There’s increasing evidence linking a healthy gut to our physical and mental wellbeing. A healthy microbiome (the ecosystem of micro-organisms in the intestine) helps us digest our food and absorb nutrients and is believed to improve our immune system and even reduce stress. As well as other plant-based foods such as nuts, grains and pulses, much of the prebiotic fibre thought to help healthy bacteria flourish comes from plants. And organic seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs from our own gardens are particularly beneficial. So what should we be growing?
Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens such as kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, spinach and cabbage are believed to be an excellent source of prebiotic fibre. Garlic, onions, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes contain fructans, high-fibre natural carbohydrates, which may also feed the good bacteria in the gut. Plums too are high in fructans. Blueberries are a good source of prebiotics, as are raspberries, which have a high water and fibre content. Apples are rich in pectin, a type of soluble prebiotic fibre, and pears – including the skins which contain about half of the fruit’s total dietary fibre - will nourish good bacteria whilst being relatively easy to digest.
Above all, eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will support the most diverse gut microbiome and overall good health. So, grow smaller quantities of a range of fruit and vegetables, varying them over the year. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even try making your own fermented prebiotic food such as kimchi and sauerkraut or fermented drinks such as kombucha – a rather tasty fizzy tea.