The gut is a hot topic in health for good reason. A disrupted gut can lead to chronic ailments and diseases that impact the entire body. To prevent this, many have embarked on a journey to heal our gut and increase the diversity of our “good bacteria.” One way to do this? Through eating foods for gut health. Ahead, more on the importance of supporting digestive health, plus some gut-friendly foods to consider adding to your diet.
What is the Microbiome & Why is it Important?
Our gut microbiome contains trillions of microbes that line our gut and skin. These microbes play a huge role in our immune function, metabolism, and even behavior. The relationship between these bacteria and us (their host) is widely researched, and diet is the leading driver for creating and maintaining a healthy gut. Especially a diet full of fiber-rich foods that can help support a diverse and healthy microbiome.
The Best Foods For a Healthy Gut
Have you ever looked closely at a jar of kimchi or sauerkraut? These foods are alive with good bacteria, which are working together to create fermentation. Fermentation is a method of preserving foods with bacteria and yeast. When you eat these living foods, they provide a wider variety of microorganisms and other benefits, including prebiotics and vitamins.
Try incorporating fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut, into your daily eating schedule. This can be as simple as adding some sauerkraut to your sauteed kale or sandwich. Choose one that has not been pickled in vinegar, as that doesn’t have the same benefits.
Yogurt is also rich in probiotics and can be a great replacement for sour cream. Look out for yogurts with fruit or sugars as they tend to have lower amounts of probiotics.
Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber that acts as food for your good gut bugs.
Fiber is indigestible, and we rely on our bacteria to ferment and break it down in our large intestine. This process feeds cells in your intestines while helping to protect your gut from harmful bacteria.
Barley, wheat, and rye may have a bad rap for containing gluten, but on the flip side, they contain beta-glucans which are beneficial prebiotic fibers that help feed the probiotics living in your gut and decrease the proliferation of unhealthy gut bugs that can impact weight, blood pressure, and even triglyceride levels.
Oats are another great option and can be used to make a delicious, fiber-rich breakfast.
A great option is sourdough, a fermented bread that contains probiotics and antioxidants. Sourdough seems to be tending right now, so if you’re interested in giving it a go, consider trying an avocado toast on sourdough with some sauerkraut for an extra probiotic serving.
Now before you reach for those French fries and potato chips, keep reading. We are talking about cooked and then cooled potatoes. Cooled potatoes have prebiotic-resistant starches. Resistant starches feed the good bacteria in your gut and support a diverse microbiome, similarly to fiber. Also, the more you heat and cool your potatoes, their resistant starch increases. Potato salad, anyone?
Try adding cubed, roasted potatoes to salads, or make some roasted potatoes with olive oil and herbs of choice. Pair the potatoes with some roasted veggies to enjoy as a delicious side dish.
Beans, Nuts, and Seeds
Beans are the foundation of a healthy gut microbiome. They offer prebiotic fibers and resistant starches. Black beans and peas are full of soluble and insoluble fiber to help keep your digestive system in balance. Soaking beans before cooking them or preparing them in a pressure cooker can help with digestion.
As far as nuts, almonds have good prebiotic properties, demonstrating the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. A handful of almonds always makes an excellent snack or can be used as a topping on salads and desserts.
Flaxseeds, besides being a great source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are also an excellent source of soluble fiber and a traditional remedy for constipation.
Chia seeds are also another great source of ALAs and 40 percent fiber by weight. They absorb ten to twelve times their weight in water, making them a delicious chia pudding perfect for breakfast. Hemps seeds also contain fiber, ALAs, and essential amino acids, making them the perfect addition to salads, soup, and smoothies.
To get you started, here’s a delicious FitOn PRO chia pudding recipe.
2-Step Vanilla Chia Pudding
- 3 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
- ½ banana, mashed
- ½ tsp cinnamon
Step #1: Place the chia seeds in a bowl and cover with almond milk. Add the vanilla protein, banana, berries, and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
Step #2: Place in the fridge for 10 minutes before eating, or overnight.
Aromatics (Onion, Garlic, Ginger)
Onions and garlic pack in tons of flavor and are the base of most soups and sauces. When broken down, they release an enzyme called alliinase that gets activated into allicin, an antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral compound. Allicin also targets bad guys like E. coli and Candida albicans.
Leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives have similar benefits and are great flavor enhancers to most savory dishes.
Ginger root has been viewed as a remedy for digestive complaints for ages. Fresh ginger can help in the production of stomach acid and stimulates the digestive system to keep food moving through the gut, and relieve symptoms such as gas and bloating.
Add freshly grated ginger to soups, stews, smoothies, or stir-fries. Pour boiling water on grated ginger to make refreshing ginger tea.
We can’t talk about the best foods for gut health without talking about fiber-rich fruits. Fruits are high in inulin and pectin, both prebiotic fibers that help good bacteria grow. You can’t go wrong with a banana, which is rich in inulin, as a part of your breakfast or midday snack. A squeeze of lemon on your avocado toast or salad supplies your gut with pectin, which decreases the number of bad bacteria in your gut.
Raspberries have a whopping eight grams of fiber per cup, and getting enough fiber is key for supporting digestive health. Raspberries make a great addition to smoothies and desserts.
Unsweetened Coconut yogurt is another gut-friendly food to consider, especially if you don’t tolerate dairy products. It comes with the added bonus of probiotics to encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
Here’s a FitOn PRO berry smoothie recipe that’ll make adding fiber-rich fruit to your diet easy and delicious.
Power Protein Smoothie
- 1 serving protein powder
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- ½ tsp stevia granules (optional)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- ½ frozen banana
- ½ cup frozen berries (optional)
- ½ cup almond milk, or milk of choice
- ½ cup ice cubes
- ½ cup filtered water
Step #1: Place all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until combined.
Step #2: Pour the smoothie into a glass and enjoy!
Supporting The Foundation of Health
Your gut is foundational to good health. Luckily, there are endless gut-friendly foods. Try incorporating variety and fiber to each meal and consider some of these foods for gut health to get started. Your stomach and the rest of your body will thank you for it.
Want more delicious recipes? Consider joining FitOn PRO for access to personalized meal plans and exclusive recipes to reach your fitness goals faster without counting calories and with foods you’ll love to eat.