Top 5 foods for gut health

Which are the best foods for keeping your gut healthy and why?

Eg: bran flakes or muesli; wholemeal and whole grain bread; wholemeal rice and pasta.

Whole grains contain insoluble fibre, which holds on to water. The bulking and softening effect on the stools can help calm IBS, relieve or prevent constipation, and may help prevent diverticulosis.

Insoluble fibre also causes food to pass through the digestive system more quickly. Include the higher-fibre varieties of staple foods (rice, pasta, bread and cereals) in your diet daily.

Increasing your fibre intake gradually will reduce the risk of symptoms such as wind and bloating.

These foods contain soluble fibre, which is fermented in the large bowel by 'friendly' bacteria – these bacteria are important for the health of the large bowel. Soluble fibre can also help to lower blood cholesterol levels.

Include beans, lentils or split peas regularly in salads, to extend meat dishes, or in casseroles. Add barley to homemade soups and stews, and try porridge for breakfast.

Fruits and vegetables are a good source of both insoluble fibre and soluble fibre. Have at least five portions a day of different types and colours, and include the skins where they are edible.

Probiotics are live microbial supplements that can modify the balance of bacteria in the gut; they are thought to be beneficial to gut health. They are usually found in yoghurt or probiotic drinks.

Scientific evidence for the health benefits of probiotics is still building, but some people may find probiotics to be helpful.

Found in vegetables and fruits such as onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatos and bananas.

Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that stimulate the growth of 'friendly' bacteria in the gut. Evidence for a beneficial effect of prebiotics is, at present, limited, but you might like to try including some of these foods in your diet.

First published: Sep 2006

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