Most of us are familiar with macronutrients — carbohydrates, fats, and proteins — but we don’t know as much about micronutrients, the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, phytochemicals, and antioxidants within foods that are essential for proper cellular function and good health.
I created the “Good Gut Rule of Five” as an easy way to ensure you’re getting a healthy balance of both macro- and micronutrients in the majority of your meals — as well as my favorite gut-healing superfoods.
Aim to include one ingredient from each of the five categories below for a complete and balanced meal. Curious about breakfast? Whether you’re having a Power Parfait, a gut-friendly smoothie, or a savory option, you’ll likely be hitting on many of the Rule of Five categories without even thinking about it!
Kale, collards, arugula, spinach, lettuce . . . I love ’em all. Aim to have at least two or three big handfuls of greens with most meals. Greens do it all when it comes to gut health and weight loss: They are packed with fiber, which helps fill you up and keep you regular. Plus, leafy green veggies are some of the most nutrient-dense foods, and when you are filling your cells with nutrients (I mean real nutrition, not just calories!), you have more energy and fewer cravings.
2. Healthy Fats
Avocado, olive, and flax oils; almonds; butter from grassfed cows (so the cows have healthy guts too!); and coconut oil all count here. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 to 2 ounces of nuts, or ¼ to ½ of an avocado at each meal for a good dose of flavor and satiation. Plus, fats are essential for proper absorption of most vitamins and minerals. I used to be terrified of fats, but now I include them at every meal and am more fit than I’ve ever been.
Wild salmon, grassfed beef, organic chicken, tempeh, sprouted lentils, and canned wild sardines are some examples of great go-to protein options. Protein keeps you full and stabilizes your blood sugar, so you won’t keep dipping into your raw chocolate stash or crash halfway through your afternoon meetings.
4. Fermented Foods
Including fermented foods on your plate is the good-gut secret to weight loss through a healthy microbiome (you need all that great bacteria throughout the day to keep your digestion humming!). Examples include raw sauerkraut, fermented beets, fermented carrots or radishes, and kimchi. Try adding 1 to 3 tablespoons at each meal, and feel free to work your way up to ½ cup or more. If you’re not used to the flavor of fermented veggies, try mixing them with avocado to mellow the flavor. Ideally you should have a fermented veggie with your meal, but if not, you can get your daily dose of probiotics from kombucha, kefir, yogurt, or any of the other sweeter fermented foods.
5. Cooked Vegetables
Having a cooked veggie or two with my meal (in addition to greens) always makes the meal feel more grounding and filling. Roasted zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots are all examples of delicious cooked veggies, but you can really use any veggie. I try to roast a bunch of seasonal veggies at least once or twice per week so I always have some cooked veggies on hand and ready to go. If you’re on the run, many takeout spots and fancy restaurants have awesome veggie choices these days.
This piece is adapted from Thin From Within: The Go With Your Gut Way to Lose Weight, a new book by Robin Youkilis.