The start of the holiday season brings with it lazier, more indulgent days. Unfortunately, this relaxed attitude tends to spill over into our diets too. Even a short period of poor food choice, eating patterns, and traveling long distances can wreak havoc on our gut health. There are some simple dietary rules to stick to that will help you manage your gut health this coming festive season.
Research Suggests Jet Lag Impacts Gut Health
There are roughly 40 trillion bacteria living in and on you. While most of these bacteria reside in your gut and will not necessarily cause any health problems, those gut microbiotas are really important to our health. Indeed there are ten times more bacteria in the gut than there are human cells in the body. Our gut microbiota, a collection of bacteria and other organisms in the gut, help digest food, regulate our immune system, protect against harmful bacteria that cause disease, and produce nutrients like folate and vitamin K. When our gut microbiota is out of sync, like when we make poor food choices on holiday. This is called dysbiosis.
With more and more scientific attention being paid to gut health, new studies are helping shed light on the relationship of the gut to overall health, wellness, and disease management.
And who would have thought that gut microbes could be disturbed when traveling abroad? Well, it appears they are. Israeli researchers have found that changes in our biological clocks, related to jet lag, could negatively affect the microbes in the gut.
Volunteers who took part in the study had to travel between the United States and Israel, which had an eight to ten-hour time difference. Stool samples before and after the trip were compared, and unfavorable changes in the composition of the gut microbes were discovered. Unfortunately, the gut microbes that thrived in the changing conditions were those associated with obesity and other health problems.
Eating For Gut Health
Professor Harry Sokol, a gastroenterologist specializing in diseases of the gut from Saint-Antoine Hospital in Paris, contends a healthy diet is paramount in creating diversity in gut bacteria.
Speaking at a recent health summit, he said one can support good gut health quite simply by eating certain foods. He cited yogurt as one of the more accessible and better food solutions for everyday health.
“In your gut, all the bacteria living there are to stimulate immunity, modulate your energy, and your fat and sugar metabolism. Your gut health, good or bad, will impact your total mental and physical well-being.”
This was reiterated by Dr. Ruairi Robertson, a microbiologist, and nutritionist in London, who highlighted foods that create a healthy gut, including yogurt and maas, two types of fermented dairy that contain live cultures to support good gut health.
Yogurt is a popular dairy product that’s made by the bacterial fermentation of milk.
The bacteria used to make yogurt are called “yogurt cultures,” which ferment lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. This process produces lactic acid, a substance that causes milk proteins to curdle, giving yogurt its unique flavor and texture.
In addition, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains provide gut-friendly fiber to the diet.
Good gut health should be an important consideration for everyone. By making dietary adjustments as simple as including a good natural low or no sugar yogurt in your diet and other fiber-rich foods, you can improve your own body, mind, and longevity.
Of course, many people prefer to take a probiotic when it comes to regulating the gut, however, the benefits of good natural food, will always outweigh taking any pill.
Speaking of yogurt, here are seven great science-based reasons why a good natural yogurt should always be in your fridge:
1. Yogurt is Rich in Important Nutrients
Yogurt provides almost every nutrient that your body needs. It is especially high in calcium, B vitamins, and trace minerals. Yogurt contains nearly every nutrient that your body needs.
2. It’s High in Protein
Yogurt, especially the Greek variety, is very high in protein. Protein is helpful for appetite and weight control. Yogurt provides an impressive amount of protein, with about 12 grams per 7 ounces (200 grams).
3. Some Varieties May Benefit Digestive Health
Some types of yogurt contain probiotics, which may boost digestive health by reducing the symptoms of common gastrointestinal disorders, such as bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
To ensure your yogurt contains effective probiotics, look for one that contains live, active cultures, which should be listed on the label.
4. It May Strengthen Your Immune System
Yogurt provides probiotics, vitamins, and minerals, all of which may boost immune health and prevent certain illnesses. Consuming yogurt — especially if it contains probiotics — on a regular basis, may strengthen your immune system and reduce your likelihood of contracting an illness.
5. It May Protect Against Osteoporosis
Yogurt is rich in vitamins and minerals that play a key role in bone health. Consuming it regularly may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Yogurt contains some key nutrients for maintaining bone health, including calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, and, sometimes, vitamin D.
6. It May Benefit Heart Health
Regardless of its fat content, yogurt appears to benefit heart health by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and reducing blood pressure. Yogurt’s fat content is one of the reasons why its healthiness is often controversial. It contains mostly saturated fat, with a small amount of monounsaturated fatty acids.
7. It May Promote Weight Management
As yogurt is high in protein, which is very filling, it may improve your diet overall. Both of these aspects help with weight management. Yogurt has several properties that may help with weight management.
Lactose intolerance occurs when the body lacks lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. It leads to various digestive symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, after consuming milk products.
Therefore, those with lactose intolerance may need to avoid yogurt. However, some people who are lactose intolerant may be able to tolerate it. This is because some of the lactose is broken down during production, and probiotics may assist with its digestion.
If you are lactose intolerant, it may be a matter of trial and error to determine if eating yogurt works for you.
Watch Out For Added Sugar
Many types of yogurt contain high amounts of added sugar, especially those labeled as low in fat. Excess sugar intake is associated with several health problems, including diabetes and obesity.
Therefore, it’s important to read food labels and avoid brands that list sugar in the ingredients.
How to Choose the Best Yoghurt for Your Health
The best yogurts for your health contain few ingredients and no added sugar. Aim for a brand that contains probiotics.
Plain, unsweetened varieties are best since they contain minimal ingredients without any added sugar.
Whether you choose low- or full-fat yogurt is a personal choice.
Full-fat varieties contain more calories, but that doesn’t mean that they’re unhealthy. Just make sure to stick with the recommended portion size.
You should also look for yogurts that contain live and active cultures to ensure you get your fix for health-promoting probiotics.
Yogurt is rich in nutrients and may boost your health when consumed regularly.
It may help reduce the risk of some diseases, while also benefiting digestive health and weight control.
However, make sure to choose your yogurt wisely. For maximum health benefits, choose plain, unsweetened varieties that contain probiotics.
These seven health tips were extracted from Healthline.com, a leading, credible source of scientifically researched data. You can find more scientific data and references on the benefits of yogurt by clicking this link.
More food for thought. Watch this fascinating Tedx talk by Dr. Robertson, on how your belly controls your brain.