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If you’re reading this, you probably already know the health benefits of eating a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet high in whole foods can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, not to mention cancer.

At the top of this list is gut health. A healthy gut is a sign of overall good health and good digestion.

Your gut is home to billions of bacteria, which help with digestion – by breaking down food and absorbing nutrients – as well as the synthesis of certain vitamins and hormones. Your gut is also linked to your immune system, mood, and even brain function.

To keep your gut healthy, focus on these five basic eating habits:

1. Avoid processed foods. The more a food is processed before you eat it, the more likely it is to contain harmful additives or ingredients that can damage your gut bacteria. The worst offenders are foods that have been pasteurized or sterilized during processing (think deli meats), but even packaged foods can be problematic if they contain trans fats or other additives that can upset the natural balance of bacteria. in your gut.

2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. A blend of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber can feed your good bacteria while keeping them from getting too hungry between meals.

3. Eat Fermented Foods: Fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha, contain natural probiotics that can help promote better digestion.

4. Chew your food carefully. It might sound like common sense, but it’s an easy habit to break if you’re busy or distracted by other things going on around you. Chewing more completely helps your body digest food more easily by releasing enzymes that break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller pieces that can be easily digested.