Hippocrates, considered one of the most influential physicians in the history of medicine, once said: “All disease begins in the gut.” Current research and modern medicine continue to support this statement. Digestion, mood, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, dementia, infertility, heart disease, cancer and even the way people think are being linked to the human microbiome, or a community of microbes that reside in the digestive system.
Between the festive cocktail parties, second helpings and stocking stuffers, the holidays wreak havoc on our gut health. And yet, if we “let food be thy medicine,” we can ring in the new year with a fresh digestive system, thanks to these superfoods.
These foods are packed with probiotics. While the most popular live-culture food is yogurt, it’s often loaded with artificial flavors and unneeded calories. Try a tangy dose of kefir, which has no sugar or artificial flavorings added. It is 99 percent lactose-free, provides 8 to 11 grams of protein, and is around 100 calories per serving. Other fermented foods include miso paste, which is good as a soup when added to homemade broth or as a marinade, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and pickled vegetables — when made with brine and spices and not sugar.
Whether it’s vegetable, chicken or bone broth, we can readily get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need to support a healthy gut by making a homemade stock. Bone broths in particular protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract and help aid in the digestion of essential nutrients. I collect vegetable remnants like broccoli stems in a bag in my freezer so I can make veggie stock, and every Sunday I bake a chicken and make a broth from the bones. The broth can be used to make nutritious and delicious sauces and soups.
Flaxseed has been a highly touted superfood for ages — and for good reason. It helps manage cholesterol, and its high level of omega-3 fatty acids combats diabetes, cancer, heart disease and inflammation — particularly inflammation in the gut. Freshly ground flax can be added to baked goods like muffins, smoothies, salad dressings and even meatloaf and casseroles.
Spice up your life with this life-enhancing superfood. Research suggests cinnamon soothes the stomach and reduces sugar cravings — both of which are needed to restore gut health. In addition, cinnamon improves brain function, suppresses urinary tract infections, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and promotes healthy glucose metabolism.
Studies have found blueberries strengthen our memory, improve our immune system and actually diversify our gut bacteria. The powerful little antioxidant is also low in sugar and calories and will not make our glucose levels spike like other fruits.
Broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower contain glucosinolates, which reduce inflammation in the body. Glucosinolates also latch onto carcinogenic invaders in our colon and escort these pathogens out, reducing our risk of bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung and stomach cancers.
Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).