10 Best Foods That Will Give You a Healthy Gut
How to Naturally Improve Your Gut With Gut-Healthy Foods
We’ve all been there! Bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and the general feeling of blah. A large greasy meal, indulgent rich dessert, or convenience food (running late!). It’s easy to brush off short-term discomforts from these foods, but daily consumption can lead to long-term gut health problems.
Maybe you’re thinking “aren’t these normal symptoms to eating food?”. Perhaps you’ve been suffering from intestinal distress for a while, but diagnostic tests show no answers. Or, maybe you’ve been diagnosed with an intestinal disorder, but it seems no treatment fully helps.
What if I told you food is the best treatment for your gut?
It’s true! Healthy food is nature’s medicine as it can ease digestive symptoms and prevent certain conditions.1 And, adding gut-healthy foods to your diet is a lot easier and delicious than you may realize!
Let’s face it – the modern age of western society has us believing we’re too busy to eat healthy food. We don’t have enough time to make a meal, or if it’s gut-healthy, then it must be gross. This is simply not true!
Western foods often contain high sugar, fats, and cholesterol – with limited nutritional values. This leads to inflammation and unbalanced digestive enzymes.2 Why are we surprised by our gut health issues?
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be confusing, complicated, or disgusting. All it takes is some education and mindful planning. In the following section, we’ll review foods that restore healthy gut flora. The list of gut-healthy foods for everyday health may be surprising!
A traditional staple in Japanese cuisine, miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans. Thanks to its savory flavor, miso paste is used to make miso soup. The fermentation process of miso promotes gut-healthy bacteria and probiotics – one being aspergillus oryzae.3 Additionally, the fermentation of miso helps the absorption of its nutritional properties.4
Need a miso soup recipe? I’ve got that covered here, Miso With Onion, Daikon, and Bok Choy.
A food often associated with sausage and hearty meals, sauerkraut is actually healthier than one may think. Due to the fermentation process and the nutritionally dense values of cabbage, sauerkraut is an awesome food for a healthy gut!5 In fact, regular consumption of fermented sauerkraut helps to balance good gut bacteria and is also a beneficial treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases and other conditions.6
But – not all sauerkraut is the same. Sauerkraut found in traditional supermarkets can be loaded with sodium. It’s best to make your own sauerkraut at home.
I have a great fermented sauerkraut recipe which can be found here, Homemade Sauerkraut.
Photo by Cole Patrick on Unsplash
Spinach, kale, arugula, and chard are a few examples of leafy greens for a healthy gut lifestyle. The variety of their use is endless, too! Leafy greens can be added to smoothies, soups, salads, and side dishes to satisfy cravings and appetite.
Low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals7 – it’s no wonder leafy greens are the superstars of all healthy food! The benefits of adding leafy greens to your diet are endless. Here are a few reasons why they are amazing for gut health:8
- Loaded with fiber for a healthy microbiota
- Maintains healthy blood sugar
- Promotes a healthy immune system
- Encourages healthy digestive enzymes
- Eliminates bloating
Kimchi is a Korean dish made from fermented cruciferous vegetables.9 The fermentation process (as well as vitamins and nutrients) is what makes this dish excellent for intestinal health. With properties like most fermented foods, kimchi provides probiotic health, immune system support, antioxidants, and cholesterol balance.10
Image by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay
But, not any yogurt! For optimal health benefits, plant-based, dairy-free yogurt is best. Yes! There are many tasty dairy-free yogurt options available that provide a ton of probiotic gut health benefits – without the lactose issues of dairy.11
When choosing a dairy-free yogurt, make sure the label contains at least one of these options:
- almond milk
- cashew milk
- soy milk
- coconut milk
Plant-based yogurt provides delicious and nutritional options for a healthy gut. Be sure the yogurt you choose isn’t loaded with sugar. Don’t worry, you can always sweeten it up with some fruit!
How is Yogurt a Probiotic?
Yogurt is a fermented food that increases lactobacilli (good probiotic) and decreases Enterobacteriaceae (inflammation-causing bacteria). In fact, studies show those who consume yogurt regularly have a healthier gut microbiota (gut habitat) than those who do not eat yogurt.12 Further studies suggest regular consumption of yogurt is beneficial to those with IBS and other digestive disorders.13 It’s easy to see how dairy-free yogurt promotes the gut-healthy lifestyle!
Gut health isn’t only about probiotics – a healthy gut microbiome requires prebiotics, too. Studies confirm certain dietary fibers are prebiotics.14 While there are many prebiotic foods, the health benefits of garlic make it a star performer due to its high inulin and non-digestive carbohydrate properties. These prebiotic properties promote the growth of good bacteria which helps to prevent intestinal diseases.15,16
Garlic is also beneficial for a healthy gut microbiota due to its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and cancer prevention properties.14,17 Prebiotic foods, like garlic, also contain short-chain fatty acids, which promote gut-health and decrease inflammation in the colon.18
You may now wonder, do I need to eat a bowl full of garlic? No, please don’t! Adding 1 – 2 cloves of raw garlic per day is simple and effective.19 In fact, many healthy recipes include garlic cloves; it’s a matter of mindfulness.
A vegetarian source for protein, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and has a healthy amount of probiotics.9 Tempeh is also a prebiotic food which promotes healthy digestive bacteria and counters issues caused by digestive disorders.20,21
Tempeh can be used as a meatless option or it can be added to complement dishes. For a fantastic meatless meal, check out my tempeh recipe, Tempeh “Tuna” Salad.
Photo by Ignacio F. on Unsplash
Packed with protein, fiber, and polyphenols, moderate consumption of nuts is fantastic for a healthy-gut life.22 Fiber is a key player here, and adding a quarter cup of nuts per day is all that’s needed.23 This goes to show a gut-healthy diet includes tasty foods, even ones you’ll go “nuts” over!
Yes, seriously! Bananas are gut-healthy! Smoothie recipes, desserts, salads, bread, and straight-up eating a banana. The health benefits soar from fiber to prebiotics to pectin to resistant starch, all which promote a healthy gut.24,25
Looking for a healthy dessert? Try my recipe for Chocolate Banana Cake.
Bonus: add a banana to your yogurt or kefir for an extra dose of gut-healthiness!
A plant-based source of protein and fiber, lentils are an easy way to add prebiotics and antioxidants to your daily nutrition.26 Lentils also have resistant starch which slows the digestion of carbohydrates and reduces the risk for gastrointestinal disorders.27 Meals that contain lentils are filling, and that helps to reduce overeating and indigestion.
If you’re looking for delicious lentil recipes, please check out my Bean Dishes page!
Gut Health is Important
Roughly three million Americans today have been diagnosed with intestinal disorders, including Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.28 While factors like family history and environment can play a part, one’s lifestyle and diet are huge indicators of the importance of gut health.
The key takeaway is to eat healthy fermented foods and foods containing fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics. Take charge of your health today by improving your daily nutrition with these gut-healthy foods!