If you’re looking for an easy way to lose weight, one highly overlooked game changer in achieving permanent weight loss is improving the health of your gut microbiome. As registered dietitians and personal trainers, we realize that most people looking to lose body fat expect their nutritionist and trainers to mainly focus on cutting calories and exercising, but that’s only a piece of the picture. If you’re not also increasing the good bacteria in your gut like we help our clients to do, then your hard work and quest to get a flat stomach may be in vain. Research shows a link between gut bacteria and obesity. In fact, research shows that the bacteria in our guts alters the way we respond to our hunger and satiety hormones, the way our body stores fat, and how we balance our blood glucose levels. Don’t worry if the microbes in your gut aren’t diverse enough you can improve them! We’re sharing easy ways to improve the health of your gut microbiome to make it easier for you to lose weight!
How can I improve my gut health to lose weight?
Increase the diversity of your gut bacteria to favor weight loss. Here’s how:
1. Include vegetables and fruits in at least 2 meals daily. (We suggest you aim to do this at all meals and include SEVERAL different veggies. Also aim to include different varieties of fruit throughout the day!
Why does eating fruits and veggies help to increase your good gut bacteria?
Fruits and veggies are good sources of fiber. Fiber stimulates the growth of bacteria in your gut, including a beneficial bacteria called Bifidobacteria which may help to prevent inflammation in the intestine and enhance gut health. One reason that we talk about inflammation often is because as chronic inflammation in the body triggers aging and disease (yes, heart disease, cancer, and more.). We are big proponents of eating more foods that prevent inflammation. Fruits and veggies nail it here. And the more variety of plant fibers you can get, the better. Your gut health thrives this way. Chewing these fibers well is important too. This enhances digestion so your gut can make the most of the fibers. We freeze a variety of veggies in mason jars. Typically, we add 8-10 veggie varieties (we count purple cauliflower separately than white and yellow cauliflower). Our combinations include a little of each (enough of each to fill a 12-ounce jar)—purple cabbage, fennel, ginger, broccoli/ carrot slaw, purple cauliflower, white cauliflower, yellow cauliflower, green cauliflower, green beans, celery, squash and cucumber. We often leave a few of these items out, depending on what we have in our fridge. When we want to make a smoothie, we pull them out of the freezer and allow them to slightly defrost. Then we make our smoothies by blending the veggies with a scoop of protein powder. Sometimes we toss in a few frozen berries or other frozen fruits for sweetness, a little water and often some collagen . The frozen veggies are perfect for making a creamier smoothie. The smoothies are thick and satisfying and we eat them with a spoon.
2. Cut back on artificial sweeteners.
Research has shown that artificial sweeteners negatively impact the gut microbiome. They may raise blood sugar levels and even stimulate body fat production (2), so watch out for them in your foods, even if you don’t add artificial sweeteners yourself.
Artificial sweeteners are added to many products and you may not realize you’re consuming them. They’re added to soft drinks, powdered drink mixes and other beverages, baked goods, candy, puddings, canned foods, jammed jellies and dairy products. See the list below to spot them:
A few popular artificial sweeteners–:
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low® [pink packets], SugarTwin®)
- Acesulfame K (Sunett®, Sweet One®)—used in diet sodas
- Sucralose (Splenda®) [yellow packets]
- Aspartame (NutraSweet®, Equal®) [blue packets]
- Neotame (used in stable baked goods)
If you really enjoy artificial sweeteners, we completely understand! We’ve been there. Before news came out that these sweeteners weren’t as safe, we were fans of their flavor. We’ve got an intense sweet tooth, and some of these sweeteners are 400X+ sweeter than sugar, and calorie-free, so they seemed incredible at that time. Innately, we felt they must be too good to be true—and apparently they were! We slowly moved away from artificial sweeteners and we appreciate less sweet flavors now. Thankfully, less sweet foods satisfy us and we’ve helped our clients to change their taste buds in the same way, which is one reason why they are able to hit (and stay at) their weight loss goals.
3. Eat more fermented foods.
The good bacteria, also known as probiotics, grow during the fermentation process. These friendly bacteria help to crowd out the harmful bacteria that naturally exist in your digestive tract. Probiotics have been shown to boost immunity, promote healthy digestion and a healthy weight. Additionally, fermented foods help to reduce inflammation in the body. This is very important when it comes to weight loss since inflammation in the body makes it more difficult to lose weight. And research has obese individuals have higher levels of inflammation than their normal weight counterparts.
4. Eat more prebiotic rich foods.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed and nourish your “good” gut bacteria and help it to thrive; they’re a power player when it comes to keeping the balance of “good” bacteria more than the “bad” bacteria. Prebiotics boost immunity, improve digestion, prevent constipation and bloating and prevent bad bacteria from growing; they keep your digestive tract healthy so it’s easier to lose weight. Prebiotics also can reduce insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol (metabolic syndrome) in obese individuals. It’s important to note that while all prebiotics are fiber, not all types of fibers are prebiotics. This means that even if you have a high fiber diet, you may not be getting much prebiotic fiber.
Good sources of prebiotic fiber include:
• Jerusalem artichokes
• Green bananas