The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
When it comes to gut health, your daily food choices can make the difference between a microbiome full of friendly or not-so-friendly bacteria.
Microbiome is just a fancy way of describing the collection of 100+ trillion bacteria and fungi living within your intestines, mouth and nose. When the good bacteria far outnumber the bad, this positively affects many key areas of well-being, including immune strength and digestive health.
A prescription for good gut health is a diet based on Fx-approved foods like fibrous fruits, vegetables and greens, and plenty of fresh water. Adding a serving or two of fermented foods like sauerkraut and unsweetened yogurt is also a good idea because they contain live beneficial bacteria.
We also need to consider foods and substances that can disturb the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, which has a negative effect on your microbiome.
Refined sugar differs from the natural sugars found in fruit and milk. The refined type comes from sugar cane or sugar beets. Yes, it’s the white stuff in your sugar bowl, and also in soda, candy, desserts, cereal, bread, yogurt and even pasta sauce! Refined sugar serves as “food” for bad bacteria, so you want to minimize your intake as much as possible.
Use small amounts of raw honey or pure maple syrup instead, but remember to go easy on those too!
2. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame (Equal; NutraSweet), saccharin (Sweet’ N Low) and sucralose (Splenda) are zero-calorie sweeteners to avoid because they can have a negative effect on gut bacteria and increase glucose intolerance and metabolic disease risk. (1)
As recommended above, use a drizzle of raw honey or pure maple syrup instead. If you’re looking for a low-calorie sweetener, stevia, monk fruit and allulose are your best bet, but again, don’t overdo it
3. Highly Processed Foods
A diet full of fast food, frozen meals or any packaged food with a lengthy ingredient list you can neither recognize nor pronounce spells trouble for your precious microbiome because they lead to greater levels of destructive, toxin-producing bacteria. (2)
4. Too Much Red Meat
Eating a small amount of grass-fed beef that’s free of antibiotics and added hormones, like those found in Heinen’s Meat Department, isn’t the problem. It’s when we go overboard that we get into trouble. It turns out that excessive amounts of red meat change the composition of gut microorganisms, leading to a potential increased risk of heart disease. The culprit is L-carnitine—a chemical compound widely present in red meat. (3)
If you choose to eat red meat, keep your portions small (4-6 oz.) and opt for grass-fed beef, if possible. Pre beef and Heinen’s grass-fed beef are two fine choices. Better yet, enjoy more seafood and plant-based proteins like beans, lentils and tempeh!
The good news is the bacteria in your microbiome have a lifespan of about 20 minutes. This means every meal is an opportunity to build a population of healthy bacteria. You have the power to redeem yourself with your next bite of food. What are you waiting for?
- Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514(7521):181-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13793. Epub 2014 Sep 17. PMID: 25231862.
- Long-term dietary patterns are associated with pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory features of the gut microbiome. Gut 2021;70:1287-1298.
- Koeth, R., Wang, Z., Levison, B. et al. Intestinal microbiota metabolism of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med 19, 576–585 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.3145