Gut health is a trendy topic in the wellness world — for good reason. To put it simply, our gut microbiome is one of the most crucial determinants of our overall health. It keeps our body in tip-top shape, aiding in everything from weight loss and digestion to brain health and heart health. Pretty incredible, right? Even more incredible is the fact that our gut contains a world of microbes (bacteria) that play a critical role in our physiology, keeping the body and brain happy. So, obviously, that sounds like something we should want to take care of, right?
Our gut contains trillions of these small-but-mighty microbes that affect the way our body handles and stores fat, how it handles blood sugar, and how it responds to hormones that control hunger. Certain gut bacteria have been found to regulate our mood, producing chemicals in our brain like dopamine and serotonin. It’s also been discovered that there’s a “second brain” in our gut that communicates with the brain in our head. This communication plays a vital role when it comes to disease and mental health.
That said, we want to do everything in our power to keep it healthy! And, if you’re mindful of your diet, keeping your gut happy and healthy is easier than you think.
How Can Diet Support a Healthy Microbiome?
When it comes to the best nutrients for gut health, probiotics are all the talk. And while there’s no denying the gut-loving benefits of probiotic-rich foods, let’s not forget about one crucial nutrient: fiber. From reducing bloat and indigestion to lowering the risk of constipation and GI-related disorders to supporting overall gut health, fiber is a crucial nutrient for your microbiome. As it turns out, 95% of Americans aren’t getting enough dietary fiber. Think of fiber as fuel for your gut — it’s what feeds the good bacteria in our gut and regulates our digestive health. Our microbiome then extracts the fiber’s nutrients, vitamins, and energy, which has a majorly beneficial impact on our well-being.
These trillions of tiny little microorganisms living in our digestive system thrive off of what we feed them. While there are lots of fiber supplements on the market, there’s no need for that. All you need is a healthy diet full of fiber-rich foods!
The Best High Fiber Foods for Promoting a Healthy Gut
This yummy fruit is great for adding a bit of fiber to your diet. Just one cup contains 8 grams of filling fiber with just 64 calories. They’re packed with anthocyanins — antioxidants that reduce free radical damage and support heart health. Enjoy some with your morning bowl of oatmeal, blend them into a gut-loving smoothie, or toss them into a breakfast bowl with unsweetened Greek yogurt and granola.
If you’re looking to support gut health, you’ll definitely want to include this superfood. Not only is asparagus packed with fiber, but it also contains high amounts of vitamin A, K, and folate. And because it’s a natural diuretic and packed with prebiotics, it also helps reduce bloating (this tidbit can come in handy if you experience PMS-related belly bloat). You can either grill or bake asparagus for a healthy side dish.
#3 Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, are a superhero food for your gut! Shave some raw Jerusalem artichoke over your salads, roast them with your favorite veggies, or as a garnish with soup.
Beans are an excellent source of fiber. One cup contains 13-19 grams (around 50% of your daily needs), depending on which type you choose. Whenever you find the chance, toss in black beans, kidney beans, or red beans to your wraps, salads, and bowls.
It’s a well-known fact that garlic goes with everything. Not only that, but it’s wonderful for your microbiome. It contains prebiotic fiber, fiber that feeds our good gut bacteria! Add it to stir-fries, baked fish, or sautees each time you’re cooking.
Bananas are incredible at restoring happiness within our gut. They’ll help reduce bloating and aid against inflammation. To get all of their gut-supporting benefits, try snacking on bananas that are a bit green in color. Green bananas contain resistant starch which helps support a healthy microbiome.
Some other ways to enjoy them? Nosh on one for a snack or add a frozen banana to your morning smoothie for added creaminess and a fiber boost.
If you need another reason to load up on avocado toast, this is your sign. I mean, what isn’t this creamy fruit good for? It’s full of heart-healthy fats, one of the best foods for glowing skin, and yes — it’s amazing for gut health too! With 13 grams of fiber, you’ll get just about 50% of your daily fiber needs from one fruit.
Add avocado to your smoothies, use it in place of butter or mayo, blend it into a creamy dip or dressing, or add it to your soups and salads.
Rich in beta-glucans, a soluble fiber known to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce blood sugar, oats are a top contender when it comes to gut-supporting foods. A 1-cup serving clocks in at 7.5 grams of fiber — impressive! Enjoy them in a warm breakfast bowl, blend them into homemade oat milk, or grind them into oat flour and use them as the base for baked goods.
Almond butter, almond milk, almond flour… with so many options, it’s easy to enjoy this nutrient-dense nut! Aside from being full of fiber, almonds are loaded with plant-based protein, heart-healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals like Vitamin E and magnesium.
Make them into a homemade trail mix, use them as a topping for smoothies and salads, chop them up and use them as the crust for baked fish or chicken, or enjoy them plain alongside fresh fruit or yogurt!
#10 Chia Seeds
If you’re not already loading up on these tiny superfoods, you’ll want to start! Aside from being rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, and heart-healthy Omega-3s, chia seeds are a rich source of fiber with nearly 10 grams per 1-ounce serving.
Make them into a chia seed pudding or homemade jam, add them to your smoothie, or sprinkle them into your baked goods!
#11 Collard Greens
Step aside kale and spinach, there’s another leafy green in town! And it’s packed with nutrients that support digestion and gut health. Full of fiber (an impressive 8 grams per cup), Collard greens are one of the best veggies to add to any healthy diet. As a cruciferous veggie, they contain sulforaphane, a plant compound known to bust inflammation and balance gut microbiota.
Stuff it with smashed chickpeas or tuna for lettuce wraps, saute it with garlic and olive oil, or add it to soups and pasta dishes.
The Bottom Line
A helpful hint when choosing fiber-rich foods is to always think “real, whole foods.” Reach for beans, legumes, and whole grains, as well as whole fruits and veggies. Shifting your diet from one that is meat-focused with lots of processed foods to a diet that is rich in plants can have a significant impact on your health.