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Leafy Greens - Fuel for Good Gut Bacteria

Leafy Greens - Fuel for Good Gut Bacteria

When future basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton was winning NBA championships for the Portland Trail Blazers and others, he was the best-known vegetarian in sports. A 1974 Time magazine article dubbed him “Basketball’s Vegetarian Tiger”. But folks wondered how he had such stamina without eating meat. He answered critics saying the vegetarian diet made him stronger. A recent study -- 40-some years later -- bolsters his claim.

Researchers from Australia and the UK have found that green leafy vegetables provide an obscure sugar molecule that your good gut bacteria need to thrive. And when they’re happy, you’re happy -- and have plenty of energy and good health.

In your gut there’s an enzyme that breaks down and munches on this super sugar, called sulfoquinovose or SQ. When that’s for dinner, your good gut bacteria have a feast. They then get fruitful and multiply, elbowing out bad bacteria that can lead to weight gain and body-wide inflammation, and scoring big points for the home team.

A healthy gut biome (that’s those trillions of bacteria in your digestive system) is crucial to your overall wellbeing. So make sure you have a home court advantage and dig into lots of green vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, peas, arugula, and Brussels sprouts. And block any shots thrown up by the Five Food Felons: all trans and most saturated fats, added sugars and syrups, and any grain that isn’t 100% whole. Then your better health -- and younger RealAge -- will be a slam dunk!

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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