Gut health and a happy gut are important. There are foods for gut health that are delicious and easy to fit into your diet, and that’s good, because many people have trouble understanding how the health of your gastrointestinal tract affects just about every system in your body! Luckily, it’s easy to keep it well and happy.
Everyone has a unique community of bacteria that lives in their gut. This is properly called a microbiome, and no two people have the exact same one. The health of this community is highly important to digestion and also nutrient absorption.
Why Should You Care About Your Gut Health?
One thing many people don’t realize is that a lot of their physical and mental health issues are because of how their gut is functioning. This includes everything from stomach aches and nausea to increased anxiety and panic attacks.
Poor absorption of nutrients can lead to a variety of other health problems. According to more and more research, the following conditions can be affected by gut health:
– Crohn’s disease
Because of its impact on nearly every body system, it’s almost impossible to narrow down specific symptoms of poor gut health. Further, since everyone’s gut community is different, some things may work for one person, but not for another. Instead, it’s best to understand the types of foods that are known to help gut health and experiment with results.
Try to include more of these foods in your diet and you’ll start feeling much better.
What Foods for Gut Health Should You Add to Your Diet?
One thing you will notice about this list of foods for gut health and improved gut health is that many of them are fermented foods. Fermented foods are amazing for your gut! The first one is kefir milk.
One of the many fermented foods available, kefir is essentially fermented milk, which makes it somewhat carbonated and often a bit sour. Though it’s a dairy product, many people who suffer from lactose intolerance can still drink kefir because it’s fermented. It has a similar taste to yogurt and offers similar benefits, such as adding good bacteria to the gut. It also helps production of vitamin K and vitamin B12. If you’re like my family and allergic to the casein found in modern cow’s milk, you’ll want to make your own kefir with goat milk. It’s easy to do.
Tip: If you are making a gut healthy smoothie in the morning, use kefir milk instead of regular milk or even almond milk. You want all those extra fermented nutrients!
Another fermented food that is on this list for a happy gut is fermented cabbage. This might not sound appealing, but there are many ways to add it to your current favorite foods.
There are two popular types of fermented cabbage available in most stores: sauerkraut and kimchee.
The former is of German origin and it should be purchased fresh, or made at home, as canned versions have been pasteurized and good bacteria destroyed.
Kimchee is a Korean side dish or condiment that also contains good bacteria generated in the fermentation process.
Tip: You might not like cabbage on its own, but adding sauerkraut to your hot dogs and other fun foods is a great way to start eating this more often.
This might be a more familiar name, since many people now swear by kombucha.
Like kefir, kombucha is a fermented beverage that has steadily gained traction as a haven for good bacteria. Kombucha is made from black tea, but the fermentation process makes it slightly carbonated, just like kefir. Along with the benefits from probiotics, or good bacteria, kombucha also provides the traditional antioxidant content contained in tea.
Tip: If you don’t want to go through the work of making your own kombucha, you can simplify this by getting bottled kombucha from health food stores or the health food section of your regular grocery store.
Not all foods for gut health are fermented, which is good news if you want to eat more of foods you already enjoy. Fresh fruit is one of these categories, starting with oranges.
Oranges and citrus fruit in general are helpful to gut health.
Consuming whole oranges in particular has benefits due to the membranes in orange segments containing soluble fiber. This type of fiber feeds the good bacteria in the gut and also creates a byproduct fatty acid known as butyrate. This byproduct feeds surface cells to help keep the digestive system healthy.
Tip: Try adding fresh slices of oranges to your summer salads, squeeze orange or lemon juice on your chicken or fish dishes for a little zip in flavor, or add the fruit to your smoothies or homemade juice. There are a lot of great options here!
Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, these vegetables do not look anything like a typical artichoke, but instead more like a root such as ginger or turmeric. They contain a high amount of dietary fiber that is indigestible called inulin.
Even though it cannot be digested, it becomes food for the good bacteria colonizing the GI tract. Once again, it creates the byproduct butyrate, which feeds surface cells and reduces inflammation.
If you are trying to follow a healthy diet, you might think butter is a big no-no, but that isn’t true at all. Butter, when it comes from the right sources, can be great for you and a good healing regimen for your gut.
