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Best Things to Eat for Good Gut Health Choices for Wellness

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Published By: Dr. Jeffrey Mark
Date: June 15, 2024

Want to improve your gut health? Eating the right foods can make a big difference. A healthy gut supports digestion, boosts immunity, and enhances well-being. But what should you eat for a happy gut? This article reveals the best foods to nourish your gut bacteria and keep your digestive system in top shape. From fiber-rich veggies to fermented wonders, you'll discover delicious options that are easy to include in your diet. Get ready to learn how simple dietary choices can lead to a healthier, happier you!

Key Takeaways

  • Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that improve gut health.
  • Kimchi and sauerkraut are fermented foods that add beneficial bacteria to your gut.
  • Kefir is a fermented dairy product that is high in probiotics and can improve digestion.
  • Miso and tempeh are fermented soy products that support a healthy gut microbiome.
  • Garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus are prebiotic foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut.

Best Things To Eat For Good Gut Health 

1. Yogurt

A bowl of creamy yogurt topped with a fresh raspberry

Yogurt is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the best things to eat for good gut health, and for good reason. Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which are live microorganisms that keep the gut microbiome happy and healthy. If you’re experiencing symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea, probiotics may help bring some quick relief.

If you’re lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free options available that still provide the same benefits. If you have bloating already, you might want to start with a smaller “concentration” or less colony forming units and work your way up to thirty billion or more colony forming units of bacteria. 

Benefits of Yogurt

Yogurt is a superfood that makes for a tasty side dish and improves the good gut bacteria, improving digestion. It is an excellent source of friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. These probiotics help in maintaining a balanced good gut microbiome, which is essential for overall health.

Types of Yogurt

  • Greek Yogurt: Plain nonfat Greek yogurt is a powerhouse for gut-healthy probiotics and protein that support the immune system.
  • Yogurt Drinks: These can contain high numbers of beneficial bacteria, far more than you would find in a normal yogurt. However, be mindful of their sugar content.

2. Kimchi

A hearty bowl of spicy kimchi noodles

Kimchi, a staple in Korean cuisine, is a spicy, fermented cabbage dish filled with probiotics to promote a healthy human gut. This spicy, flavorful food serves up some health benefits. For instance, it has probiotics, the good microbes that may improve your gut health. Kimchi is made with cruciferous vegetables that contain nutrients with powerful antioxidant properties that may help prevent some types of cancer.

It can have scallions, radishes, and shrimp added to give it more flavor. Look for it in the refrigerated section near sauerkraut, other Asian sauces, and pickles, or better yet, make your own to maximize probiotic content.

3. Sauerkraut

A decorative bowl filled with freshly prepared sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, a staple in German cuisine, is a finely chopped cabbage that has been fermented. This nutritious probiotic food is packed with probiotics, fiber, and vitamins, making it an excellent choice for gut health.

During the fermentation process, microorganisms digest the natural sugars in the cabbage, producing carbon dioxide and organic acids. This not only aids digestion but also adds beneficial bacteria to your gut.

What It Is

Sauerkraut is made from cabbage and salt. The fermentation process involves microorganisms that consume the sugar in the cabbage, resulting in the production of carbon dioxide and acids. This process creates probiotics that support digestion and enhance gut health.

Benefits

  • Probiotics: Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, which help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
  • Fiber: The fiber content aids in digestion and helps prevent constipation.
  • Vitamins: It is a good source of vitamins C and K.

How to Choose

When selecting sauerkraut, opt for products that have not been pasteurized, as pasteurization kills both harmful and beneficial bacteria. Look for sauerkraut in the refrigerated section to ensure it contains active, live cultures.

How to Make

Making sauerkraut at home is simple and cost-effective. All you need is cabbage and salt. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Finely chop the cabbage.
  2. Mix it with salt.
  3. Pack the mixture tightly into a jar.
  4. Allow it to ferment at room temperature for several days to a few weeks, depending on your taste preference.

Sauerkraut is not only delicious but also a powerful ally for your gut health. Including it in your diet can provide numerous benefits, from improved digestion to a stronger immune system.

4. Kefir

A spoon rests in the glass, ready for enjoying this nutritious

Kefir is a dairy-based drink that often contains more probiotics and protein than regular yogurt. This probiotic yogurt drink is made by fermenting milk and is packed with good bacteria, which can help to reduce a leaky gut. Scientists have found a range of possible health benefits of kefir, including improved cholesterol, blood sugar control, and gut health. It originated in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, as well as Russia and Central Asia.

How to Consume Kefir

Kefir makes a great addition to smoothies and soups, or you can use it as a base for salad dressing by adding lemon juice and seasoning. For a healthy diet combo of probiotics and fiber, try substituting kefir for milk in one of your overnight oats recipes.

