A healthy diet can play a vital role in a person’s life and one of the most important factors of our well-being, frequently overlooked, is the health of our gut microbiome. As with an adult’s gut, a child’s digestive tract contains dozens of natural and beneficial bacteria that serve a variety of functions, such as regulating immune function and metabolism. Scientists are now studying how children’s diets influence their gut health and also, more importantly, how it might affect everything from mood to mental health and cognitive development.
A well-balanced diet rich in whole foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and healthy fats are important for growing young bodies and brains. One of the roles of gut bacteria is to convert the foods we consume into compounds and feel-good transmitters into the bloodstream and onto the brain. Therefore, too much of certain foods can cause an explosion of harmful bacteria that is involved in inflammation and poor mental health. Some recent studies have found the link between a healthy gut and brain development starts when children are infants.
Here are some of the many examples of the foods that are beneficial and how you can help your child include them in their diet.
1.) Fiber. Vegetables are at the top of the list when it comes to maintaining gut health. They contain one very important ingredient, fiber, and it contains a great source of good bacteria that can crowd out the bad bacteria that is associated with inflammation and infections. Veggies can be paired with a dip to entice your child to try something new, or their favorite veggies can be added to a desirable dish such as mac-and-cheese.
2.) Fermented Foods. These foods are a rich source of beneficial microbes that help support gut health. They are responsible for improved digestion, cholesterol control and reduced infections. Some examples of these types of foods are tart kombucha, or sauerkraut, but it is no surprise that most children will not find those foods desirable. Some child-friendly fermented foods include, low-sugar yogurts and kefir.
3.) Prebiotic-Rich Foods. Consuming prebiotic foods provide the proper fuel for probiotics to do their good work. Whole foods that contain nutritious prebiotics include artichokes, asparagus, bananas, garlic, onions, oats, barley and legumes. It is helpful to keep a variety of these foods stocked at all times. This will encourage your children to explore and sample them to see which of them they prefer.