Gut Friendly Foods from Around the World
Here at Love Your Gut, we’re taking you on a journey to inspire you with a range of gut-loving foods from around the world.
Maintaining a healthy gut is integral to our overall health and wellbeing. There are many lifestyle factors which we can alter to improve our gut health, and one simple method is eating a diverse and nutritious diet. There are so many foods which can help digestive processes and support a flourishing gut. Join us as we explore some of our favourite gut-friendly foods from across the globe…
Mediterranean Food – The Mediterranean Coast
Close to home, we visit countries of the Mediterranean coast – from Greece to Croatia to Italy and so on… One thing they have in common is their delicious (and gut-loving!) diet. The Mediterranean diet is mostly made up of fibre-rich plant foods as well as oily fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil which all contain healthy fats! As we know, fibre is important for our guts as this is what ‘feeds’ your gut bugs, allowing your microbiota to flourish!9 Foods containing healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, avocados, nuts) are also important for your gut. There is growing evidence that the fatty acids found in these foods increases the strength of your gut lining, preventing ‘leaky gut’ issues and contributing to overall improved gut health10. Another reason the Mediterranean diet is so good for our guts is because it is low in ‘high fat, high sugar’ products (i.e., processed foods). Studies show that processed foods can cause an imbalance in the friendly and harmful bacteria living in your gut, which can further contribute to inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)11.
Try incorporating more Mediterranean foods into your diet by picking up some of these key ingredients next time you’re buying your groceries:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Feta cheese, fresh mozzarella or parmesan
- Almonds, walnuts, pine nuts or pistachios
- Sundried tomatoes
Another easy way to improve the diversity of your gut microorganisms, is by introducing more fermented foods into your diet, such as fermented milk drinks, tempeh or kimchi.
Tempeh – Indonesia
Further afield our culinary journey continues in Southeast Asia, where we try tempeh. Originating from Indonesia, tempeh is a protein-packed soy product that can be used in a range of different dishes. Tempeh is a fermented food and can contain beneficial bacteria1.
Fermentation is the breakdown of a substance (in this case, soybeans) by bacteria, yeast or other microorganisms (in this case, Rhizopus mould), into an alcohol or acid product (in this case, tempeh!).
Fermented foods, such as tempeh, have been shown to support gut health2. However, as many commercial tempeh products are pasteurised (exposed to high temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria), often they don’t retain live bacteria.
It is due to processes such as heating that not all fermented foods contain live bacteria. With that said, tempeh is also a prebiotic as it is rich in fibre which can ‘feed’ our gut bacteria, helping them to increase in number3.
So why not pick up some tempeh to try next time you’re doing your grocery shop and try out our delicious butternut squash, ginger and coconut laksa, with either tofu or tempeh!
Kimchi – South Korea
Heading north, we visit South Korea, where another fermented favourite takes centre stage. With Korean culture becoming increasingly popular in the Western world (think K-pop, K-dramas, Korean skincare), it comes as no surprise that this delicious dish has also received some attention lately.
Kimchi is a side dish made from cabbage, radish, and a fiery spice blend. These ingredients are then fermented in a process which allows for the growth of beneficial bacteria which could aid the health of your gut4.
Scientific studies show that kimchi support immune function and can even reduce the risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and reduce weight in individuals living with obesity5-7.
Kimchi truly is an excellent gut-enhancing addition to your meal, and you can now find it in most major supermarkets.
Black Beans – Central and South America
It is important to note that there are many different types of foods that our gut bugs LOVE. Generally, foods rich in fibre are always a good starting point.
One versatile fibre source is the beloved bean. For example, black beans of the Americas. You can easily pick up a tin of these (at a very small cost) at your local supermarket to help towards meeting your daily fibre intake of 30g.
Did you know that in the UK, we are massively under-consuming the recommended 30g daily intake of fibre? The latest figures show that the average fibre intake for adults in the UK is 19g8 (60% of what it should be!) so be sure to make a conscious effort to eat more fibre-rich sources.
Top tip: Bulk out your chilli con carne (or chilli ‘non’ carne) with black beans as well as the standard kidney beans for an extra kick of fibre! Anything from fruits and vegetables to wholegrains and legumes, to nuts and cereals, can really increase the number of beneficial bugs residing in your gut! The key is to focus on variety and diversity within the diet as this will boost your bug count!
Pack your (shopping) bags… what are you waiting for?
It is so exciting discovering just how many gut-loving foods there are around the world, but it is unlikely that you will be able to visit all these countries at once. But the good news is – you don’t have to! Incorporating gut-loving foods into our diet can make a real difference to our gut health.
From snacking on nuts to swapping to wholegrain bread to even trying some of the more ‘exotic’ foods mentioned in this blog, there are many small changes that you can start making today to enhance your gut health.
So, start filling your shopping bags with new ingredients and slowly begin adding more variety into your diet, one ingredient at a time, and let your tastebuds (and gut bugs) do the exploring!
To start off your gut-loving journey, try some of our favourite ingredients in these Love Your Gut recipes – you won’t be disappointed!
- Journal (2022) Production of tempeh a fermented food product, Journal of Agriculture Environment & Food Security. Available at: https://jaefsec.com/production-of-tempeh-a-fermented-food-product/ (Accessed: 08 August 2023).
- Leeuwendaal, N.K., Stanton, C., O’Toole, P.W. and Beresford, T.P., 2022. Fermented foods, health and the gut microbiome. Nutrients, 14(7), p.1527.
- Kuligowski, M., Jasińska-Kuligowska, I. and Nowak, J., 2013. Evaluation of bean and soy tempeh influence on intestinal bacteria and estimation of antibacterial properties of bean tempeh. Polish journal of microbiology, 62(2), p.189
- Cha, J., Kim, Y.B., Park, S.E., Lee, S.H., Roh, S.W., Son, H.S. and Whon, T.W., 2023. Does kimchi deserve the status of a probiotic food?. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, pp.1-14.
- Cho EJ, Choi JS, Kim SH, et al. In vitro anticancer effect of active compounds from Chinese cabbage Kimchi. J Korean Ass Cancer Prev 2004;9:98–103.
- Kim EK, An S-Y, Lee M-S, et al. Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients. Nutr Res 2011;31:436–43.
- Kim MJ, Kim GR. In vitro evaluation of cholesterol reduction by lactic acid bacteria extracted from Kimchi. Korean J Culinary Res 2006;12:259–68.
- Public Health England (2020) NDNS: results from years 9 to 11 (combined) – statistical summary.
- Thomson, C., Garcia, A.L. and Edwards, C.A., 2021. Interactions between dietary fibre and the gut microbiota. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 80(4), pp.398-408.
- Seethaler B, Lehnert K, Yahiaoui-Doktor M, Basrai M, Vetter W, Kiechle M, Bischoff SC. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids improve intestinal barrier integrity—albeit to a lesser degree than short-chain fatty acids: an exploratory analysis of the randomized controlled LIBRE trial. European Journal of Nutrition. 2023 Jun 15:1-3.
- Srour, B., Kordahi, M.C., Bonazzi, E., Deschasaux-Tanguy, M., Touvier, M. and Chassaing, B., 2022. Ultra-processed foods and human health: from epidemiological evidence to mechanistic insights. The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.