Research continues to demonstrate the influence a healthy gut has on the entire body. Given that 70% of the immune system resides in your gut, it's no surprise that what you eat has a major impact on how healthy you are and feel. Some foods add good bacteria to the microbiome, whereas some add bad bacteria that can have adverse effects. Below, you'll find our list of the best foods for gut health so that you can start incorporating them into your diet today.
Your body is a host to countless organisms, many of which are good for your health, some of which are bad. They are constantly fighting one another within the microbiome, which is home to the trillions of microorganisms living in the intestines.
Studies have shown that gut microbiota plays a significant role in gastrointestinal tract health. And the best way to control the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in your body is by carefully monitoring your food intake.
Food can improve the quality of your gut health naturally in two ways: probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that occur naturally in certain foods and are considered good for your health because they improve your gut flora. Prebiotics are a source of food for your gut’s healthy bacteria and are necessary to keep them flourishing.
Here are 12 excellent sources for probiotics and prebiotics that are sure to boost your gut health:
Fermented foods refer to foods that have been processed using a method known as fermentation. This is a process wherein a bacterial culture converts the sugars present in food into alcohol or organic acid under anaerobic conditions. It’s typically done to enhance food preservation and increase beneficial probiotics.
As previously mentioned, probiotics are live microorganisms typically found in fermented foods that provide various health benefits to the body, especially the gut. Numerous studies have shown that a healthy supply of probiotic-rich foods can help prevent various gut health problems, strengthen immunity, and also assist with weight loss.
Fermented foods like kefir, fermented cottage cheese, kimchi and yogurt have been shown to enhance the diversity of gut microbes and decrease inflammation. They can also help you increase the presence of healthy bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids in your body.
Bananas are another low-fructose fruit that are fiber-rich and contain inulin, a substance that stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Bananas contain high amounts of soluble fiber, a crucial nutrient for healthy digestion. Pectin, one of the fibers present in bananas, can aid in preventing constipation and softening stool for a smoother release.
According to the USDA, one medium-sized banana has roughly three grams of fiber. The recommended daily fiber intake is around 25 grams, but don’t use bananas as your single source for it. Remember, they are very rich in sugar and should be ingested in moderation.
Yogurt is a dairy product produced by fermenting milk with a culture of bacteria known as Lactobacillus. It is arguably the number one probiotic supplement for your gut health. Lactobacillus is a well-known “good probiotic” because it’s instrumental to nutrient absorption. The bacteria aids in breaking down food and fighting off bad bacteria which causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Lactobacillus is a common treatment for people suffering from diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, colic, and other conditions that affect the stomach or bowel.
Yogurt introduces a rich supply of healthy gut bacteria to your microbiome, and it provides a rich supply of beneficial nutrients like calcium, potassium, and vitamin B12. Note that all yogurt products contain probiotics. So, consider adding some of these probiotic foods into your diet the next time you go shopping.
Watermelon contains a lot of water and a small amount of fiber, both of which are necessary for your digestive system. It also contains various compounds like lycopene, and citrulline, which can help deter heart disease by reducing blood pressure and fighting cholesterol buildup.
Pears are an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber. In fact, one medium-sized pear contains roughly 6 grams worth of fiber. These fibers will add bulk and soften up the stool in your digestive tract, improving regularity and comfort during egestion.
Asparagus is a powerful prebiotic fiber for the gut. Remember, prebiotics are fibers that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
Garlic is naturally high in indigestible fibers known as inulin and fructooligosaccharides. They play the role of a prebiotic and maintain the balance of important bacteria in your digestive tract.
Beans and legumes are rich sources of dietary fiber that help maintain a healthy gut. Some people like to stay away from beans because they can cause gas. This occurs because when beans reach the large intestine, they’re usually still intact. Bacteria from your gut feed on the beans to break them down, which leads to fermentation and gas. While this may be an awkward process, it improves the growth of good bacteria.
Similar to watermelons, raspberries have a high fiber and water content, which can help with digestion and maintaining a healthy gut. They’re also rich in polyphenols, a strong antioxidant for friendly gut microbes to feed on and grow stronger. If your digestive system ever feels slow, eating high-fiber foods can help speed things up.
Onions are part of the same family as garlic, so they are also loaded with highly potent prebiotics that help build up gut flora. We'll note that red onions carry the richest supply.
Leeks are dense in minerals and nutrients while being low in calories. This makes them one of the healthiest sources of inulin and other indigestible fibers that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Artichokes provide a rich supply of polyphenols and fructans for friendly gut microbes to feed on. Studies suggest that consuming artichokes can relieve symptoms of indigestion like nausea, heartburn, and bloating.
Kombucha is a tart, fizzy fermented tea drink consumed for its many health benefits. It’s made by adding a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast or SCOBY to black or green tea and leaving the mixture to ferment for a week. The process includes a small amount of alcohol, an inconsiderable 0.5%.
The lactic and acetic acid bacteria produced during the fermentation process serve as a probiotic that improves gut health and provides the much-needed antioxidant benefits of tea.
When purchasing kombucha, remember to read the food labels for sugar or artificial sweeteners to ensure they don't combat the positive impact coming from the good bacteria.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made by incubating milk with a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture found in kefir grains. It has a similar consistency to yogurt and boasts a somewhat sour taste. Kefir is an excellent source of probiotics and many other nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamin B. Overall, it offers a stronger defense against harmful bacteria than yogurt.
If you’re purchasing store-bought kefir, make sure you get one without sugar and with live microbial cultures. There are vegan versions of kefir available, typically made with plant-based milk like soy or coconut milk.
Miso is a traditional Japanese condiment used to season noodles, rice, meat, and vegetables. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus known as kōji, or aspergillus oryzae. Miso is rich in probiotics and fibers that can aid with digestion. It's also an excellent source of protein. That said, miso does contain high amounts of sodium, so it should be used in moderation.
Peas are a rich source of coumestrol, an anti-inflammatory agent that plays a role in preventing stomach cancer. It’s also a low-calorie source for a lot of valuable nutrients like protein, vitamin C, and dietary fiber. Studies have shown that green peas boast enough fiber to be considered one of the best prebiotic foods. So much so that one cup a day is enough to maintain a healthy gut.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans pressed into a cake. It’s high in collagen protein, probiotics, and healthy fat, all of which contribute significantly to digestive health. Studies have shown that tempeh is also rich in antioxidants like daidzein, genistein, and isoflavone, which can help mitigate the risk factor of chronic conditions like cancer.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose pass through the body without being digested. They contain zero calories but affect the makeup of bacterial colonies in the gut by creating an imbalance, giving harmful bacteria a chance to flourish.
Always check the food labels of canned beverages, candies, and chocolate that market themselves as sugar-free. They may still contain these harmful sweeteners.
Studies have linked red meat diets to a higher risk of colon cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Most mammalian meat, but red meat in particular, is rich in a type of carbohydrate known as N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc). It is a sugar that only animals can produce, so when it enters the human body, your gut may reject it as foreign and develop an antibody response.
Heavily refined foods like packaged drinks, snacks, frozen foods, white bread, canned vegetables, curated meats, and fried fast food are highly detrimental to gut health. They’re low in fiber and laced with various additives like sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and chemicals that inhibit the growth of healthy bacterial colonies in the gut.
Alcohol can have negative effects on your digestive health, liver, kidney, blood, and mental health. Excessive alcohol consumption also causes inflammation in the gut, which can result in a weaker gut wall and undigested food particles entering the bloodstream. Alcohol is also a disinfectant, meaning it kills many beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines.
Monitoring what you eat is important to maintaining your gut health. Still, it's important to remember that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. All bodies are unique and possess different levels of tolerance to different foods. If you’re planning on making significant changes to your diet, start slow and remember that these healthy foods can be even more effective when consumed together.
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By gathering vitals and tracking your body's composition, the Çava Seat is able to make recommendations concerning what kinds of foods you're ingesting too often, or infrequently.
Prebiotic foods like whole grains, onions, soybean, legumes, and artichokes are excellent for gut bacteria. Probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, pickles and other fermented foods are highly beneficial as well.
Food and beverages that contain artificial sweeteners, alcohol, preservatives, low fiber, or unhealthy fats are detrimental to gut health.
If your digestive system feels lethargic, consume more probiotic and prebiotic foods. Limit the consumption of foods that decrease the diversity or abundance of beneficial bacteria in your gut.