The 8 Best Gut Healthy Foods To Eat, Says Gastroenterologist
Did you know your digestive tract contains more bacteria than there are stars in the Milky Way? The gut microbiome — the microbes that exist within your intestines — plays a powerful role in your overall health. The microbiome is in charge of stimulating the immune system, breaking down toxic compounds, and synthesizing vitamins and proteins. By feeding the microbiome with gut-healthy foods, you decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as cancers and bowel disorders. An unhealthy gut has even been linked to increased symptoms of depression and the development of neurological diseases.
“Your gut is essentially your ‘second brain’ and communicates through a nerve called the vagus directly with your ‘first brain,’ says Dr. Chris Damman, gastroenterologist and chief medical & scientific officer of Supergut. “If you treat your gut right, you are less likely to have issues with your mental health including better mood, sleep, and energy.”
So keep that gut healthy and that brain sharp by incorporating these gut-healthy foods into your daily meals.
According to Dr. Damman, regularly consuming foods with fermentation — like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and olives — can benefit your gut health by taking care of the bacteria within your gut.
“These have natural probiotics (good bacteria) and postbiotics (the substances these good bacteria make) which both can serve as prebiotics (good bacterial food) for our own gut microbiome,” he says. “Research has shown that fermented foods increase the diversity of our gut microbiome and decrease inflammation in the body.”
Fruits and vegetables
Did you know that eating over 30 different kinds of plants in a week can actually benefit your gut health? A 2018 study from the American Gut Project found that participants who ate over 30 different kinds of plants in a week — including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and more — ended up with an even more diverse gut microbe profile compared to those who ate 10 or less.
“Focus on eating the rainbow,” says Dr. Damman. “That will ensure that you capture the diversity of phytonutrients that give the fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors. These phytonutrients promote the growth of healthy bacteria and decrease inflammation which leads to better gut and overall health.”
Nuts, seeds, and fatty fish
“These are all high in healthy fats like omega-3s,” says Dr. Damman. “It’s not well known, but omega-3s can serve as prebiotics meaning they grow healthy bacteria and decrease inflammation in the gut and body which promotes better gut and overall health.”
A 2017 review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences confirms this, stating that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids — which are typically found in nuts, seeds, and fatty fish — have been proven to positively benefit gut microbiota composition and even that gut-brain axis that Dr. Damman mentioned.
Whole grains and beans
“These are all great sources of fiber, one of the microbiome’s favorite foods,” says Dr. Damman.
It’s true — the bacteria in your gut love to feed on fiber. High fiber consumption has been associated with diverse gut microbiota, and even lowers long-term weight gain.
“Not everyone is able to tolerate all types of fiber so it’s important to find the ones that work best for you,” he says. “Resistant starch and oat beta-glucan are two fibers found in foods that tend to be better tolerated. Feed your microbiome, and your gut and body will thank you.”
While these eight types of gut-healthy foods do benefit the gut microbiome, Dr. Damman does point out that adding fiber supplements to the diet can also be beneficial for some.
“Generally, it’s best to get nutrients for your gut from whole foods,” says Dr. Damman. “It’s challenging though, especially with fiber. Only 5% of us get enough–about 30 grams, and most get less than 15 grams. Taking a fiber supplement like Supergut Fiber Mix or fiber-supplemented foods like Supergut Shakes and Bars can help achieve that goal.”