Research continues to prove to us what Hippocrates said a couple of millennia ago; gut health is vital to having a healthy mind and body. Since the digestive system powers the body by turning our food into fuel, we must look after those trillions of beneficial gut bacteria that do all the hard work for us!
Veganism and Gut Health
The bacteria living in our digestive tract rely on prebiotics to fuel them. Luckily, a vegan diet already contains some excellent sources of prebiotics, but we need to include a variety of plant foods like beans, grains, leeks, onions, apples, and garlic.
Some of the foods included in a vegan diet are also high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, helping to protect the gut. These include legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
Extra dietary care is required to keep a positive balance because a vegan diet excludes gut-supportive probiotics in animal-based foods like yogurt.
Finally, a balanced, quality wholefood diet remains the key to maintaining a healthy gut. Therefore, vegans must resist following a diet of too many processed vegan foods to help prevent deficiencies that lead to gut issues.
Best Nutrients to Promote Gut Health
According to Peta, a vegan diet requires probiotics, prebiotics, fiber, and plenty of green vegetables. Let’s see which are the best minerals, vitamins, and foods to promote gut health on a vegan diet:
One of the most significant minerals for the gut is zinc, primarily found in animal products. Unfortunately, plant-based foods have a higher copper content, a competing nutrient.
Zinc protects the immune system thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, and a deficiency can lead to harmful bacteria growth in the gut. Besides taking a zinc supplement, some of the best sources of zinc include beans, lentils, walnuts, tofu, chia seeds, wholemeal products, and quinoa.
Glutamine is a vital amino acid that helps to protect the gut lining. Most sources of glutamine are animal-based. However, foods like cabbage, spinach, tofu, beans, and lentils are amino acid sources, helping protect from issues like leaky gut.
Vegan diets often cause a shortage of omega-3 fatty acids – a nutrient people on meat-based diets get from eating fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, including in the digestive tract, and increase the beneficial bacteria required to keep the gut healthy. However, following a plant-based diet does not need to mean that there are no sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The most significant sources of omega-3 fatty acids for vegans include flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, algae, edamame, and seaweed.
Hard-working probiotics ensure that all the proper nutrients go to all the right places within the body. They also help to fight off harmful gut bacteria. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, kvass, kimchi, and miso are good sources of probiotics. Vegans should also include yogurts from vegan milk, kombucha, and apple cider vinegar into their diet because of their abundant probiotic availability.
Prebiotics help to fuel good gut bacteria, allowing them to flourish. Besides the sources named at the start of the article, adding chicory, mangoes, and Jerusalem artichokes ensure that the good guys have the energy required to carry out their work.
Most people don’t get the required daily intake of 40 grams of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels and prevent obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Getting the right amount of fiber also helps gut bacteria thrive by fueling their energy needs. Plant-based fiber foods include artichokes, lentils, almonds, peas, raspberries, apples, whole grains, avocadoes, jicama, oats, flaxseed, chia seed, celery, and beans.
Vegan diets don’t need to mean low calcium levels, and a diet of leafy greens can help meet the daily requirements. Besides being low in calories, leafy greens pack a punch as far as sources of good fiber, iron, potassium, vitamins B, C, and K, beta carotene, folate, and magnesium. Besides leafy greens like broccoli, kale, bok choy, dandelion, collard, and lettuce, a good vegan diet should include asparagus, seaweed, and avocado.
Since gut health affects the rest of the body, a balanced diet is the best support for our health when opting for a vegan lifestyle. The right foods help to support the diverse bacteria required to ensure a healthier immune system. In addition, following a diet packed with fiber-rich foods provides overall well-being, including reducing stress levels. As vegans, we can easily fall into the trap of eating over-processed foods or “junk,” and even though there is nothing incorrect with that, balancing these with the foods mentioned above can make all the difference to our gut health.