Tips for Buying Kefir

When purchasing kefir, opt for plain kefir instead of flavored to skip added sugars. Always check the ingredients label to ensure it contains live and active probiotics. Pasteurization before fermentation ensures kefir contains live and active probiotics when you consume it.

Due to fermentation, kefir has a slightly tart and acidic taste, which makes it a tasty addition to a breakfast smoothie in place of milk.

5. Miso

A bowl of miso soup filled with tofu cubes

Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans, barley, or rice. It is a staple in Japanese cooking and is known for its savory flavor. Miso contains beneficial bacteria and enzymes that can support gut health. Additionally, it is a good source of protein, especially when made from soybeans. However, it is important to note that miso is high in sodium, so a little bit goes a long way.

Health Benefits

Miso is rich in probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that can help improve digestion and support a healthy gut microbiome. These probiotics may also help in boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation in the gut.

Culinary Uses

Miso can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, sauces, and dressings. It can also be used as a marinade for meats and tofu. A popular dish is Miso-Maple Salmon, which combines the savory flavor of miso with the sweetness of maple syrup.

Nutritional Information

Here is a quick overview of the nutritional content of miso:

Nutrient Amount per 1 tbsp
Calories 33
Protein 2 grams
Fat 1 gram
Carbohydrates 4 grams
Sodium 634 mg

Including miso in your diet can be a delicious way to support your gut health. Just remember to use it in moderation due to its high sodium content.

6. Tempeh

Fresh green lettuce and a small bowl of cilantro are placed nearby

Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from compressing fermented soybeans into a cake-like form. It is both a probiotic and a prebiotic, making tempeh one of the most important foods you can include to stimulate probiotic bacteria growth in the gut.

Rich in plant-protein, tempeh is an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans. It is also packed with B vitamins, calcium, manganese, zinc, and copper.

Health Benefits

Tempeh offers numerous health benefits, including:

  • Plant source of protein: Tempeh is a great alternative to meat, providing a high amount of protein.
  • May help manage weight: The high protein content can help you feel full longer, aiding in weight management.
  • Source of protective plant compounds: Tempeh contains antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage.
  • Source of phytoestrogens: These compounds can help balance hormones in the body.
  • May support gut health: The probiotics in tempeh can improve your gut microbiome.

How to Include Tempeh in Your Diet

There are many delicious ways to incorporate tempeh into your meals:

  1. Marinate and grill: Marinate tempeh in your favorite sauce and grill it for a smoky flavor.
  2. Stir-fry: Add tempeh to your vegetable stir-fry for an extra protein boost.
  3. Salads: Crumble tempeh over salads for added texture and nutrition.
  4. Baked: Bake tempeh with spices for a crunchy snack.

Tempeh is versatile and a powerhouse of nutrients that can significantly benefit your gut health. Including it in your diet can be a delicious way to support your overall well-being.

7. Garlic

Garlic is a powerhouse when it comes to promoting good gut health. With its antibacterial and antifungal properties, garlic helps keep “bad” gut bacteria under control and balances yeast in the gut. This not only benefits the intestines but also reduces inflammation. Eating raw garlic can even help clear out intestinal worms, making it a versatile addition to our diet.

Nutritional Profile

Garlic is loaded with essential nutrients, including:

  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Selenium
  • Allicin (a powerful disease-fighting compound)

How to Incorporate Garlic into Your Diet

There are numerous ways to add garlic to your meals:

  1. Sauté it with onions and mix it into a stir-fry or pasta.
  2. Use it as a seasoning for savory dishes.
  3. Add it to dressings and sauces for an extra kick.

The properties within garlic act as a fuel source to allow the bacteria to do their job better, which overall improves gut function and can help heal your gut.

Health Benefits

Garlic offers a range of health benefits beyond gut health, such as:

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Positive impacts on cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, blood pressure, and diabetes

Including garlic in our diet is a simple yet effective way to support our overall health and well-being.

8. Onions

Two vibrant red onions lie on the soil in a garden

Onions are a fantastic addition to our diet for promoting good gut health. They are rich in inulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are essential as they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can improve overall digestive health.

Additionally, onions contain fructans and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which further support gut flora.

Versatility in Cooking

Onions are highly versatile: Add them to soup or salad, grill and put on top of a turkey burger, or roast with herbs and serve as a side. They can be diced and put in salads, dressings, and sauces, or sliced to place on veggie burgers.

Health Benefits

Onions are not just good for the gut; they also offer a plethora of other health benefits. According to a 2022 review, they help improve conditions such as diarrhea, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes. They are also a great source of quercetin, a strong antioxidant that fights damaging free radicals in the body.

