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!
Can good gut bacteria help you to lose weight?
Our bodies are covered with bacteria—and this is a good thing! Trillions of bacteria and microorganisms live on our skin and in our bodies. The majority live in our large intestines. While a few bacteria in our intestine do carry disease, most of these bacteria help to keep us healthy. The goal is to have a much larger amount of good gut bacteria then bad bacteria. And the more diverse the bacteria in the gut, the better for health and achieving/ maintaining a healthy weight. The fewer types of bacteria in the gut, the opposite is true.(1) If your gut has the wrong balance of good and bad bacteria and has a less diverse community of gut microbes, it can set you up for obesity and diabetes. Gut bacteria affects how your food is digested, may play an important role in inflammation and plays a role in your appetite. All of these greatly impact body fat.
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.
If you struggle to include fruits and vegetables at meals, here are a few ideas:
- Toss mushrooms, peppers, onions, spinach in omelets, sandwiches, pizzas, wraps and burritos.
- Use nori or lettuce for traditional sandwiches or wraps rather than carb-rich bread.
- Eat rice and other grain-based meals by putting them in cups made with veggies. Think scooped out tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and also making cucumber boats.
- Stack sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and onions.
- Serve pasta and rice dishes with vegetables mixed in.
Try these recipes with a mixture of various vegetables and diverse fibers:
- Colorful Detox Salad
- Roasted detoxifying Veggies
- Vegan Quinoa & Kale Power Protein Bowl
- Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Vegetarian Loaded Sweet Potato
Fun fact to increase good gut bacteria: Aim to eat the rainbow of colors. You’ve heard this before when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables, but get this: eating different colored produce, counts as different types of fiber! We use multi-colored carrots, tri-colored peppers, multi-colored cauliflower and green and purple cabbage to diversify our fibers! 🙂
Great news—if you’re eating different colored vegetables, it counts as different types of fiber! We use multi-colored carrots, tri-colored peppers, multi-colored cauliflower and green and purple cabbage to diversify our fibers! 🙂
Do artificial sweeteners change gut bacteria?
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.
(Pictured above: Our All-Natural Grapefruit Ginger Mint Soda— no artificial sweetener [or sugar!] used!
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.
Great fermented foods to try include:
- sourdough bread
- some cheeses
An added fermented food bonus:
Probiotics may improve your digestive and immune health– goodbye bad bacteria, certain digestive woes and accompanying diarrhea. Plus, choose fermented foods and you’ll get more of certain vitamins and minerals than from the same foods that haven’t been fermented. Thanks to the probiotics that “pre-digest” your food for you, fermented foods also help you absorb more nutrients. For example, if you’re eating fermented cabbage, also known as sauerkraut (when you add Russian, Polish or Yiddish seasonings) or kimchi (when you add Korean seasonings), the probiotics in the cabbage are hard at work breaking down the plant cell walls so you can absorb more Vitamin C from the cabbage to boost your immunity while improving your skin. Thank you fermented cabbage!
Our clients have told us that one of the easiest ways for them to get probiotics and fermented foods is by eating yogurt and recipes with yogurt. Research has found that plain natural yogurt is one of the best ways to reduce disease-causing bacteria in the intestines and to enhance the function of the gut.
Here are a few probiotic-rich recipes with yogurt to try!
- Frozen Yogurt Bark with Blueberries
- Avocado Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
- Yogurt Paprika Chicken
- Easy Strawberry-Lemon Frozen Yogurt
- Yogurt Covered Frozen Cherry Poppers
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
Try these recipes that contain sources of prebiotic fiber:
If you struggle with weight loss and need support, accountability, and to discover an enjoyable eating plan that you can stay on for the rest of your life, set up a free discovery call with us and see if we’re a good fit for you! You don’t have to do it alone.