The gut microbiome is a collection of microbes (100 trillion bacteria, fungi, and pathogens, to be exact) that live in our digestive tract. They perform basic functions, such as breaking down food, manufacturing vitamins, and metabolizing and producing hormones. But did you know that certain types or strains of bacteria affect how we store fat, balance glucose in our blood, and respond to leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that tell us when we are hungry and when we are full?
The wrong mix of microbes might just be the reason you can’t lose weight. When assessing this, however, it’s important to start by evaluating how you got to that point. A diet high in processed foods and low in whole foods—especially fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—has been linked to a less diverse gut microbiome. Other foods that can diminish good gut bacteria include conventionally raised (not grass-fed) dairy and meat, and saturated fats like those found in processed meats and inflammatory oils like palm, canola, and vegetable.
The good news is that you can turn this around. By adding in certain fiber-rich foods and eliminating low-fiber, high-fat foods, you can recolonize your gut and be on your way to not only weight loss but more nutrient absorption to improve all aspects of your health. A recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine even supports a correlation between the presence of certain gut microbes and a decreased risk of developing obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Read on for more tips and recipes.
Foods That Feed Good Gut Bacteria
- Fiber-rich foods: berries, dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables
- Prebiotic foods: oats, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), asparagus, bananas, barley, onions, garlic, quinoa, jicama, seaweed, beans
- Probiotic foods: yogurt (look for no sugar), kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, olives, miso
- Healthy fats rich in omega-3s: salmon, raw nuts and seeds, avocado, avocado oil, olive oil
Strains of Bacteria that Support Weight Loss
Look for these in probiotic supplements
Lactobacillus: Strains from this family have been shown to help regulate appetite hormones and increase fat-regulating proteins, especially lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus amylovorus, lactobacillus sakei, and lactobacillus gasseri.
Bifidobacterium: Strains from this family have been shown to increase fat-regulating proteins, especially bifidobacterium animalis.
Cauliflower and Lentil Bowl
- 1 head cauliflower
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 cup dinosaur kale
- 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
- Fresh herbs of choice
Tahini Lime Vinaigrette Ingredients
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tbsp. coconut aminos
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 2 tbsp. tahini
- 1 tsp. honey
- Ice water to thin
To make the vinaigrette, add the lime juice, coconut aminos, garlic, tahini, and honey to a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add in ice water until desired consistency is reached. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut cauliflower into florets and toss with olive oil. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly brown. Finish with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, add 4 cups of water and the lentils to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes until lentils are tender (not mushy). Drain any excess water if needed.
Wash kale thoroughly and chop into thin ribbons. Add lentils, cauliflower, and kale to a bowl and toss with tahini lime vinaigrette. Garnish bowl with pumpkin seeds and fresh herbs.
- 5 tbsp. sea salt
- 2 qt. room-temperature water
- 5 small Kirby cucumbers
- 4 garlic cloves, slivered
- 2 tbsp. dill, chopped
- 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
Combine salt and water until thoroughly dissolved. Clean, trim, and halve or quarter the cucumbers. Add garlic, dill, and peppercorns to the bottom of a mason jar. Arrange cucumbers inside. Pour in salt water, leaving an inch of room at the top, and seal lid.
Keep on kitchen counter, as the fermentation process takes a few days. Check the progress daily. As the mixture starts to bubble, the lid may bloat, and you will need to release the gas to alleviate. Once bubbling stops and cucumbers have turned olive green, transfer to the fridge (usually after 5 days). The fermentation process will continue, but the pickles can be enjoyed after the 5 days.