Registered nutritionist Jenna Hope works closely with individuals, brands, companies, and the media to help them implement smarter strategies for nutrition.
How does stress affect your digestive health?
Stress can affect our gut health in numerous ways. As our dietary choices can often change in response to stress, we may be more likely to crave foods with higher sugar, higher salt, and higher fat. These foods are often lower in fiber and, consequently, may contribute to changes in bowel movements and gastrointestinal symptoms such as flatulence and bloating.
Stress can also reduce the amount of oxygen delivered to the gut, which in turn can contribute to bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort, and it may also impact the state of the bacteria in the gut, potentially giving rise to more of the pathogenic strains.
Furthermore, stress hormones can also impact the rate at which we digest food. Periods of high stress may slow digestion, which in turn can impact nutrient absorption and energy levels, too.
Is there a specific type of diet that Americans should follow for the best lifestyle?
Ultimately, the best diet is one that contains a wide range of wholefoods to provide an array of nutrients and phytochemicals. However, the Mediterranean diet is often touted as one of the most nutrient-rich diets. It’s relatively low in saturated fat, high in healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, and packed with good quality proteins and complex carbohydrates.
A few tips on how to incorporate the Mediterranean diet include:
- Aim for least five portions of fruit, vegetables, and pulses every day. Start by adding one portion of vegetables to your daily diet.
- Eat nuts and seeds each day. Try adding them to soup, salad, snacks, and porridge in the morning.
- Aim for at least two meat-free days each week.
- Try to incorporate two portions of fish per week, one of which is oily. Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and herring.
- Include pulses in your dishes at least twice a week. Pulses include beans, peas, and lentils. Try to stir these into your pasta sauces, mince recipes, and soups.
What are the best vegetables or fruits for digestive health?
Prebiotic fibers are vital for supporting digestive health as they help to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Fruits and vegetables such as leeks, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, and apples contain prebiotic fibers which can help to support digestive health.
Are there supplements that can aid your gut health?
There’s definitely a role for supplements for some individuals. However, I always recommend focusing on a food-first approach. Supplements such as probiotics should be hugely targeted and of good quality, and therefore it’s always best to speak to a healthcare professional. Do remember that some supplements can interact with medications, so personalized advice is key!
Do you have tips for people to stay consistent with their diet and healthy lifestyle?
In order to stay consistent with your diet, you need to ensure you’re enjoying your diet and that you’re making it easy. That way, during difficult or busy times, you’re less likely to get sidetracked. A few tips include:
- Cutting up vegetables and leaving them in the fridge for snacking.
- Cooking in bulk (and freezing what you don’t need) to ensure you always have a healthy meal.
- Prepare your breakfasts and lunch the night before or know the healthy options you can pick when you’re out and about.
- Diarizing your workouts or daily walks so you can’t overrun and forget about them.
- Switch your coffee dates for a walk and a catch-up, as this can be a great way to increase your physical activity.