If you’re reading this, you already know that gut health is the foundation for your overall health and wellness. But what’s the best gut health diet?
What are the best gut healing foods? What should you be eating if you want to improve your gut health? What foods should you avoid for a healthy gut diet? You need answers so you can heal your gut, stay regular and achieve your best health.
What’s the Best Gut Health Diet?
Trying to heal your gut can be confusing, but stick to these key areas and you’ll be well on your way:
2. The 4 F’s of Gut Health
3. Fermented Foods
6. Foundation Foods
7. Quick List of the Best Foods for Gut Health
What you eat determines which bacteria thrive in your gut. And research tells us that the good bacteria get stronger when we feed them the right foods.
Did you know that your body can create a new gut microbiota, in just 24 hours – by changing what you eat? (source)
This means that even a lifetime of bad eating is fixable — at least as far as your gut microbes are concerned.
So it’s never too late to start healing your gut. Improving your gut health can help you feel better, lose weight, provide sustained energy and clear up a host of health maladies.
So how can you keep your digestive system feeling good and functioning optimally? What are the best foods for gut health?
When it comes to foods that help promote a healthy gut, there are two main categories you’ll want to focus on:
- Probiotics: These repopulate your gut with good bacteria.
- Prebiotics: These are food for your good gut bacteria. Prebiotics are fibers that we don’t digest ourselves, so they are consumed by the good bacteria in our gut.
Taken together, prebiotic and probiotic foods work together to create a healthier, happier gut. If probiotics vs prebiotics seem confusing, it’s worth the extra reading to figure it out!
The key foods are easy to remember if we break them down into four main groups.
I like to call them the 4 F’s you need to heal your gut:
- Fermented Foods
- Foundation Foods
#1: Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are all the rage right now – and for good reason!
Fermentation not only creates a wide range of tangy, zingy, spicy foods, but it also results in a natural source of probiotics. These fermented foods provide natural probiotics or good gut bacteria to repopulate your healing gut.
Fiber – Fiber is a natural prebiotic which acts as the food for good bacteria. These fiber based prebiotics are found in certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
While fruit is a healthy choice, there are a few fruits that are head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to gut health.
#4: Foundation Foods
These are nutrient-dense foods that are super healthy for your gut. Once you’ve fleshed out your diet with probiotic and prebiotic foods, these foundation foods give you the extra oomph you need to get your gut health back on track.
Fermented foods supply your digestive system with lots of healthy, living microorganisms to crowd out the accumulated unhealthy bacteria, and support overall health.
Fermentation is a process that’s been around for centuries. Our ancestors discovered long ago, probably by accident, that fermenting foods was a great way to preserve them and make them last longer than just a season.
When foods ferment, they create lactic acid or alcohol, which helps to preserve the food. In the process, fermentation produces large amounts of probiotics, which are a bonus for your gut.
As a super added bonus, the fermentation process also adds additional nutrients to foods.
Fermented foods are trending for a reason. They inoculate your gut with healthy live bacteria and microorganisms that help heal your gut, starve the bad bacteria and give a boost to your overall health.
Here are some powerhouse fermented foods that you can easily add to your gut health diet to supercharge your gut health plan:
- Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut (or fermented cabbage) is a staple in German cuisine.You can find it in almost any grocery store, but it’s even better to stick with freshly fermented varieties from health food stores to achieve the full nutrient value.It’s easy to find recipes for homemade versions if you are crafty in the kitchen. As a nutrient bonus, sauerkraut is high in B vitamins and can help in the absorption of iron.Pile it on a hot dog, Reuben sandwich, or use it to season just about any grain, legume, scramble, meat, or vegetable dish.
- Tempeh: A fermented soy-based food that’s been around for centuries, tempeh is becoming easier to find these days, with more and more restaurants creating with it and more stores stocking it on shelves.Tempeh is great in salads, on sandwiches, or as a tasty bacon alternative. Just make sure you thoroughly cook tempeh before you eat it.You may need to season it with a heavy hand because plain tempeh can be very bland.
- Miso: It may surprise you that this traditional Japanese soybean paste is a probiotic powerhouse. I had my first taste of miso in a soup at a Japanese restaurant.Beyond soup, this soybean paste has a whole host of uses in the kitchen. Miso paste can be used to make soup, added to salad dressings, or turned into a healthy mustard or plant-based miso-mayo. Whenever you choose soy-based products, remember to choose organic because most non-organic soy is genetically modified.
- Kefir: Kefir is a cultured, fermented beverage that tastes a lot like a thinner yogurt drink. It’s made using starter grains, just as sourdough bread is made from a starter.Kefir is most commonly made with dairy milk, but it can be made with non-dairy alternatives including coconut milk, rice milk, coconut water, and goat’s milk. Because it’s a fermented product, even people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate dairy based kefir.Kefir is another product that you can DIY at home to make your own tasty probiotic. Just make sure you don’t add much sugar to it or you’ll be negating its good effect on your gut bacteria.
