” The more we feed them, the better they’ll thrive in our intestines and provide us with benefits like weight loss, stronger immune systems, more comfortable digestion, better mood, and the prevention of systemic inflammation—the cause of a host of chronic diseases. Even better, these prebiotics can easily be found in whole foods we can eat every day--no need for expensive supplements!
4.This meal plan is designed to give you prebiotic-rich foods in every meal, giving your beneficial intestinal bacteria a kickstart for growth. Please note that although this meal plan give you a week of meals, you need to incorporate prebiotics into your diet on a long-term basis to truly see the benefits! After you finish this meal plan, I recommend making some of the recipes you’ll learn here each week.
5.Please also note that our intestinal bacteria love fiber! Because of that, these meals are all very high in fiber. If you aren’t used to consuming large amounts of fiber, you should expect some stomach discomfort during this kickstart. You’re changing your diet and your body, and that can make you feel a little weird! It will go away within a week or two, and then you’ll feel better than ever.