Leafy green vegetables are a staple in healthy diets because they are full of many vitamins and minerals. According to a recent study, leafy greens can even boost your gut health. Data from the study suggests that a certain type of sugar in leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, and spinach, is crucial to maintaining a healthy gut environment.
Sulfoquinovose, leafy greens, and improved gut health
Leafy greens are an essential food source for the “good” bacteria that live in your gut. In the study, the researchers found that the unique sugar sulfoquinovose (SQ) is produced through photosynthesis, a process wherein plants use energy from the sun to convert substances into plant food. Bacteria in the gut then use a special enzyme to turn the SQ in leafy greens into a source of usable carbon and sulfur. Sulfur is critical for the long-term survival and growth of living organisms because it is used to build proteins.
SQ is the only sugar molecule that contains sulfur, and the study findings show that important strains of protective bacteria in the gut use SQ as an energy source. To illustrate, protective strains of E. coli use SQ to form a protective barrier that can prevent the growth of other bad bacteria. So when you eat leafy green vegetables you consume a significant amount of SQ sugars providing preferred sugar for your gut’s beneficial microbial colonies. As good bacteria thrive in your gut, they also prevent the colonization of bad bacteria.
In the study, the researchers also discovered that when bacteria extract SQ from leafy greens they use an enzyme called YihQ. This enzyme breaks down the sugar to help bacteria absorb and metabolize sulfur and other essential components. Aside from good bacteria in your gut, fungi and other organisms utilize YihQ to feed on the abundant supply of SQ from leafy greens. The discovery of YihQ helped researchers understand how living organisms use and recycle sulfur.
Other organic or homemade foods that can help heal your gut include:
- Kimchi – Kimchi is a spicy, fermented Korean dish that is made from cabbage. Full of probiotics, kimchi is also “an excellent fuel for gut health.” Studies suggest that kimchi helps fight aging, cancer, constipation, and obesity.
- Miso – Miso is a traditional Japanese bean paste that is full of good bacteria. Research suggests that miso can help prevent cancer and lower blood pressure.
- Sauerkraut – Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that is a staple in German cuisine.
Homemade sauerkraut is full of in B vitamins.
- Tempeh – Tempeh is a traditional soy product that increases healthy bacteria like Lactobacillus.
So improve your well-being and boost your gut health by increasing your intake of fresh fruits and leafy greens such as broccoli, collards, kale, or turnip greens.