Scientists refer to your gut as your second brain because it affects your overall physical and mental wellness too.

The bacteria and fungi living in your gastro-intestinal system – and there are literally billions of them – are critical when it comes to your overall health.  The balance between “good” and “bad” microorganisms (microbes) in your gut can affect the proper functioning of your heart, kidneys, and liver.  Research on the full collection of microbe genes, known as the microbiome, is still in its infancy.  But studies have already found that certain food can influence your gut health.  Here’s why that matters and what you can do to improve yours.

FIBRE aids bacterial fermentation and produces the short-chain fatty acids required to regulate colon immunity.  As Ilsabé Spoelstra, a dietician at Mediclinic Bloemfontein explains, most of us eat less than a third of the daily fibre requirement for optimal gut health.  Make a point of adding fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to your diet.

PREBIOTICS (Think of these as a food source for probiotics.)  They may help your body absorb calcium better and boost the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut.  They’re found in bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole wheat bread and pasta.

PROBIOTICS You can find them in dairy products like yoghurt and aged cheeses.  Look on the ingredients list for live cultures of bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.  They’re also in fermented vegetables, like kimchi and sauerkraut, pickled onions and gherkins.

In addition, these soups and casseroles packed with vegetables will help keep your immune system at peak performance this winter.