Back to articles

Foods That 'Bug' You (in a Good Way)

Adventist Health Health and Wellness

It's more and more common to see kombucha on tap, kefir for sale in average grocery stores and tempeh listed on restaurant menus.

For many of us, these seemingly new food and drink items are as mysterious as they are hard to pronounce. Yet they're also getting some pretty favorable press these days.

You may be left wondering what these things are and why words like "probiotics" and "prebiotics" are floating around health news.

A Healthy Gut, a Healthy You

Even if you're not experiencing any particular "tummy troubles," you may have imbalances in your gut bacteria-the good and bad "bugs" that live in your digestive tract. Healthy colonies of gut bacteria seem to have rather big effects on your body, including impacting your immune system and possibly even your mental health.

While researchers admit they've only scratched the surface of understanding how gut bacteria impact your entire body, it's pretty clear that keeping your gut healthy is an important part of your total wellness-body, mind and spirit.

Prebiotics, Probiotics and Fermented Foods

This is where your diet comes in. Certain foods add and promote healthy gut bacteria, explains Adventist Medical Center dietician Irene Franklin.

Franklin is passionate about prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods-because of the health benefits they offer.

"We often ignore the gut as an organ and treat it as just a transit system," Franklin says. She points out that a healthy gut may help fight the risk of colorectal cancer, promote a leaner body and improve your overall sense of wellness.

Although they both improve gut health, prebiotics and probiotics aren't the same things.

  • Prebiotics: Foods high in fiber stimulate the growth of good bacteria colonies by providing the food they need.
  • Probiotics: These are the "good" bacteria. Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, as are foods that contain live cultures of good bacteria.

Foods to Choose for a Healthy Gut

Franklin recommends adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet in natural ways by eating foods containing these gut-healthy elements. Though there are probiotic supplements, the good bacteria likely won't make it past your stomach, Franklin says.

Instead, she suggests starting a gut-healthy diet by including probiotic and prebiotic foods like:

  • Fiber-rich foods-including leek, garlic, artichoke, legumes, pea sprouts and asparagus
  • Sourdough bread-real sourdough, not just white sandwich bread
  • Fresh kimchi and sauerkraut-the good bacteria are killed off during the canning process of the kind in jars
  • Yogurt-the natural version without sugar, but you can add fresh or frozen fruit on top to sweeten it up
  • Tempeh-a fermented soybean meat substitute available in your grocer's health food section as well as many vegan restaurants, including the LivingWell Bistro at Adventist Medical Center

Did you miss Irene’s presentation in May on foods that are good for your gut? Let us know in the comments and we will send you the slides from the seminar.