A Gut-Healthy Family: 5 Powerful Foods for a Healthier Home
The science is out – the gut is the epicenter of human health.
In recent years, there has been increasing evidence to prove the importance of gut health and its capacity to influence everything from mood to disease status.
If you’re aiming to prepare food with the health of a family in mind, focusing on gut health is one of the best things you can do for the future health of your partner and children.
The Importance of Preventative Eating
Common approaches to healthcare are reactive. That means people are considered “healthy” until diagnosed with a disease or disorder, at which point action is finally taken. As an increasing emphasis is placed on preventative medicine, outlooks on health are changing for the better.
Instead of focusing efforts on curing an existing ailment, preventative health aims to support the body and its natural processes in a way that reduces the probability of becoming ill in the first place. And, as science is demonstrating, one of the best places to focus these preventative efforts is in the gut.
Using dietary strategies to enhance the gut health of your family provides a universal point of focus for reducing the probability of getting a myriad of preventable disorders before they begin. These preventable disorders include bacterial dysbiosis, candida, obesity, insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and leaky gut, which has been associated with issues such as irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune diseases (1)(2).
While a gut-focused diet sounds like something you might want to try, getting the family on board with your new fascination with gut bacteria isn’t always the easiest task — especially if you’re trying to introduce a spirulina, kombucha & kale smoothies into the daily meal mix.
The Challenges of Healthy Eating
In the modern world, sugar is added to approximately 80 percent of grocery store foods (3). And artificial flavors and colors run rampant, a combination which bombards taste buds with extreme flavors and cravings that can really mess up natural eating habits.
Finding foods that satisfy everybody’s taste can be a challenge in the first place. But asking your family to make an overnight switch from hamburgers and chocolate to tempeh and carob can be quite a shock to the taste buds. It could even leave your family opposed to healthy eating.
The trick is to get creative by finding foods that your family loves, and,using new, healthier ingredients as substitutes to recreate old favorites. Keep in mind, taste buds also adapt to new food over time, meaning that gradually, your family will begin to find more enjoyment in natural foods (this is when you cue that kale smoothie to make its first appearance).
To make the transition towards healthy eating easier, below is a list of 5 superfoods that will support the gut health of your family. Additionally, you’ll find meal prep tips that will ensure easy access to these gut-healthy foods in ways that your family will actually enjoy.
5 Powerful Foods for a Gut-Healthy Family
1. Brassica family vegetables
The brassica family includes common vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts — all of which provide some pretty amazing whole body benefits.
Brassica vegetables contain a high concentration of glucosinolate compounds that, through how they’re metabolized, are able to enhance detoxification via the liver (4)(5). Additionally, these vegetables provide compounds that support the growth of good bacteria within the gut, which can prevent issues like bacterial dysbiosis (4).
This combination of detoxification and bacterial support are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential health benefits, making these common vegetables true superfoods when it comes to enhancing the gut health of your family.
Meal Prep Tip: Want your kids to enjoy the benefits of these superfood vegetables without the fuss? Blend up a shake containing raw cabbage, seasonal greens, apples and berries. Cabbage and many seasonal green leaves are actually quite mild in taste, so adding low-sugar and body-benefiting fruits is an easy way to make a great tasting shake that’s delicious and packed with gut-healthy nutrients. To shave time, prep the whole ingredients in containers beforehand and toss the mix into a blender for a fresh shake each morning!
2. Stewed apples
The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have had more scientific truth to it than expected.
Several studies have demonstrated polyphenolic compounds in apples to be capable of increasing beneficial bacteria within the gut, while suppressing potentially harmful bacteria that promote inflammation (6). Additionally, these compounds have shown to interact with aryl hydrocarbon receptors, which are particular proteins capable of regulating genetic expression involved in inflammation, detoxification and antioxidant responses (7)(8).
Why stewed apples? The slicing and stewing process increases surface area while making the apples easier to digest. This enhances the interaction between these polyphenols and their genetic and bacterial targets to maximize gut-health benefits. Not to mention, they taste great.
Meal Prep Tip: Stewed apples maintain their benefits for four days after preparation. Try making a large batch of these at the beginning of the week and leaving them in an airtight container in the fridge. This method gives the family easy access to this gut-healthy treat to layer on top of yogurt or eat as a snack on its own.
