Gut health may start in the stomach, but it has wide-ranging effects that span the rest of your body.
The health of your gut, or the gut microbiome, is incredibly important for the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients, but it also plays a significant role in supporting your nervous system, your immune system, and even your mental health.
How do you maintain a healthy gut? Diet has a lot to do with it. The foods you put into your digestive system arrive at the gut microbiome as a first port of call. Regularly ensuring those foods are gut-friendly and beneficial to gut’s key functions can go a long way towards improving your overall gut health.
If you're looking for additions to your diet that will support a healthy gut, look no further! Here are some of the best foods for gut health you can start enjoying right now.
5 Best Foods for Gut Health
By and large, foods that are beneficial for gut health are high in fiber, contain helpful probiotics, and are generally easy on the digestive system. While the list of gut-friendly foods includes a ton of tasty choices, the following foods are some of the best—and most delicious—options you can add to your diet.
Yogurt is a fermented food, and as such, it’s naturally chalk-full of probiotic cultures that are great for gut health. While the pasteurization process removes many probiotics, a number of yogurt varieties, including Greek yogurt, include added probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, which can help increase the good bacteria in your gut. Check your yogurt labels for “live and active cultures,” which should include a handful of healthy probiotics and other gut-friendly bacterias.
Sauerkraut & Kimchi
Other fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut (and many variations in between) include the same lactobacilli bacteria found in yogurt, and are also rich in vitamins, nutrients, and fiber, among many other benefits. Both kimchi and sauerkraut also include choline, which is a natural compound linked to the overall health of cells, muscles, the nervous system, mood, and even memory. While sauerkraut can be piled on top of a hot dog or a sandwich, there are also tons of delicious ways to enjoy kimchi as a regular part of your healthy diet.
Nuts and seeds can provide a great boost for gut health as they are often high in fiber and saturated fats. While that's true for everything from peanuts to cashews to even pine nuts, almonds are actually the best nut to crack when it comes to a healthier gut. High in fiber and protein, almonds are also excellent prebiotics, which are compounds in food that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. While almonds make a great snack on their own, they can also be added to salads and smoothies or a wide variety of other recipes.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are a staple of any healthy diet and can provide a wide list of health-related benefits. When it comes to gut health specifically, there are a few fruits and vegetables that sit atop the list:
- Bananas are rich in vitamins and nutrients as well as fiber that helps stimulate the production of healthy gut bacteria.
- Blueberries are full of antioxidants and help combat harmful gut bacteria that can impede healthy digestion. Blueberries also provide one of the best fiber-per-calories ratios of any food.
- Leafy greens, including spinach, kale, and brussel sprouts all provide an excellent source of fiber as well as vitamins and nutrients such as folate. Leafy greens also contain a specific type of sugar, sulfoquinovose or SQ, which helps healthy gut bacteria thrive.
- Allium vegetables like onions, garlic, and leeks are all high in soluble fibers that assist with gut health, serving key prebiotic functions that assist healthy gut bacteria.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Last but not least is extra virgin olive oil, which has been used for its gut-enhancing properties for hundreds of years. Extra virgin olive oil can be a great tool for achieving overall gut health because it encourages the production of peptides, which support healthy digestion and the absorption of nutrients. As a bonus, extra virgin olive oil also reduces the risk of acid reflux by preventing gastric juices from traveling back up from the stomach. Because it diminishes the motility of gastric acid, extra virgin olive oil helps the stomach’s gastric content release more slowly, helping you feel more full, improving your digestion, and enhancing the absorption of nutrients into your body.
A Healthier Gut Starts Right Now!
The importance of gut health continues to grow as we learn more about the gut microbiome’s far-reaching effects on our overall health and wellness. The truth is, you are what you eat, and focusing on foods that assist with digestion and support the healthy bacterias in your gut is a great way to improve the very foundations of any healthy diet. Luckily, you can zero in on a healthier gut using a wide range of common, delicious foods including those listed above. With even one or two of these options incorporated into your diet, you’ll be on the road to a healthier gut in no time!