Your gut microbiome is responsible in many ways for your health and well-being. An unhealthy gut can lead to a weakened immune system, fatigue, brain fog, bathroom problems and difficulty losing weight, just to name a handful. However, supporting your health could be as simple as adding gut-healthy foods to your diet.
You want to aim for a stable balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut. Foods like probiotics and prebiotics will support the good bacteria and help them do their job fighting and warding off the bad. Aim to eat at least one of these gut-healthy foods every day.
Yogurt is one of the most well-known of a family of foods considered probiotics. Probiotics are full of good bacteria. Regularly eating these foods can help replenish your store of good bacteria and bring balance to your gut.
While yogurt is the most common option for most people, not everyone’s system agrees with dairy. If you tend to get gas or experience other digestive trouble after eating cow’s milk products, try yogurt made from other sources like coconut or almond. Other popular probiotic options include kombucha, sauerkraut and tempeh.
Asparagus is a powerhouse. Its high fiber content feeds good gut bacteria, helping them to do its job. It also helps to solidify your stool to make regular bowel movements easier. Asparagus is also full of antioxidants and minerals that may help lower blood pressure, fight inflammation and prevent certain cancers.
There’s a reason doctors often recommend bananas as an important food after a bout of diarrhea or vomiting. They contain high amounts of potassium and electrolytes, which replenish bacteria in your gut. Bananas are also full of fiber, though you want to eat them when they’re just barely ripe — they lose fiber content as they ripen.
Whole grains are a simple source of fiber. The acid created when your good gut bacteria break it down feeds your cells and fights off harmful bacteria. Whole grains are such a broad group that you should have no trouble finding something you like. Try options like quinoa, couscous, brown rice and whole grain breads.
As with whole grains, beans and legumes reach your large intestine intact. Your good gut bacteria break them down in a process called fermentation, which causes the gas you may experience when eating these for dinner. Despite your social embarrassment, these are one of the best gut-healthy foods you can eat.
While everyone’s gut microbiomes are a bit different and foods don’t affect people universally, some food groups are generally considered harmful to gut health.
A compound in red meat called carnitine causes a reaction with your gut bacteria to create something entirely new and potentially dangerous, leading to plaque build-up in your arteries. Try to lower your consumption of red meats and focus instead on lean meats or non-animal proteins.
One or two drinks aren’t a big deal, but drinking in excess can lead to inflammation in your gut. Ultimately, you’ll disrupt the balance of your microbiome and could develop leaky gut syndrome, where bacteria leaks into your bloodstream.
Processing foods typically removes essential nutrients, depriving your gut bacteria of what it needs. Whole foods, in their most natural state, will yield the healthiest gut microbiome.
Choose gut-healthy foods from this list or similar options from the same food groups to drastically improve your immune system and digestive health. Good nutritional choices can also impact your mood since 90% of your serotonin receptors are located in your gut.
Overall, the best thing you can do for your gut health is to consume foods in their most natural state. Choose a variety of colors to maximize the array of vitamins and minerals. Also, add probiotic or fermented foods, like yogurt, where you can and eat plenty of fiber each day.