A natural source of already available butyrate occurs in butter. Consuming an actual food source of this byproduct can further increase the barrier function of the intestines. It’s always best to choose butter from grass-fed cows, if you can get it.
Tip: As with anything, moderation is key when adding high-fat foods to your diet. Use butter to flavor vegetables, encouraging you to eat more veggies, but also getting the gut-healthy butter at the same time.
Are you looking for healthy ways to add flavor toy our favorite foods? If so, garlic is your best friend! It’s good for you in so many ways, including helping with your gut health.
Garlic is a prebiotic, which is a food source that feeds good bacteria and helps it proliferate. As garlic adds savory flavor to many foods, it’s easy to get a regular helping of garlic throughout the day.
Lentils are an excellent food to add to your diet, and super easy to work with as well!
Lentils provide soluble fiber, which is fermented by the gut. They are also a prebiotic source, which feeds the already existing good bacteria in the gut.
With the added fiber and protein of lentils, they are also perfect if you are on a restricted diet, such as a vegetarian or vegan diet. You can make soup, chili, add them to salads, and do many other things with lentils. Have fun with them!
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Yes – you can have chocolate and even have it be good for you! Dark chocolate is an excellent way to take care of your gut, but you want o avoid milk chocolate. Instead, go for dark chocolate.
This is another food that is efficiently fermented by the gut and creates helpful byproducts. However, in order to qualify as dark chocolate, the food must be at least 70 percent cacao.
There are many different brands, both at regular stores and health food stores, that are delicious and have the right amount of cacao to be dark chocolate. As an added bonus, this type of chocolate has other important nutrients for your body, including anti-oxidants.
Next up is yogurt, which probably comes as no surprise.
Yogurt is one of the classic and best known probiotic foods. However, in order for it to be beneficial, it needs to have live active cultures and it should be low in sugar – so take time to check and read the label. Don’t worry about fat content, but the sugar content should be less than 15 grams. Remember that sugar feeds bad bacteria in the gut.
This is often where people go wrong. They choose any yogurt they find on the shelves at the grocery store, but often go for the fancy, flavored yogurt with 20 or even 30 grams of sugar for one small container. Avoid this yogurt!
Tip: Go for as natural of an option as possible, making sure it contains live active cultures with a low sugar content. Typically, non-flavored yogurt is going to be your best bet. You can always flavor it by adding in your own fresh fruit and mixing it together. That way, the sugars you have are all-natural and good for you.
Miso can also be added to your regular dietary routine if you want to pay better attention to your gut health.
This is a Japanese flavoring paste made from fermented soybeans. It has plenty of probiotics for gut health, as well as protein and fiber. The darker the color of miso, the stronger the taste. Miso can be used in sauces or soup broth.
The only thing to watch out for in miso is the amount of salt. Most miso paste is very high in salt, similar to soy sauce. As you know, salt is sodium, which is okay for most people in moderate amounts.
You will hear this repeated a lot – moderation is your best friend!
Pickles can also be high in sodium, so you shouldn’t eat the entire jar in one sitting, but having a single serving of them can be great for your gut health.
Pickled cucumbers or other vegetables can also offer probiotic benefits. However, look for pickles that are labeled as having live cultures and are made with a salt and water brine as opposed to vinegar.
Tip: Like with fermented cabbage, pickles that are cooked and pasteurized do not offer the same benefits. You can make your own natural old-fashioned brined pickles at home.
Last up is sourdough bread, especially if it is made with whole grains or sprouted grains. (Be aware, though, that bread labeling is often misleading. Read about these health foods you should avoid)
Making sourdough bread requires the use of a friendly bacteria called lactobacillus. This type of bread can be very helpful to those with diabetic or pre-diabetic conditions because it causes a smaller spike in blood sugar than regular bread.
Tip: As with all foods on this list, you want to look at the ingredients list to make sure you have as natural of an option as possible.
Now that you know all about choosing the healthiest food for gut health, you can start putting together some healthy recipes. The best way to start is choosing foods from this list that you already enjoy – which might be sauerkraut, pickles, or sourdough bread.
Add these familiar foods to your diet plan, then start adding more foods. For example, switch out your regular milk for kefir milk, or try eating more oranges.
Using this easy method will allow you to have all those probiotics and nutrients your body needs for a happy and healthy gut.