Including onions in our diet can significantly boost our gut health and overall well-being. They are a simple yet powerful way to enhance our meals and health.

9. Leeks

A bundle of fresh leeks is displayed
Bundle of Fresh Leeks - Closeup of some fresh Leeks with the white bulb and roots

Leeks are a fantastic addition to our diet for promoting good gut health. Leeks are high in good-for-the-gut fructans, which are a type of prebiotic fiber that supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. According to the USDA, 1 cup of leeks contains 1.6 grams of fiber and just 54 calories, making them a low-calorie, high-fiber option for maintaining digestive health.

Health Benefits

Leeks are rich in dietary fiber, which supports digestive health. They offer a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, aiding in maintaining bowel regularity and overall gut function. Additionally, leeks are part of the allium family, which includes garlic and onions, known for their potential to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

How to Include Leeks in Your Diet

Leeks can be added to almost any dish. Here are some simple ways to incorporate them into your meals:

  • Add them to an omelet for a nutritious breakfast.
  • Sauté leeks and mix them with roasted potatoes for a delicious side dish.
  • Rub whole leeks with oil and grill them briefly, then toss with your favorite vinaigrette.

For a quick and easy recipe, try our Oven-Braised Leeks, which require only 15 minutes of prep time.

Leeks are not only versatile but also packed with nutrients that support a healthy gut. Including them in our diet can be a simple yet effective way to boost our digestive health.

10. Asparagus

Bundles of fresh asparagus spears are arranged on a rustic wooden surface.
Fresh organic asparagus, healthy food concept

Asparagus is a fantastic addition to our diet for promoting good gut health. These vegetable spears are packed with nutrients, providing a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and folate. Asparagus is also an excellent source of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone health and blood clotting.

Asparagus works as a powerful prebiotic due to its high levels of fructans, such as inulin and FOS, which feed healthy gut bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli.

Nutritional Benefits

Asparagus is loaded with antioxidants, natural chemicals that fight off free radicals and other inflammatory compounds in the body. It is also one of the few dietary sources of glutathione, an antioxidant concentrated in the liver that helps remove waste from the body.

How to Enjoy Asparagus

  • Roasted: Toss the spears with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then oven-roast at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Raw: Shave raw asparagus over a green salad for a fresh, crunchy addition.
  • Cooked: Add asparagus to pasta, omelets, or simply steam or sauté it.

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed in many ways, making it easy to incorporate into our daily meals while reaping its gut health benefits.

Asparagus is not only a delicious vegetable but also packed with essential nutrients that can benefit your overall health. If you're looking to improve your diet and wellness, our team at The Real Gut Doctor can guide you on your journey to optimal health.

Conclusion

Maintaining good gut health is essential for overall well-being, and it doesn't have to be complicated. You can support a healthy gut microbiome by incorporating a variety of nutrient-rich foods such as fermented vegetables, lean proteins, and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.

Remember, small changes in your diet can lead to significant improvements in your digestive health. So, start today by adding some of these top gut-friendly foods to your meals and enjoy the benefits of a happier, healthier gut!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is gut health important?

Gut health is crucial because the gut is responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and housing a significant portion of the immune system. An unhealthy gut can lead to a variety of health issues, including digestive problems, weakened immunity, and even mental health conditions.

What are probiotics and why are they beneficial?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for your digestive system. They help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which can improve digestion, boost the immune system, and even enhance mood and mental health.

What are prebiotics and how do they differ from probiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible food components that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Unlike probiotics, which are live bacteria, prebiotics serve as food for these beneficial bacteria, helping them to thrive and multiply.

Can improving gut health help with weight loss?

Yes, improving gut health can aid in weight loss. A balanced gut microbiome can improve metabolism, reduce inflammation, and regulate appetite, all of which can contribute to weight loss and better overall health.

Are there any foods that should be avoided for better gut health?

Yes, certain foods can negatively impact gut health. These include highly processed foods, foods high in sugar, artificial sweeteners, and excessive amounts of red meat. Avoiding these can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

How long does it take to see improvements in gut health after changing diet?

Improvements in gut health can vary from person to person. Some people may notice changes within a few days, while for others, it might take several weeks or even months. Consistency in maintaining a gut-friendly diet is key to seeing long-term benefits.

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Dr. Jeffrey Mark
With over thirty years of experience, Dr. Mark is a leading expert in holistic gut health. His integrative approach combines conventional medicine, functional and regenerative medicine, and advanced therapies to heal the gut and transform patient health. Holding 5 board certifications, Dr. Mark offers the comprehensive expertise of five medical specialists during each patient visit. He is dedicated to optimizing wellbeing by addressing the gut-related root causes of chronic health issues.
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