By Carolyn Twesten, Weaver Street Market Produce Merchandiser
Wow, here it is 2020 and I can’t believe we have entered a whole new decade! With this new decade upon us I thought, what could I write about healthy eating in the new year that is different than what I’ve written before? I’ve been ruminating on it and doing a little research on health and food trends for 2020 (superfruit powders anyone?), and I started thinking about gut health.
Maybe you’ve read about the importance of gut health in the news, how researchers have discovered that 70% of your immune system is in your gut, and 90% of your body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects mood) is produced in the gut. Perhaps you’ve started taking a probiotic or drinking fermented beverages—great! What you may have overlooked though is that the friendly bacteria in your body– well they need food, too.
A Quick Primer on Your Gut Microbiome
Your gut microbiome is composed of trillions of microscopic organisms, including bacteria, yeasts, and viruses. It sounds a little scary but the important thing to know is that it will all be okay, as long as you maintain a healthy balance of all of those organisms.
Friends and Foe
It’s true, some of those organisms that I just mentioned are not your friends. Unfortunately, our Standard American Diet that is high in refined carbohydrates (read: flour and sugar) encourages these unfriendly guys to proliferate, leading to an unbalanced and unhappy gut. This may be what is causing you to have bloating, gas, or constipation.
While refined carbohydrates encourage the unfriendly bacteria and yeasts in your body to grow out of balance, it is the prebiotic fiber found in fruits and vegetables that can help bring the balance back to your gut. Remember how I mentioned the friendly bacteria in your body needing to eat, too? Probiotics (the healthy bacteria) feed on undigestible carbohydrates (aka fiber) which promotes their growth.
Growing up I thought that “fiber rich food” meant bread. I guess that the bread manufacturers’ marketing firms did a great job of pushing that idea on the American public, hand in hand with the sugar companies that had us convinced that fat was bad, and sugar was healthy (for more on that check out Dr. David Ludwig’s book Always Hungry). The foods at the top of the fiber list though, are fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here are some fiber rich (and delicious!) foods to include in your diet for 2020:
Avocadoes, apples, pears, raspberries, beets, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, artichokes, and more.
And to be fair to the other food groups, I should mention that nuts, seeds, and legumes are on that list as well.
The bottom line? Eat more fiber! Daily recommended fiber intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, of which most American adults meet about 50%. In addition to helping to improve your gut microbiome, fiber helps to slow digestion and regulate blood sugar, sustaining the feeling of fullness. This can help you if you have weight loss goals for the New Year as well. Happy, healthy eating to all!