How is your food game? We all have some awareness of what are good and bad foods and from that, even the ‘sometimes’ foods?! Let’s face it, we can allow ourselves a little mixing of that famous word ‘balance’ to include yummy and naughty by having some delectable moments!
This life has given us the privilege of food to enjoy and ultimately to sustain and nourish us. Despite our cheat days, fetishes, fads, preferences and even for some of us, sensitivities and intolerances, there are some essentials that we all need. So what foods give us nourishment and sustenance? How does what we chow down on affect us?
The Gut-Brain Connection
At this point it would be good to mention all the latest research about the Gut-Brain connection. To understand it fully you would need a degree in science or even psychology, which is way above the scope we’re talking about here! Put simply, the gut and brain have an amazing ability to talk via the nervous, hormone and immune system. It’s just good to know that all intricate parts in us are amazingly connected and we need to look after them.
Good old Fruit and Vegetables
Eat your fruit and vegetables yeah? That’s a given for many of us, imprinted on our minds from when we were ankle biters. You know there is value in it. These whole plant foods are full of similar and different antioxidants, another name for vitamins and minerals.
Did you know carrots are full of Beta-carotene, which, when broken down by our gut and body systems, is an amazing source of vitamin A – great for our skin, hair, nails and our eyesight. Spinach is made of a good amount of iron, great for assisting our red blood cells that carry oxygen around our body. Even a beetroot in its raw form is loaded with folate, which is one of the essential B vitamins, great for fertility and even with preventing heart disease later in life. Although, if you’re loving beetroot a little too much, you’ll find your peeing and pooing along the reddish side! Now that’s an anxious moment when you’re wiping your butt! Put this fact in your memory bank for sure! What about the artichoke …… the what? Apparently it has the highest antioxidant count reported for any of the vegetables. Artichokes = food game strong!
That’s just a little sample of foods packed full of vitamins and minerals. They have many benefits for multiple and intricate functions of how our body works. They are also packed full of dietary fibre.
Dietary Fibre – Blast Off!
Ok, so what is fibre, said with a French accent not?! Another name for fibre is roughage. A bit rough really? Or do you like the German translation for fibre – Ballaststoff!!! Aside from a good lead in to the topic of blasting off (check out our great blog on the truth about farts)…… dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be digested by our bodies. It has an amazing benefit on our gut health, digestive processes, keeping our bowel motions regular and free from constipation! Check out all the ins and outs about constipation here.
There are different types of fibre from whole plant foods which have different and similar health benefits and functions.
2. Let’s get Roughie with it
There is soluble fibre, which is capable of being dissolved or liquefied, meaning it draws in water. This is great for digestion as it helps slow the emptying of our stomach down making you feel full for longer. It’s also good for absorbing fats and sugars, helping lower their levels in our blood. Foods packed with soluble fibre are fruits and vegetables, oats and legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans. Have you seen our recipe, the Cheeky Chickpea Curry, check it out.
3. Resolve no dissolve
Then there is insoluble fibre which means you can’t dissolve it. Like a sponge it absorbs water, helping to bulk up and soften what passes through our large gut/bowel. So it also helps you feel full longer as well as prevent constipation, so no blocking you up girls – balaststoff winning! Some foods full of insoluble fibre are unrefined wholegrain breads and cereals. Nuts and seeds like almonds and chia seeds. Even the skins of fruits and vegetables are full of insoluble fibre. So some foods are definitely a combination of soluble and insoluble fibre, double ballaststoff!
4. Hey ‘Starchy’!
There is an even further breakdown of fibre. Thanks to the science buffs for discovering resistant starch. Why resistant? Because it is resistant to digestion in the small gut/bowel but then when it gets to the large gut/bowel, a fermenting party takes place. Basically here, it’s about the fermentable parts of dietary fibre, exciting a whole lot of our friendly gut bacteria (apparently we have 100 trillion of them – called a microbiome) into a frenzy food fest for them. At the same time they produce gases, which lead to our farts – good smelling when their friendly, foul smelling when they’re not. Balaststoff! Handy nutrients are also made from this fest, and help produce a good healthy gut environment for us, zee humans! So our guts have some friendly party vibes going, we just need to give this process a hand.
