A new study by researchers in Australia and Britain discovered that a type of sugar present in leafy green vegetables boosts your gut health. Now, I know veggies aren’t the first thing you think of when someone mentions sugar, but approximately 3 to4% of a plant is made up of the sweet stuff. They use it as fuel for growth, just like we do.
The researchers found the sugar sulfoquinovose (or SQ) in leafy green vegetables. It is unusual as it is the only sugar molecule that contains sulfur, important for building protein.
The human body is home to trillions of microscopic bacteria, most of them living in our gut. Some of these bacteria are ‘good’ and promote health, and some are really bad, like the bacteria that cause food poisoning. The researchers also found the good bacteria in your gut use SQ as fuel.
The more SQ the good bacteria consume, the more they multiply! This leaves less room for the bad bacteria to spread as the good bacteria takes up all the space in your large intestine. These good bacteria have important roles, such as strengthening your immune system and producing vitamin K for blood clotting.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You have your probiotic each day so veggies are less important for you, right? There are many strains of probiotic bacteria but only a few of them can survive the stomach to make it to the large intestine. Probiotic drinks aren’t necessarily bad for you, but a better option is to eat prebiotics (the sugars your good bacteria like) found in fruits, veggies and legumes. These sugars survive the stomach’s acidic environment to feed the good bugs you already have.
So now that you have another reason to love veggies, how can you add them into your diet for health? To start, look at recipes including spinach, broccoli, kale and a wide variety of herbs. Basically, the darker green the vegetable is, the higher levels of SQ you are ingesting.
This research could mean an opening into new types of antibiotics, but for now it’s just more proof that eating your 5 serves of veggies every day will help you to live a longer, healthier life.