7 Best Snacks for a Healthy Gut, Say Dietitians
“You are what you eat,” the old adage says. Hyperbole aside, our diet is incredibly important and impactful to our overall well-being. The food we eat is also relevant to the balance of our microbiome, which is composed of all the microbes that naturally live in and on our bodies — including these snacks for a healthy gut.
Recent human microbiome research shows that the gut microbiome — comprising more microbes than stars than the Milky Way! — actively impacts multiple body functions and responses, including the immune system.
“Gut health is important for a variety of reasons,” explains Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN. “Approximately 70% of our immune system is in our gut, so having a healthy gut microbiota can help our body maintain its immune health.”
So, what does optimal gut health look like? Regularity might be one indicator, says Manaker.
“If a person has a healthy gut, they are typically having regular bowel movements,” she says. “They are not experiencing symptoms like bloating or excessive gas.”
When symptoms like these become frequent, it might be a good idea to incorporate more gut-healthy foods. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is filled with less-than-nutritious processed foods, especially when it comes to snacks. Here are some better snacks for a healthy gut when you need options to support your microbiome.
Recent research shows yogurt with probiotics positively affect the gut microbiome, making it a perfect choice for a quick bite. Just be sure to pick one that does not have added sugar. Boost the nutritional value by including berries and your favorite seeds or nuts. You can also throw it all in a blender and make a nutritionally packed smoothie.
Berries like blueberries and raspberries feature a ton of vitamins, and they provide numerous benefits toward gut health, Lindley Wells CNS, LDN explains.
“Raspberries are wonderful to eat because they support the production of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that is the fuel used by the cells in our gut (colonocytes),” she says. They’re also a great source of fiber, helping maintain gut regularity.
No time to make a fruit bowl? Consider a That’s It Probiotic Fruit Bar as a nutritious, gut-friendly snack option with most of the same stuff. Made with three simple ingredients (blueberries, dates and active cultures), they serve as a perfect mix of prebiotics and probiotics, and a delicious quick bite.
Fermented foods are an excellent choice for gut balance, and Bianca Tamburello, RDN says kimchi — a Korean dish of fermented and salted vegetables — delivers a ton of goodness.
“Kimchi is packed with probiotics, healthy bacteria that are crucial for a balanced gut,” she says.
For the most gut benefits, she says to opt for unpasteurized kimchi. “Be sure to find unpasteurized raw kimchi, like Cleveland Kitchen, for maximum probiotic benefits. The heat from pasteurization kills off the healthy bacteria, which is why unpasteurized kimchi is best for gut health.”
Eat with crackers, crudités, or even on its own.
4. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds provide a healthy source of fiber, and they’re rich in omega-3s and other nutrients, says Wells. Some of her top suggested snacks include chia seeds, hemp, and flax.
“Chia [is a] plant-based source of calcium and rich in quercetin, which has antiviral properties, is anti-inflammatory, supports gut health by improving gut lining.”
Hemp is a great source of iron, magnesium, and amino acids, while seeds like flax keep us regular and can even contribute to healthy hormonal balance. And, of course, seeds are highly versatile. Use them as a topper for salads, dips, fruit bowls, smoothies, and so much more.
Sometimes you need a quick bite to eat, and a smoothie just isn’t in the cards. At times like these, it can be tempting to grab a cheese-dusted crunchy snack from the break room. But, there are better choices that can taste just as good!
Marissa Meshulam, MS, RD, CDN, says fiber-rich popcorn can be a great option. “Fiber is great for our overall gut health, as it keeps things moving and helps promote the growth of good bacteria,” she says. “Popcorn is a great fiber-rich, salty snack to replace potato chips with. “
6. Manuka honey on chia pudding
Another great addition to yogurt, smoothies, fruit, and even spicy snacks, manuka honey makes our list for its many healthful properties. Kelly Springer, MS, RD, CDN says she not only recommends it to her clients, but she also uses it herself.
“As the pantry staple I always keep on hand, it’s easy to enjoy straight off the spoon or in my favorite snacks for a quick gut, immunity, and energy boost,” says Springer. “I add it to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, and drizzle it on top of my favorite salads. It’s even great for whipping up quick snack recipes like this better-for-you Superfood Cacao Nut Butter Chia Pudding with Manuka Honey. Nut butter, chia seeds, and plant-based milk make this a filling snack, while cacao and Wedderspoon Manuka Honey make it nutritious, sweet, and supportive of the digestive system.”
7. Vegetables and hummus
Who doesn’t love a plate of fresh vegetables with a delicious dip? Registered dietician Jamie Nadeau says vegetables and whole grain crackers are a fabulous snack to pair with a gut-friendly dip like hummus, made from chickpeas and tahini.
“Veggies and whole grains are high in fiber which is absolutely essential for supporting a healthy gut,” says Nadeau. “Legumes are also high fiber and support gut health.”
Good food brings people together. So do good emails.