How to Shop for Gut Health Part I
A healthy gut and digestion support total-body health and one of the best ways you can support your gut is by eating certain foods. In part one of our two-part series we cover:
- What is a PRE-biotic
- How often should you eat them?
- The different types of yogurt and how to choose the right one for you.
- How to tell real bone broth from improperly made alternatives.
- What to stay away from when shopping for gut health.
- Exactly what to look for when reading an ingredient label.
What are Prebiotics and why are they good for me?
Prebiotics are fibrous substances found in certain foods. PRE-biotics act as fertilizer, feeding PRO-biotics and helping them do their job, which is to populate the body with good bacteria. Foods that are high in prebiotic fiber include:
- Green (unripe) Bananas
- Dandelion greens
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I EAT PREBIOTICS?
In her practice, Sharon recommended incorporating prebiotics about 3-4 times per week.
What are Probiotics and why are they good for me?
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts naturally found in our bodies. Probiotics are often called “good” or “beneficial” bacteria because they have been shown to help support optimal health. Probiotics are typically associated with improving digestion; however, studies show that gut bacteria play a significant role in many areas of our overall health, from supporting our immune system to even our mood and metabolism.
Edible good bacteria, or, probiotics, are most plentiful in fermented foods, such as:
- Kefir and yogurts that contain “live active cultures”
- Unpasteurized (raw) sauerkraut and kimchee
It’s important to know what to look for and where to find these probiotic foods when shopping in the grocery store. You want to make sure your probiotic foods are raw or unpasteurized and stored in the refrigerated section. This ensures that the good bacteria are still alive in the product.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE HEALTHIEST YOGURT?
There are several different types of yogurt to choose from: yogurt made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk yogurt, goat milk yogurt, and non-dairy yogurt such as coconut yogurt.
How do you know which one is right for you?
Many people find that they do not digest yogurt made from cow’s milk very well. This can be because cow’s milk contains the A1 casein protein. Sheep’s milk yogurt and goat milk yogurt, on the other hand, contain A2 casein, which can be easier to digest. If you find that you cannot digest any kind of dairy-based yogurt, our recommendation is to switch to a clean, non-dairy alternative yogurt with as few ingredients as possible.
Things to look out for when shopping for yogurt…
- Buy Pasture-Raised
If you’re buying a diary-based yogurt, make sure the milk comes from pasture-raised animals. Animals store toxins in their fat cells so you want the animal to be eating their natural diet (grass and bugs) and be raised in a clean, humane environment, free from toxic pollutants and chemicals, such as RoundUp and antibiotics.
- No Added Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar can be difficult to digest and milk already contains naturally-occurring sugar, so it’s best to avoid added sugars.
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, have been shown to kill or reduce good bacteria so steer clear of these sweeteners at all costs!
- No Filler or Gums
These are unnecessary additives and, again, are difficult for the digestive system to process. If you’re working on your gut health you want to minimize exposure to fillers and gums whenever possible. Since you don’t need them in your yogurt, why eat them?
OUR FAVORITE YOGURT BRANDS
There are tons of great brands out there – you just have to be a careful label reader! A few of our favorites are:
- Dairy: St. Benoit
- Sheep’s Milk: Bellweather Farms
- Goat Milk: Redwood Hill Farms
- Non-Dairy: Coconut Cult
What is kefir and why is it good for you?
Kefir is like a thinner, drinable yogurt. It can be make with both dairy milks as well as non dairy alternatives like coconut milk and even water.
The main difference between yogurt and kefir is that kefir can contain two to three times the amount of probiotics as yogurt.
The milk used to make kefir is fermented with a combination of 10 to 20 different types of probiotic bacteria and yeast, but the milk used to make yogurt is only fermented with a few.
But that doesn't mean that you should ONLY drink kefir. The goal when you're trying to populate your gut with good bacteria isn't QUANTITY it's VARIETY.
“Think of your gut as a field, and you’re planting many different types of seeds.”
- Sharon Brown, Founder
Not to toot our own horn, but, gut health is the reason why we started this company in the first place (you can read Sharon’s story here).
When our founder, Sharon was practicing as a Clinical Nutritionist, bone broth was the cornerstone of her nutritional protocol, which focused on optimizing gut health.
How does bone broth help support digestion?
Bone broth is one of the best whole-food sources of the amino acid L-glutamine, which acts like spackle, or, a sewing needle, to the lining of the intestine.
Why would you want to spackle your intestine? Bone broth helps to strengthen the integrity of the gut lining, ultimately improving digestion and supporting healthy levels of inflammation.
Not all bone broth is created equal!
There is currently no regulated definition for the term "bone broth," which means that almost any product can be labeled bone broth - even if it is just chicken stock, chicken flavor, and water.
When shopping for store-bought bone broth, you should always check your ingredients and know the company that you are buying from, to make sure you're getting the real thing.
5 questions to ask before you buy bone broth:
- Is the bone broth frozen?
Freezing bone broth locks in flavor and preserves nutrients at their peak and it is the way bone broth is traditionally stored. It’s also the only way that you can store bone broth without preservatives, shelf-stabilizers or processing.
- Is the bone broth certified organic?
CERTIFIED Organic is very different from "made with organic ingredients". Organic certification means that EVERYTHING about the bone broth - from the ingredients right down to the cleaning products used in our facilities - must adhere to rigorous organic guidelines. To make sure your bone broth is certified organic, look for the USDA Certified Organic symbol.
- Do the ingredients include ONLY grass-fed bones - no filler broth?
This ensures that your bone broth is made with high-quality bones from animals raised on pasture and therefore free of environmental toxins. Also, some companies add pre-made broth to their bone broth to make more broth cheaper and faster. This creates a watered-down broth that is less effective than true bone broth. (Shocked? It's true. Read more: Have you been buying fake bone broth?)
Want to know more about shopping for gut health?
Read part II of this series where we discuss:
- How to shop for fermented vegetables
- How to shop for kombuchas
- And how to pick the right probiotic supplement
Read: How to Shop for Gut Health Part II