What are Gut Healthy Snacks?
Why are we concerned about gut healthy snacks? The gut microbiome has gained a ton of popularity in the last 15 years. Research is booming and we are learning more and more about the importance of gut health and chronic conditions. With that said, most of the research is done on animals, so there is much more that needs to be done!
Connections have been found between gut health and many health conditions. For example, autoimmune diseases, obesity, PCOS, irritable bowel syndrome, skin conditions, depression, anxiety, and more. So, what really is the gut microbiome?
What is The Gut Microbiome?
The gut microbiome is your personal collection of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that reside in your digestive tract. Some refer to it as the second brain, controlling many of our bodily functions such as digestion, absorption, and movement of food through the digestive tract.
The largest volume of microbes are located in your large intestine and they contain loads of genes! To be precise, the gut microbiome has about 200x more genes than our whole human genome and weighs about 4-5 pounds. Pretty cool stuff.
No one person’s microbiome will be identical to another person’s, just like the human genome! This means approaching gut health needs to be specific to the individual.
Statistics are cool and all, but what’s so special about the gut microbiome?
There are many different reasons why the gut microbiome is vital for overall health, but let’s hit the main ones!
- Contains 2/3 of our immune system. Preventing inflammation is very much dependent on the population of your bacteria!
- Aids in digestion and absorption of our food and nutrients.
- Produces some B vitamins and also vitamin K.
- Produces serotonin, our happy hormone, therefore impacting mood. This refers to what is called the Gut-Brain-Axis.
- Ferment our food to produce nutrients that are integral for the health of our gut lining.
The gut does a lot of very important things for us. So how do we keep our gut microbiome happy and healthy? We consume foods that our good gut bacteria ferment, or in simpler terms, eat!
Let’s walk through what this would look like.
Foods to Incorporate for a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Fiber is naturally present in your fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds. There are different types of fiber, but focusing on overall intake would be my advice to get the most variety.
Fermented foods are foods that either have live bacterial cultures added during processing, or naturally contain them. Some examples are Greek yogurt with live cultures, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha.
Prebiotic Rich Foods
This is a great term to define. A prebiotic refers to foods that promote the growth of your microbiome. Simply put, they are a source of food for our probiotics.
Some examples are asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, blueberries, artichokes, garlic, chickpeas, and onions. You will also sometimes see chicory root added to granola bars and granolas. This is a prebiotic fiber that is used to add more fiber to a packaged food! Some individuals with irritable bowel syndrome do not tolerate chicory root well, so keep that in mind.
Now that we know what to look for in snacks, let’s talk through some ideas to put this into action.
How To Put It All Together
When I recommended snacks, I strive to include a protein/fat + a carbohydrate. You can even include all three if you’d like! By balancing snacks with multiple food groups, satisfaction, fullness, and foods cravings are improved. All of the snack ideas in the next section are balanced, but feel free to swap things in and out, if you’d like!
20 Gut Healthy Snack Ideas
- Greek Yogurt with Blueberries and Flaxseeds
- Vegetables and Hummus (carrots, peppers, and cucumbers are my favorite)
- Apple and 2 tbsp Almond Butter
- Celery and Peanut Butter
- Steamed artichokes
- Dave’s Killer Bread with ½ banana and cinnamon
- Protein Bars
- Kind Protein Bar
- Aloha Protein Bar
- Health Warrior Chia Bar
- Almond Granola Bars
- Glass of Kefir + Berries
- Bran Cereal with Milk
- Homemade Trail Mix (get creative!)
- Biena Dried Chickpeas
- Peanut Butter Energy Bites
- Whole Grain Toast with Avocado and pumpkin seeds
- Hippeas Chickpea Puffs
- Guacamole and Whole Grain Tortilla Chips
- Handful of Nuts and Dark Chocolate (yes, I am encouraging chocolate!!)
- Rice Cake with Sunflower Seed Butter and Flaxseeds
- Triscuit’s and a Cheese Stick
- Black Bean Hummus
These snack ideas are guaranteed to keep you full in between your meals, but also keep your gut microbiome happy. Next time you visit your grocery store, grab a few of these options and let’s get snacking!
As a certified LEAP therapist, Dietitian Kathleen can help you solve your digestive difficulties with cutting edge research and state of the art protocols. Co-author of Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide.