It seems like every day we hear about another scientific study touting how the microbiome in your gut can affect your overall health.
Your gut’s microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria living in your intestines. Good gut bacteria help you digest food, produce essential nutrients (vitamin K), and maintain a healthy immune system. Bad gut bacteria can overrun the good bacteria, cause imbalances, and lead to runaway inflammation, poor immune health, and even cognitive issues.
In short: eat more prebiotics, probiotics, phenols, fiber, and fermented foods and avoid sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, red meat, processed foods, and alcohol.
Ready to get your gut health in line? Read on to find out more about the best foods to maintain a healthy gut.
Eat More of These Foods to Promote a Healthy Gut
Help your gut along by eating more of these foods and enjoy better health, an optimized immune system, improved cognition, and glowing skin among other things, thanks to a healthier gut biome.
Probiotics contain live microorganisms intended to maintain and improve the concentration of “good” Bacteria (Normal microflora) in your body. This increase in concentration of “good” bacteria leads to better nutrition absorption among many other health benefits. Yes, there are probiotic supplements, but a better idea is to eat fermented foods that help you make more good bacteria in your gut.
The most common bacteria you want in your intestines are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which is why so many supplements and yogurts have these two bacteria in them.
Sauerkraut. A German favorite, sauerkraut comes from fermented cabbage. The probiotics benefits of sauerkraut are created during the fermentation process.
Kimchi. This Asian delicacy comes from South Korea. It is also based on fermented cabbage, but the recipe is quite different, with different spices and sometimes using additional vegetables such as garlic, ginger, and red chilis.
Miso. Made from fermented soybeans, miso is a key ingredient in soups, ramen, sauces, and dressings. Use miso in moderation because it has a lot of sodium. It’s usually a liquid.
Tempeh. Tempeh also comes from fermented soybeans. However, this time they are mashed into a cake-like consistency. You can grill, bake, or sauté tempeh to make it a part of any meal as a meat substitute.
Yogurt. This yummy treat is one of the most popular probiotic foods out there. Look for brands that contain live and active cultures, which highlight at least 100 million live cultures per gram of yogurt. Many companies have non-dairy varieties that contain active cultures.
Kefir. This is a kind of drinkable yogurt made from fermented kefir grains. It’s thicker than milk, and it has a tart flavor from the fermentation. It comes in flavors such as peach or strawberry. You can also Add plain kefir to a breakfast smoothie for a better taste.
Prebiotic foods are vital to maintaining a healthy gut because they feed the bacteria in your gut to help them thrive. Think of prebiotics as food for your gut biome. They are high in fiber, which cannot be digested by you but are a great source of nutrients for the bacteria. At first thought, you would think that if prebiotics are food for the gut biome, then aren’t they feeding both good and bad bacterium? The answer is, we aren’t completely sure; while there is some research suggesting probiotics can feel the bad bacteria in your gut, more data suggested that prebiotics improve the ratio of healthy bacteria to unhealthy bacteria in your gut leading to overall improvement in wellbeing. This makes prebiotics very effective as it means that they will reach their intended destination (your large intestine) completely intact. This is not always the case for probiotics as the harsh environment of your stomach (pH of 2) and Duodenum (pH of 8) can lead to the death of probiotics before they reach their intended destination. Aim for a diet with at least 30 grams of fiber per day.
Artichokes. These vegetables offer some of the best nutrient profiles for prebiotics because they are especially high in fiber, and they also contain probiotics.
Almonds. High in vitamin E and selenium, almonds also have a high fiber content, and they taste great!
Onions. A highly versatile food that adds flavor and texture, onions offer plenty of inulin, fructans, and fructooligosaccharides, three substances on which your gut bacteria thrive.
Leeks. A type of green onion, leeks provide fructans which are a type of prebiotic fiber as well as lots of vitamin K for healthier blood.
Garlic. Yes, it is pungent with a strong taste but high in fiber that supports the good bacteria living in your intestines. Garlic is also contains a high concentrations of allicin, an antimicrobial / immune support substance that has be observed to reduce the length of the common cold as well as other viral, bacterial and fungal infections.
Raspberries. These tart fruits contain 8 grams of fiber, or about one-fourth of your daily supply, in just 1 cup. The red color also contains polyphenols, antioxidant-rich substances that help your body to heal from oxidative stress. Colorful fruits and vegetables all have polyphenols, substances that your gut bacteria adore.
Asparagus. Say what you will about asparagus. It is rich in prebiotic fiber and it’s great for your gut health. It might also protect you from certain cancers.
Beans and legumes. These foods have a very high fiber content, which makes them a great addition to a prebiotic diet! Red beans, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils , and white beans are all enormously high in fiber, and their fibrous material reaches the large intestine (colon). Yes, legumes can cause gas, depending on the bacterial makeup of your gut biome, but that’s a good thing because it’s a byproduct of your large intestines’ microbiome feasting on the fiber that gets there.
Green bananas. High in potassium, bananas help your gut biome when they are green and not quite ripe. That’s because green bananas contain resistant starch, a type of indigestible fiber that makes it to your large intestines. Consider adding a green banana to a smoothie or eating it with peanut butter.
Polyphenols are powerful antioxidant compounds found in fruits and vegetables that give them their colors. These powerful antioxidants compounds not only help keep reactive oxidative compounds at bay, but they are also prebiotics, making them a must add to your diet!
Consume these colorful foods to get more polyphenols in your diet to help your gut biome flourish and for general health and wellness:
- Olives (and olive oil)
- Green leafy lettuce
- Peppers (red, green, yellow, orange)
- Green tea
Fresh fruits and vegetables are best for a gut-healthy diet. When your gut is happy, you are happy too.
Closing Remarks and Summary
Adding both pre-biotics and probiotics to your diet can go a long way in both your short-term and long-health but helping you maintain a healthy gut biome. A healthy gut biome can clear up certain skin problems, reduce inflammation in your body, make your immune system stronger, enhance cognitive health and improve your overall health and wellbeing.