There is a long list of benefits of what a healthy gut does for us, and it keeps growing as the science buffs discover more. Latest research indicates different parts of our bodies, such as our gut, skin, urinary system, vagina and more, have very distinct and different communities (microbiome) of bacteria/microbes. An important point to highlight is that the more healthy gut bacteria present, the friendly ones, the healthier we are. We help our gut stay friendly not by starving it with processed food, making it toxic and unfriendly. We help the friendly gut bacteria by eating the right foods for them. Fermenting food parties are a plus and a must to make your food game strong!
Foods containing resistant starch include unrefined wholegrains and their products, like porridge, legumes, unripe bananas and cooled foods such as potatoes, wholegrain pastas and brown rice.
Keeping things moving and your bowel movements regular with a wide variety of fibre rich foods can be a game changer…..especially when you might deal with constipation. Check out our blog on the facts of constipation and having a good diet and routine!
5. It’s a fermenting party
On the subject of fermenting parties, some other more traditional foods have being creating a gut health foodie frenzy lately.
Kombucha is made by fermenting a sweetened tea with a live culture of yeast and bacteria called scoby/scobie. The yeast converts the sugar in the tea to alcohol (only a tiny percentage girls) and the bacteria converts the alcohol into organic acids. What results is a power punch like sour drink with an effervescent kick. Some say it smells like beer and tastes like a fizzy apple cider, and others vinegar. The first recorded use of Kombucha comes from China in 221 BC. In essence it is a ‘live’ cultured drink, and hence a probiotic. So they say it’s like a friendly gut bacteria colony with similar benefit claims to the fibre family. Up for debate however is whether these scoby friends make it in sufficient numbers to our gut to make a significant impact.
Kefir was traditionally made from fermented milk, but also now, as it has become more popular in the west, from water. It is similar to Kombucha in that it is made with a symbiotic yeast and bacterial starter from Kefir grains. It originated in the Caucasus Mountains on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. There is contention that Kefir contains a richer source of bacteria strains than Kombucha. Whatever the source, and even when more research might be needed, their health claim benefits remain the same — Friendly bacteria food frenzy fest!
Kimchi is a staple fermented dish in Korean cuisine. It is so ingrained and a loved part of their culture that when taking a little selfie, the smile cue is ‘Kimchi’ and not ‘cheese’. It is made traditionally of fermented Napa Cabbage and radishes, with a variety of seasonings and different recipes. We know that it is fibre rich in its various forms and recipes but the added friendly bacteria that join in the fermenting process party are what give this creation growing gut superfood status!
We cannot go past a good old German Sauerkraut! The simple meaning of this famous delicacy is sour vegetable or fermented cabbage. Origins of the food stems from Eastern Europe with variations throughout the rest of the continent. Like Kimchi, it’s fibre rich. Its fermenting process party vibes that can make your food game strong here – Ballaststoff!
Like anything counter-productive to balance though, having too much Sauerkraut can cause bloating and farting, of which the German fibre translation can be most appropriate — it will make you blast-off for sure!!!
A combination of different types of fibre and even some fermented traditional foods all contribute to good gut health, healthy digestion and regular bowel habits to keep you free from constipation! What can follow onto our nervous, hormone and immune systems is surprising but just simply amazing! Ballaststoff for a strong food game and gut party vibes. #GATF
More information and help
If your are requiring more help with good, healthy habits or even dealing with constipation or irregular bowel habits then why not take the plunge and make a call to the National Continence Helpline. Our supportive and experienced Nurse Continence Specialists can help advise or direct you onto further help near to where you live if you need it!