Eating for a healthy gut

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What should you be eating for a healthy gut? Junk food—such as processed, high-fat, fast food—is sometimes unavoidable. When junk food becomes the norm, however, it can do a number on gut health.

People can keep their digestive system healthy with a balanced diet that includes not only fruit, vegetables and lean protein, but soluble fiber such as oats and bananas and fermented foods, like yogurt and sauerkraut, which support the good bacteria in the human body.

A healthy diet can also help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, it is “the synergy of compounds working together in the overall diet that offers the strongest cancer protection.”

Evidence shows a diet filled with a variety of plant-based foods, such as deeply colored fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans, can help reduce cancer risk.

Plant-based foods are loaded with high quality nutrients such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting properties. These foods are also low in calories and high in fiber, which helps you shed excess body fat and maintain a healthy weight — and, in turn, reduce cancer risk.

A plant-based, high-fiber diet will help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Focus on including foods such as:

  • Vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, tomatoes, beets, carrots, and garlic
  • Fruits – all types of berries (raspberries, blueberries, cherries), papaya, peaches, mango, apricots and grapefruit
  • Whole grains – brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and barley
  • Lean protein – eggs, salmon, turkey, lean beef and chicken, soy, beans, peas, lentils, nuts (walnuts) and seeds
  • Water – eight glasses a day. To switch it up, try green tea.
  • Healthy fats and oils – fish oil, olive oil and flax oil. Avoid saturated fats and processed meats.

Limit red meat and processed meat, which have been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

630 Naperville guest Doreen Berard, RD, LDN, CSOWM, is a dietitian at Edward Hospital.