How to Keep your Gut Bacteria Happy and Why it’s So Important
Your happiness relies on the health of your gut bacteria
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria. These little guys are constantly busy making messages that travel throughout your body, including to your brain. These messages to your brain can be signals that make you happy, sad, or hungry, depending on the type of bacteria you have living in your gut.
In a nutshell, the good guys make you feel good, the bad guys make you feel bad. You want to look after the good guys, so they can grow, flourish and dominate the bad guys!
Did you know that the bacteria in your gut produces 90% of your serotonin, which is a hormone responsible for happy feelings!
So let’s look at how you can keep these good guys happy for your best chance at being happy.
How do I look after my good gut bacteria?
Feed them with lots and lots of FIBRE (pre-biotics)
You definitely would have heard that fibre is good for you – we talk about this a lot! We promise we are not trying to sound like a broken record, fibre truly has essential nutritional benefits!
Fibre is not fully digested into your body after you eat it. This just means that it stays in your intestines and travels all the way through until it makes its exit out the other end. During its travels through your gut, the fibre feeds bacteria residing in there, helping these ‘good guys’ grow and thrive. The ‘good guys’ can then send lots of messages and signals around your body which help regulate your mood and help reduce risk of some diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
The key takeaway here is to eat a variety of fibre from different food sources. This helps to diversify and flourish your gut flora.
Best sources of fibre: vegetables, fruit, chickpeas, lentils, beans, oats, nuts, seeds wholegrain bread and pasta.
Eat lots of FERMENTED foods (pro-biotics)
Fermented foods were traditionally used to prevent vegetables like cabbage and cucumber from going off, by adding salt. It was then discovered that these veggies were naturally producing good bacteria during this process (this is what causes the sour taste). Bacteria can also be added to foods as a method of fermentation – like in yoghurt!
Eating fermented foods can increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. In other words, the ‘good guys’ are moving in! Once you have invited more bacteria into your gut by eating fermented foods, it is then important to eat lots of fibre to feed them.
Note that pickled veggies and sauerkraut you find on the supermarket shelf have generally been pickled in vinegar which kills the bacteria. Try to look for naturally fermented vegetables in the refrigerated section instead.
Best sources of Fermented Foods: yoghurt, pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso paste, tempeh.
Ditch the processed, high sugar, high-fat foods!
These foods are all low in fibre, giving our good guys nothing to help them grow and thrive, reducing our chance of receiving their potential happy and healthy benefits. This leaves us with the bad guys dominating our gut, potentially leaving us feeling down and increasing the risk of harmful health effects that can increase our risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Foods to limit: takeaways, chips, cakes, cookies, pastries, chocolate, fizzy drink, white breads, fried foods, sugary cereals.
To help be your happiest self:
- keep your good bacteria happy by feeding them with fibre
- create more of them with fermented foods
- keep the bad guys away by limiting processed foods.
Check out the following recipe that’s full of fibre to keep your gut bacteria and your mind happy!
Turmeric Chicken Chickpea Rice Bowl
Serves: 4 Time: 40mins Cost: $18 approx. ($4.50/serve)
- 4 chicken thighs (400-500g)
- 2 cups brown rice (microwave packet or home cooked)
- 700g pumpkin
- 2 cups spinach
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp crushed ginger
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- juice of ½ squeezed lime
- 1 can chickpeas
- 4 TBSP natural or Greek yoghurt
- extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper
- Prepare rice as per packet instructions.
- Preheat oven to 180o‑c fan-forced.
- Dice pumpkin into bite sized pieces then place on baking tray.
- Drizzle pumpkin with olive oil, season with salt & pepper then bake for 30mins, turning half way through.
- Dice onion, cut chicken into bite sized pieces.
- Heat olive oil on a pan, low-medium heat.
- Sauté onion for 1 min.
- Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon then fry off for 1 min (might need a dash more oil).
- Add chicken, cook on medium heat for 8-10mins.
- Add cooked pumpkin and rice, chickpeas, lime juice then cook for 2 mins.
- Take off heat and stir through spinach.
- Serve with a dollop of yoghurt .