The link between gut health and optimal brain function is growing more-and-more undeniable as research shows the importance of a healthy gut flora in supporting over-all long-term health.
One might even call this colony of cultures an organ in and of itself, as they are imperative to the health of your brain and all other major organs. Recent studies suggest that this “organ” can be linked to depression, anxiety, and can enhance the communication to the brain, through the gut with cortisol – the stress hormone.
Give these five easy to incorporate super-foods a try and get your glorious gut going in the right direction with a powerful digestive over-haul.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is produced through a 2-step fermentation process that converts first to alcohol – by means of yeast—and then to Vinegar – by means of bacteria. Apple cider vinegar is not a probiotic, but a prebiotic – meaning it is helpful in aiding good bacteria within your gut and it can even restore your body’s pH balance to a healthier alkaline state.
The key ingredient is, of course, fermented apples. These fermented apples contain pectin which is a natural prebiotic carbohydrate that slows down nutrient absorption by binding itself to waste-products within the digestive tract, thus- leaving the probiotic behind to grow and flourish – essential for gut protection and over-all good digestion.
You can simply mix two tablespoons of raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink to reap these benefits. However, adding it to your diet as a food, such as using an apple cider vinegar dressing on your salad, may be a more beneficial route, packed with the punch of added veggies to boot.
If you’re going to be using apple cider vinegar for its prebiotic health benefits, always make sure you are buying the raw, unpasteurized form (or make your own) which contains “the mother” a term used to describe the cloudy cobweb-like strands that float within the vinegar and hold the beneficial live cultures and nutrients. It is recommended to limit daily intake to two tablespoons.
Dairy-free yogurt — just like it’s lactose-ridden analog made from cow’s milk — contains copious amounts of those good-for-your-gut cultures and enzymes. You can find this product in variations like; cultured coconut milk yogurt, cultured almond milk yogurt, cultured soy yogurt and even cultured hemp yogurt.
The most important factor in choosing your lactose-free goodies, is to pay attention to the levels of live active cultures in the final product, and how it is stored. Avoiding destruction of these important cultures before they get to your gut is crucial to experiencing these benefits. Keep an eye out as well for extra added sugar, or simply make your own homemade vegan yogurt.
Garlic naturally has a brawny defensive mechanism, designed to shield itself from fungi, insects and other pests. This happens enzymatically, producing Allicin on-demand when it is injured. This chemical has been called “natures insecticide” and is why garlic is such a powerful anti-infective, also responsible for creating the pervasive aroma. More than 100 compounds are identified in this powerhouse veggie, which contribute to an almost endless list of health benefits.
Aged Black Garlic, an alternative to fresh garlic traditionally hailing from Korea, has become more popularized state-side among foodies and health-minded folk alike due to its impressive nutritional makeup and a less-spicy, soft and chewy texture. And don’t toss out those green-sprouted bulbs! Studies have shown that garlic sprouted for at least five days tends to have a higher antioxidant capacity than fresh bulbs.
Mangoes are another amazing prebiotic food that has been found to be the single-most widely consumed fruit across the world. These delicious beauties contain over 20 essential vitamins and minerals, and can be linked to health benefits including boosted digestion, bone health ad decreased risk of macular degeneration. They’ve also been linked to a lower risk of certain types of cancer, specifically colon cancer.
There have been reported benefits to the skin and hair regarding mangoes. In fact, consuming just one cup of mango per day, provides the requisite amount of Vitamin C needed to maintain and build collagen – responsible for the growth of all body tissues, like the skin and hair.
Just like apple cider vinegar, mangoes help reduce acidity within the body, aiding and preventing certain conditions as depression, ulcers, inflammation and bone loss.
Sauerkraut, a form of fermented cabbage, provides important health benefits like improved blood circulation, enhanced digestion, immune stimulation, increased energy and bone strength. It can also help protect your heart health and provide a barrier against certain cancers. Sauerkraut can be traced all the way back to fourth century BC, and has been common throughout Central Europe for several hundred years.
This ancient miracle food has impressive probiotic properties, with live cultures that tend to stick around permanently, as the bacteria found in sauerkraut form long-lasting colonies crowding out the bad bugs and providing an iron-clad defense against toxins. Although low in calories, stick to a small serving of the stuff as it is relatively high in sodium content.
See my Kimchi-Sauerkraut Recipe Here
In conclusion –
Maintaining a vivacious and active gut flora is critical and can be maintained easily through a diet combining Mother Nature’s finest prebiotics, probiotics, and even (in small amounts) antibiotics found in these relatively common foods.
As always, ask your Doctor about important dietary changes before diving in if you have any existing health conditions.