What your child consumes plays a crucial role in their well-being, especially when it comes to foods that are beneficial to your child’s digestive health. These specific foods promote the growth of healthy bacteria in their intestines and suppress the growth of harmful germs. Discover the best options to support a healthy microbiota for your little one.
The digestive tract of your child is a crucial organ. This “microbiome” can influence your child’s immune system and possibly their long-term health, for better or for worse.
The everyday meals and beverages your child consumes may have an effect on the composition of his or her microbiome – the balance of healthy and bad bacteria.
Kate Scarlata, M.P.H., R.D., a registered dietitian, specialist on gut health, and author of The Low-FODMAP Diet Step-by-Step, explains: “We now understand that intestinal microorganisms have a role in chronic health disorders such as diabetes, cancer, obesity, and more.” Diet is crucial to the delicate balance of microbes in the gut.
However, many of the items often consumed by children (think chicken nuggets, cookies, and sugary drinks) can negatively affect the balance of gut bacteria, raising the likelihood of these significant health disorders, according to Scarlata.
You can help turn things around by adopting a diet consisting primarily of healthful, complete foods. Certain foods are particularly effective at promoting gut health by raising helpful bacteria and displacing others that can make children unwell.
Learn about three types of meals that promote intestinal health by reading on.
High Fiber Foods
Dietary fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. Scarata notes, “Our gut microorganisms devour foods that we poorly digest.” Beneficial gut bacteria flourish when they have access to carbohydrates with indigestible fibers, such as those found in:
- Beans and legumes
- Whole wheat
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, toddlers require 14 grams of fiber per day, children ages 4 to 8 require 17 to 20 grams, children ages 9 to 13 require 22 to 25 grams. Adolescents should consume 25 to 31 grams.
Dietary Sources of Polyphenols
Healthy gut bacteria also consume polyphenols, which are natural plant components found in foods like:
- Citrus fruit
The primary polyphenol classes include flavanols (present in tea), flavanones (present in citrus fruit), flavonols (present in apples and onions), hydroxycinnamic acids (present in coffee), and anthocyanins (found in fruit and vegetables).
According to studies published in Nutrition, because these meals are poorly absorbed, they remain in the intestine for an extended period, which can have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiome.
Certain fermented foods known as probiotics include helpful bacteria strains that help fill the digestive tract, such as:
- Yogurt with active and living cultures.
- Kefir (a fermented milk drink found in the dairy aisle)
- Sourdough bread
A good diet is also crucial for gut health for the following reason: Some elements in ultra-processed foods, such as high fructose corn syrup and refined white flour, may significantly impact the gut’s flora balance, according to Scarlata.
In fact, she explains, studies conducted on animals in 2013 revealed that going from a healthy, plant-based diet to a high-fat, high-sugar, usually Western diet caused microbiome alterations (for the worse) in just one day.
A healthy microbiome in the gut can aid in preventing diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. You may assist your child in retaining healthy gut bacteria by providing nutritious, complete foods as opposed to processed foods. It has been discovered that foods rich in fiber, polyphenols, and probiotics assist in establishing healthy gut bacteria.