Why Gut-Friendly Food Trends Are Here To Stay
You’ve got a few trillion friends inside of you who would love to talk about your eating habits. That’s right, you’re not alone, even when you think you are. Your gut microbiome is a community of soldiers (microorganisms) doing their best daily to defend your body from enemies and keep all your systems running smoothly. Fueling them with the right foods is imperative to keeping them and you happy.
Gut health is no longer just for fitness enthusiasts. It isn’t just your naturopath or health nut sister espousing the importance of digestion anymore either. It turns out they were right along and then some, and we’ll explain why focusing on a healthy digestive system is about more than not eating the whole tub of movie theater popcorn.
It’s not only the scientists and nutritionists who are out here telling us that it’s not too late to take on your gut health. Consumer reports have shown that Americans are making gut-friendly foods a priority.
The consumption of fermented foods (heaving with gut-friendly probiotics) has increased by 149% in dine-in establishments since 2020 – likely buoyed by their reputation as immunity fortifiers.
As fast-moving consumer goods, gut-friendly foods have grown into a $9.2 billion industry that shows no sign of slowing.
In this article, we’ll break down the following:
Some fun facts about your gut buddies.
Why gut health is super important.
What foods make your gut buddies happy?
Gut-friendly food trends on the horizon.
Fun Facts About Your Gut Buddies (Microbiome)
There’s a lot going on in your mid-region that you need to know about. The faster you become gut buddies, the happier both you and your microbiome will be.
It’s a fascinating mechanism in your body; here are some fun facts to help get acquainted with your guts!
1. You are more bacteria than you are human.
Did we get your attention? There are as many bacterial cells in your gut biome as human cells in your buddy, if not more. Science is undecided on the exact number, but the point is the beneficial bacteria in your body, and your human cells need to harmonize for the best results, and feeding them the right food is a good place to start.
2. Gut instincts are real.
When people talk about getting “the butterflies” or feeling sick in stressful moments, this is a fight or flight sensation caused by your vagus nerve that runs from your brain to your stomach. It’s your body’s way of warning you.
3. The bacteria in your gut microbiome weigh up to 2 kilograms.
That’s the whole fact. But pretty, amazing, right? And a great piece of information for party conversation! Scientific studies tell us that in addition to weighing 2 kilograms, roughly 100 trillion microbes represent as many as 5,000 different species in your gut.
4. Americans Have It Worse
The gut microbiome of Americans and most other Westernized, industrialized populations is less diverse and dominated by different bacterial species than that of people from rural, less developed populations. This is likely due to a shift away from the natural environment, soils, and whole foods preventing us from naturally diversifying our gut bacteria.
Why Gut Health Is Super Important
Some of us may not be able to honestly remember what it feels like to have a healthy, perfectly functioning gut. However, frequent episodes of fatigue, mild depression, inflammation, and rashes are all signs that your gut might be under-functioning.
As infants, our guts are nearly sterile at birth until they develop into a community of trillions of microbial cells by the time we reach adulthood. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, millions of Americans fall victim to the Western diet. As we develop convenience-oriented eating habits that tend towards processed and indigestible foods laden with preservatives and over-processed ingredients, we start to weaken our microbiome.
Your Second Brain
To help you think of your gut as a top priority, you can visualize your gut being your second brain. Scientists call this “second brain,” if you will, the enteric nervous system (ENS). It is a network of nerves, neurons and neurotransmitters that extends along the entire digestive tract – from the esophagus, through the stomach and intestines, and down to your bum. It contains the exact same neurotransmitters and neurons that are found in the central nervous system (CNS), making them closely related.
This “second brain”, your gut, contains 100 million neurons responsible for 95% of your serotonin production. That’s big! Your gut is in charge of many things you likely know about – digestion, detoxing your system of impurities, and – your mood! Serotonin is the neurochemical that regulates your mood and sleep. Researchers now know there is a direct correlation to gut health and happiness.
Your immune system resides primarily within your gut. The diversity of your gut flora is the best defense against unwelcome microbes and viruses. Having a diverse diet of living foods is the best way to increase your gut microbiome’s diversity.
In addition, elimination is an important component of gut health. Your body needs to release not just the end product of digestion but all the toxins sent to your gut from other systems as well. The efficiency of elimination is a big part of your immune response.
What Foods Make Your Gut Buddies Happy
The good news is that we’ve come a long way from your grandma’s jars of fermented vegetables, although those are pretty tasty too. Commercially, living foods are becoming more accessible and palatable.
What is a “ living food”?
From the beginning, every global culture has adopted its own version of a native fermented food. These culinary traditions involved whole foods that were changed by a living bacterial culture and enzymatic action to create a preserved version that was generally known to be helpful with immunity and overall health. The Koreans have kim chi, the Chinese have kombucha, and the German’s sauerkraut.
In modern times, we have all of those and more. Here are just a few foods that are booming commercially, taste great, and will leave you better than they found you.
Kombucha has been known as the “Elixir Of Life” since its inception in 221 BC. The Chinese swore that this fabled “mushroom” culture, called a SCOBY, that turned tea into a sweet and sour beverage, was the key to a long healthy life. And they weren’t wrong! Kombucha has grown into a 2.6 billion dollar industry since it took off as a modern drink in the 1990s.
A cousin to kefir, the base is generally milk instead of tea. The same concept is used to ferment the milk using a culture of beneficial bacteria and yeast that yield an extremely healthy drink. It is essentially drinkable yogurt! Kids often prefer it flavored with fruit.
KimChi and Sauerkraut
Some may argue that sauerkraut and kimchi shouldn’t share a byline, but they are both forms of fermented cabbage. While kimchi is generally on the spicier side and sauerkraut is generally milder. We say both can be put on absolutely anything to level up your eating experience with a bounty of happy microbes.
Probiotics refer to the beneficial microbes that exist naturally in our gut and by introduction via living foods and sometimes manufactured supplements. Well, probiotics get hungry too. Prebiotics create a food source for them in the form of a nondigestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.
Great probiotics are any plant fibers from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Think:
- Dandelion greens
- Green vegetables
- Konjac root
- Legumes (peas and beans)
- Yacon root
Gut-Friendly Food Trends On The Horizon
The food trends of 2023 have spoken, and health-based foods are here to stay. The Institute for Food Technology (IFT) predicts we’ll see more wild-crafted beers, kombucha, miso, kimchi, and pickled foods going into 2023. The sour and umami flavors bolstered with heavy-hitting health benefits are a recipe for culinary success as home-based businesses to high-end restaurants make wellness initiatives a key strategy.