- Pickles: The humble pickle is another great probiotic food choice. Pickles, whether they are the cucumber variety, or made from other vegetables, are high in antioxidants, good gut bugs, and probiotics. But not all pickled foods are fermented.Stick with fresh varieties that are sold in the refrigerated section to make sure that the good bacteria is alive and that the nutrients stay intact.Try making your own pickles. My grandma was a champion pickle maker and she passed down all her recipes to me. Delicious and satisfying to make yourself.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is a naturally fermented food that can offer some serious probiotic power if you choose the right kinds.While most yogurts contain bacteria, make sure you look for a yogurt that has at least 1 billion live or active colony-forming units (CFUs) on the label. And stay away from the yogurts loaded with sugar, since sugar is bad for your healing gut.
- Kimchi: Kimchi is a spicy Korean alternative to sauerkraut. Kimchi is fermented cabbage made with several different spices like salt, chili powder, onion, garlic, and ginger.Studies have shown that this fermented cabbage Korean staple is rich in two strains of good bacteria associated with better gut health : Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.Kimchi adds a spicy kick to just about anything.
Tip: Many of these fermented foods are high in salt, so think about eating small portions of fermented foods daily and using them as a source of salt, replacing table salt, soy sauce, or other salt sources with pickled vegetables.
Fiber is the most crucial ingredient for gut health. Unfortunately, only 3% of Americans get the recommended 40 grams of fiber they need each day.
Fiber is a potent pre-biotic, feeding the good bacteria your gut needs to be healthy.
Fiber is also a warrior in the battle against diverticulitis, the inflammation of the intestine. According to a medical study, eating insoluble fiber-rich foods has been found to reduce the risk of diverticulitis by an impressive 40% (source).
Here are some of the best prebiotic powerhouses to add to your gut health diet:
- Beans: Beans feed good gut bacteria, which in turn revs up your immune system.They are packed with fiber, protein, folate, and B vitamins, which play a role in regulating a healthy gut and a healthy brain.
- Polenta: Polenta, or cornmeal mush is high in fiber and delicious.Polenta’s insoluble fiber travels directly to the colon, where it ferments into multiple types of gut bacteria.
- Flaxseed: Flaxseed fuels your good gut flora, contains soluble fiber and can help improve digestive regularity.You’ve got to eat flaxseed ground up, or the seeds will pass through your digestive tract without being digested at all. Add ground flaxseed to smoothies or salads.
Keep your flaxseed in the refrigerator because once it’s ground, it can go rancid fast.
- Jicama: This sweet, crunchy root vegetable is packed with fiber. One cup of raw jicama adds a whopping 6g of fiber to your diet.High in vitamin C, jicama is also great for weight loss and blood sugar control. Add it to salads, stir-fries or enjoy it as a crunchy snack.
- Jerusalem artichokes: Also known as sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple, the Jerusalem artichoke is high in inulin, an insoluble fiber. Inulin travels to the colon where it ferments into healthy good bacteria.You can cook Jerusalem artichokes like a potato or shred it raw and add it to salads.Beware though: Start small with this vegetable because it can cause gas until your gut adjusts.
Most fruits are healthy options, but these three are powerful additions to your gut health diet.
- Apples: Not only are apples available nearly everywhere, but they are also an excellent addition to a gut health diet.
They are high in fiber, and a recent study found green apples boost good gut bacteria (source)
Stewed apples have been found to be good for your microbiome, and they may also help to heal your gut. An apple a day really can keep the doctor away.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are little delicious bombs of healthy goodness. A well-known superfood, blueberries are full of antioxidants, vitamin K compounds, and fiber. If that weren’t enough, studies have shown that blueberries also diversify our gut bacteria (2).
- Bananas: Bananas have long been a standard prescription for an upset stomach. That’s because compounds in bananas work to maintain harmony in your gut microbiome. Bananas may also reduce inflammation, due to high levels of potassium and magnesium.
So slice some on your oatmeal, throw one in a smoothie, or keep them on hand for a midday snack.
Now that you’ve got your Fermented, Fiber and Fruit foods in line, here are other good choices to add to your gut health diet. All of these foods are great foundation foods because they are nutrient dense foods that also support your gut healing diet.
- Dandelion Greens
- Garlic, onions, scallions
- Gum Arabic
- Shirataki Noodles
- Wheat Bran
- Chicory Root
Start adding these foods to your daily gut health routine and you’ll be on your way to a happy, healthy gut in no time.
Fermented Foods or Probiotics
Fiber-rich Foods or Prebiotics
- Jerusalem Artichokes
Foundation Foods or Nutrient Dense Foods
- Dandelion Greens
- Garlic, onions, scallions
- Gum Arabic
- Shirataki Noodles
- Wheat Bran
- Chicory Root