Don’t Just Remove Inflammatory Foods From Your Diet: Replace Them With Gut-Friendly Ones
For many of us, the start of a new year is a time for new beginnings: new diets, new health and fitness goals, and new daily habits. And while setting a few New Year’s resolutions can certainly benefit our health and help us to achieve our top wellness goals, we’re much more likely to keep our resolutions if we set specific goals for ourselves and know exactly how we’ll achieve them.
The same is true for removing unsupportive and inflammatory foods from our diets — and this is just one of the many reasons why I believe in the effectiveness of my gut-friendly Nourish 21 program.
With a clear plan in place for reaching your wellness goals in the new year and beyond, you’re more likely to make nutritious food choices and add in the foods and lifestyle practices that have real power to transform your health!
Rather than obsessing over the inflammatory and potentially irritating foods we’d like to avoid this year, let’s take a closer look at some of the gut-friendly foods we can pack into each day. Removing inflammatory ingredients is a crucial first step to achieving optimal health and wellness, but we also need to replace the things we cut out with gut-friendly foods that reduce inflammation and promote healing. Starving ourselves isn’t the solution we’ve been seeking: eating a varied, gut-friendly diet is!
How Gut Health Affects Your Health & Fitness Goals
Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to discuss why gut health matters in the first place. Why should we care about gut health when our primary goals for the new year include losing weight, getting fit, and increasing energy? The answer is simple: the microbes in our guts can either support these health goals or make it much more difficult to achieve them.
Take long-term weight gain and obesity prevention, for instance. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that women who ate high-fiber diets and had higher diversity in their gut microbiota were less likely to experience long-term weight gain. Other research has linked gut health to not only obesity and metabolic syndrome but also gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and increased intestinal permeability (more commonly known as leaky gut).
A more recent study in mice even found that the health of one’s gut could impact their motivation to exercise! If the same is true for humans, improving our gastrointestinal health could motivate us to exercise and make the experience of engaging in physical activity more rewarding. And as we know, the physical and mental health benefits of exercise range from obesity prevention and improved sleep quality to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers — particularly cancers of the colon, lung, breast, and uterus.
There’s really no better New Year’s resolution than improving your gut health! The bacteria living in your gut play a role in digesting the food you eat, preventing diseases, maintaining your weight, and so much more.
Top Foods to Nourish Your Gut Bacteria
Now that we’ve touched on the importance of gut health, let’s highlight some of the gut-friendly foods we might eat in place of the things that don’t support our wellness goals. The foods we remove will vary among each of us, but for some, these foods might include gluten-containing grains, dairy and meat products, overly processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. What we choose to eliminate from our diets permanently depends on how each of these foods makes us feel!
To keep you satiated, nourished, and feeling your best as you set out to conquer your wellness goals in the new year, be sure to add in the following three things:
1. Fermented Foods Like Tempeh & Sauerkraut
If you’ve read my Daily Dozen for Gut Health blog post, you know I eat lots of naturally fermented foods every day. A few of my go-to’s include sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, sourdough bread, and tempeh, but some other great options include kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and naturally fermented pickles. Kombucha and miso count, too!
Consuming these probiotic foods on a regular basis helps your body to break down the nutrients you eat and digest them more easily. You can also supplement your diet with probiotic powders and capsules, but it’s often best to get the bulk of your probiotics directly from a food source!
2. Prebiotic Fruits & Vegetables
In addition to increasing your fermented food intake, it’s important to eat a variety of prebiotic vegetables that help to feed the probiotic bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics keep healthy gut bacteria alive and flourishing so they’re able to do exactly what they’re meant to: keep your body healthy and happy!
Colorful, plant-based diets tend to be exceptionally high in prebiotics, thanks to fiber-rich veggies like asparagus, garlic, leeks, onions, green beans, and wild yams. Bananas, cauliflower, edamame, peaches, tomatoes, and potatoes are other great prebiotic sources. And as for leafy greens, dandelion greens are an excellent choice.
3. Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Whether you’re cutting out gluten-containing foods or looking to incorporate more variety into your diet, several gluten-free whole grains are worthy of your attention. Many of these grains are high in fiber as well as polyphenols, a type of plant compound that’s been shown to offer gastrointestinal benefits, improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. What’s more, eating whole grains versus refined grains has been linked to improved gut microbiota.
To nourish your gut in the new year, the refined grains you might normally consume throughout the week can be replaced with gluten-free whole-grain alternatives like oats, quinoa, brown rice, and buckwheat. There are so many delicious ways to prepare these gluten-free grains, from whipping up oatmeal or overnight oats to preparing colorful Buddha bowls with rice, quinoa, or buckwheat and your choice of veggies, seeds, beans, and legumes.
A Word on Gluten
While going gluten-free may be a part of your wellness goals for the new year, it’s important to remember that we’re all unique and not everyone needs to avoid gluten all the time! My Nourish 21 program will help you to determine whether gluten could be problematic for you or if perhaps something else is behind the digestive issues you’ve been experiencing.
Try 21 Days of Clean Eating & Learn to Nourish Your Body All Year Long
The road to getting healthy and feeling your best doesn’t have to feel like a punishment! Rather, it can feel empowering to eliminate unsupportive foods and replace them with gut-friendly alternatives — all without eating less, counting calories, ditching sugar, or obsessing over food labels.
Nourish 21 is your first step toward achieving health and wellness in the new year and nourishing your body with fermented foods, prebiotic-rich fruits and veggies, and gluten-free whole grains. And with my 21-day meal plan to guide you, I’m confident you’ll love practically every minute of it!
Ready to explore 21 days of clean eating so you can learn how to nourish your unique body, mind, and gut all year long? Sign up for my Nourish 21 program today!