Having a healthy gut and maintaining a diverse gut microbiota (basically a living city of trillions of microbes that hang out in your gut) is an important part of maintaining our overall health.
Emerging research has linked a healthy and diverse gut microbiota with better heart and brain health, cancer prevention and the regulation of our mood. As 70% of our body’s immune system is present in the gut, some researchers are suggesting that gut health may have a role in preventing the development of allergies too.
Your gut microbiota break down or digest the remnants of the food we eat. The by-products of this process are a range of ‘chemicals’ that have varied effects in the body. For example, bacteria living in your gut can digest certain types of fibre to produce small chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs can reduce cholesterol levels and have a range of other roles and health benefits too.
To maintain a healthy and diverse gut microbiota it’s important that we provide them with the nutrition they need. We call this nutrition “prebiotics”. Prebiotics consist of fibre and other small components of food that make their way into our large bowel relatively intact. The good bacteria (our microbiota) in our large bowel then get to work digesting this which leads to the range of health benefits described above. Of course getting plenty of fibre is also important for regular healthy bowel actions too. Many children don’t get enough fibre which can lead to constipation, irritability, stomach pains and a reduced appetite.
The key to supporting gut health and helping your child get enough fibre each day is to eat a wide variety of plant based foods. Aim for your child to include a colourful range of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains every day. We all know that kids can be fussy and I’ve found in my practice as a paediatric dietitian that including regular smoothies in a child’s diet is a great way to bump up their intake of plant foods. Here are my top 3 smoothies to promote gut health and help achieve your child’s fibre goals:
Zesty Raspberry and Orange
Did you know that 1 cup of raspberries contains a whopping 8g of fibre? That's over 40% of a 4- 8yrs olds daily needs! These little berries deserve some respect!
You're kids will love this zesty tangy refreshing smoothie.
1 cup frozen raspberries, flesh of 1 orange, juice of 1 orange (1/2 cup), 1 rounded dessert spoon of unsweetened greek yoghurt, water unto the 400ml mark on your blender. Blend and serve. Makes 2
This smoothie includes all the different types of fibres found in nuts, seeds and fruit which is needed to support a diverse gut microbiota. Rich and creamy thanks to the medjool dates, this will soon be your child's favourite combo.
1 banana, 2 medjool dates (pitted), handful of raw unsalted cashews, 1/4 tsp of peppermint essence, 1 tsp chia seeds,1 dessert spoon of drinking chocolate (alternative: 1 tablespoon of coco powder and 1.5 tablespoons of maple syrup), 600ml milk, ice. Blend and serve. Makes 3
Strawberry & Banana Breakfast Smoothie
Banana and oats are both great sources of resistant starch, a prebiotic that will help maintain a healthy bowel lining. Creamy and filling, this smoothie is a great option for those really busy mornings.
1 banana, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 2 tablespoons of rolled oats, 2 tsp honey,1 tsp chia seeds, 400ml reduced fat cows milk, ice. Blend and serve. Makes 2