Garlic contains an active ingredient called allicin, which has shown to work against pathogenic microbes in order to support a healthy bacterial balance within the gut. Several studies have demonstrated allicin to possess antifungal and antibacterial properties, while simultaneously stimulating cellular immunity (9)(10).
Allicin’s ability to not only protect but actually strengthen human cells while acting as a natural antibiotic demonstrates a clear advantage over the use of pharmaceutical antibiotics, while also providing a preventative approach for keeping pathogens away and letting good bacteria play!
In order to achieve the maximum benefits of allicin, chop garlic up and leave it for at least 5 minutes before applying heat in order to activate its beneficial compounds.
Meal Prep Tip: Garlic is a great substitute for preserved sauces and flavorings in cooking. To ensure easy access, chop a whole head of garlic and, after letting it sit for five minutes, cover the garlic with olive oil and store the mixture in a glass, airtight container. The olive oil will act as a natural preservative, while the air-tight container will prevent oxidation.
Bananas contain a powerful prebiotic fiber called inulin. Inulin has shown to support the growth of beneficial bacteria within the gut, while also regulating gut hormones that are associated with hunger sensations, weight gain, and even metabolic diseases such as type II diabetes (11)(12)(13).
Studies have demonstrated that consuming just 4 grams inulin per day is sufficient for achieving these bacterial benefits while promoting the regulation of gut hormones, insulin response and weight (13).
Want to boost your inulin intake further? This prebiotic fiber can also be found in other natural sources, such asleeks, onions and asparagus. If your fam are fans, toss these veggies into a stir-fry with a banana-based fruit salad for dessert.
Meal Prep Tip: If you want to prepare a banana-filled recipe, slicing bananas and berries together with whole red grapes makes a quick, hormone-regulating, bacterial boosting fruit salad that’s bursting with antioxidants. Squeeze a bit of lemon on top to prevent browning and your fruit salad will stay looking fresh for longer.
5. Bone broth
Bone broth is one of the highest natural food sources of L-glutamine, an amino acid which has shown to improve the integrity of the intestinal barrier. The intestine acts as a semi-permeable barrier, letting beneficial nutrients in while keeping harmful pathogens and toxins out.
L-glutamine has shown to be one of the most powerful sources for both preventing and healing leaky gut (14)(15). So, if you’re aiming to keep this troublesome issue at bay, consuming bone broth daily is one of the best natural ways to keep the family’s gut tight and happy.
Meal Prep Tip: If you’ve prepped bone broth before, you’ll know what a long process it is. Additionally, storing bone broth in the fridge quickly results in increased levels of histamine-producing bacteria, which may produce unwanted symptoms for those with food intolerances. To get all the benefits of fresh bone broth without the hassle, try using Kettle & Fire Bone Broth.
What Not to Eat
Although it’s great to aim to feed your family the most gut-healthy foods, it’s also important to keep in mind the foods your family should be minimizing in order to maximize overall benefits.
The most important, general rule-of-thumb is to focus on all-natural and “real” foods. What this means is using minimally processed, single-ingredient foods in cooking.
By eating foods in their natural form, you can easily minimize your family’s consumption of additives and chemicals. Additionally, choosing organic wherever possible can minimize toxic exposures further, while concurrently increasing nutrient consumption.
If you are aiming to buy a few pre-packaged favorites, keep in mind that one of the biggest threats to your family’s health is added sugar. As mentioned above, added sugars appear in approximately 80% of grocery store foods, and can both increase inflammation and negatively impact gut bacteria (3).
Even if you’re wandering around the health aisle to pick your family’s products, it’s always best to double-check ingredients. Reading before you buy may be a tiring task at first, but eventually you’ll get to know all of the right products and navigate the grocery store like a pro.
By simply minimizing added sugars while focusing on single-ingredient, natural foods, you’re going to be taking simple but drastic steps towards dramatically increasing the health of your family.
Getting Your Family Started
Now that you’re armed with these 5 foods for a gut-healthy family, it’s time to get started!
For an efficient approach, select one day of the week to prepare these simple foods and let your family start feeling the digestive benefits. If you’ve got great meal prep tips that work for your family, share them with us in the comments below.