Improve your digestion, mood and immunity with these hero ingredients
Digestion can have a huge impact on our health, mood and appearance. This is because your digestive system is where all of the goodness is extracted from what you eat and drink before it leaves your body.
Keep your tummy happy with these wonder ingredients and you could be on your way to stronger immunity, healthier skin and a better mood.
Cacao comes from cocoa beans that have been cold-pressed rather than roasted. This method keeps the good enzymes and removes the fat (the opposite happens when cocoa beans are heated to produce cocoa powder). Raw cacao is sweet, dark and satisfying. You can use it in baking if you get it in powder form (try Aduna's Super-Cacao Powder). Or, indulge in a bar of OMBAR's 72%, an almost boozy-rich dairy free chocolate that contains lots of gut-friendly bacteria.
This zesty root packs a punch, in terms of both flavour and gut benefits. It maintains your levels of digestive juices in your stomach to keep your gut functioning well and it can help to reduce nausea (try Gin Gins if you're feeling queasy). You can use ginger in savoury dishes such as stir-fries, curries and spiced soups, or in sweet dishes like carrot cake and ginger nuts. A mug of hot water with lemon slices, a few pieces of shredded ginger and a blob of maple syrup in it will soothe a sore throat and aid digestion.
I love oats so much, I eat them at least once a day. They're super versatile, naturally flavourful, filling and they are a gentle fibre source. Porridge is easy to customise and quick to make for mid-week breakfast. Try different flavour combinations, like raisins, cinnamon, walnuts and maple syrup or sliced banana with dark chocolate chips. You can also make things like flapjacks and crumble, or snack on oatcakes (Nairn's have over 10 varieties). Avoid sugary granola, though; instead opt for Troo's gut-friendly breakfast granola. It's tastier, comes in compostable packaging and regulates your blood sugar levels better.
When an ingredient is fermented, probiotics are produced. They fight inflammation and feed the good bacteria in our digestive system, so they help to keep the gut healthy. Raw sauerkraut is one of the more traditional fermented foods and is usually made with shredded cabbage. Raw, organic and unpasteurised kombucha (a slightly sour drink with an acquired taste) also boasts friendly bacteria. Note that if a probiotic isn't raw or unpasteurised, there won't be any good bacteria.
Often used in Asian soups, marinades and broths, miso is a fermented Japanese soya food made using a fermentation culture and grains. It comes in different types, with the main ones being brown miso, yellow miso and white miso. It aids digestion and can fight digestive problems, food intolerances and low stamina. It's easy to cook with and very tasty. The darker the miso, the stronger the savoury umami flavour is.
They may be small, but the majority of seeds are packed with beneficial fibre, protein, zinc and other minerals. Chia seeds are really high in fibre, so a teaspoon of these in your daily diet will work wonders for slow digestive tracts. Scatter them on cereals or use them in baking. Pumpkin seeds contain iron, calcium and omega-3, which are all very good for you. Try them plain, sprinkled on salads or roasted with tamari. Different seeds have different qualities, so mix them up to get the widest benefits.
While fermented products can contain probiotics, bananas contain prebiotics. These little guys help probiotic bacteria to grow and multiply, actively making your gut a better environment. Bananas are also packed with potassium and magnesium, both of which can help to reduce inflammation in your stomach, and the high pectin content regulates movement through your gut.