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What Foods to Limit to Maintain a Healthy Gut
It’s no secret - a healthy gut can transform your wellbeing and keep you fit and healthy for longer. When your gut is in good shape, it’s easier to control your weight, your immunity works more efficiently, and your brain and heart are typically in good health. While there is no food that you avoid completely (unless you are allergic), there are a number of foods you should limit in order to maintain a healthy gut.
The body needs a certain amount of sugar to function properly. However, excess sugar in the diet can have negative effects all around the body, including your gut. When you eat sugar, it is absorbed in the upper part of your gut, however, when you hit a certain threshold of sugar intake, this sugar works its way down to your lower gut where most of your healthy gut bacteria are. This excess sugar can prevent some healthy bacteria from colonising your gut, leaving room for other unhealthy bacteria to flourish. The general recommendations for daily sugar intake are no more than 24g for women or 36g for men.
Highly processed foods
Although highly-processed foods can make up part of a healthy diet if eaten infrequently if they make up most of your diet, they may contribute to issues with your gut. Highly-processed foods tend to contain very little fibre and instead contain simple fats and sugars that your body digests quickly. This leaves no food for your gut microbes, who love to eat complex fibres found in whole plants, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds.
In fact, in the UK, the average fibre intake is only around 18g per day, when it should be 30g. To limit your processed foods, try to swap out crisps and sweets for a mixture of nuts, seeds, raisins, fruit and a little dark chocolate. For your meals, one-pot oven-bakes containing lots of different vegetables and chickpeas served with brown rice or other grains can be an easy alternative to a heavily processed ready-meal.
Excess alcohol can have a detrimental impact on many aspects of our health, but growing evidence shows that it is particularly bad for your gut health. Alcohol can negatively impact the strength of your gut wall, making it a little leakier. This increases the chances of bad bacteria and toxins passing through into your blood. The recommended alcohol intake in the UK is no more than 14 units per week, for both men and women.
Red meat can definitely make up part of a healthy diet, however, your gut microbes tend to prefer plant-based foods over animal foods. The issue with eating excessive amounts of red meat is a compound known as L-carnitine, which is broken down by your gut microbes to produce a chemical called TMAO which can be harmful to heart health. One easy way to limit red meat intake is to substitute half of your meat with lentils when making lasagne, spaghetti bolognese or shepherd's pie.
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