26 Best Foods for Gut Health

26 Best Foods for Gut Health (+7 Foods to Avoid)

I am going to start this article with a disclaimer...the journey to great gut health can be a personal one, and what works for one person may not work for another. Having said that I have put together this list of 26 of the best foods for gut health.

While by no means is this an exhaustive list of all the healthful foods for gut health, I hope you find it a great starting point on your gut health journey.

26 Best Foods For Gut Health

The digestive system is complex, made up of trillions of bacteria that work together to power your body and keep your gut healthy.

The gut microbiome not only affects the way you store fat but how your immune system works. Research suggests that the gut may also affect the nervous system which controls brain function.

When it comes to a healthy gut, nothing is more important than what you put in your body. Your diet plays a massive factor in gut health.

By eating a healthy diet full of gut-friendly foods, you can promote the best environment for your gut microbiome. These 26 foods are perfect to incorporate into a healthy and diverse diet to keep your gut healthy and working properly.

  • 1. Apple Cider Vinegar
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Apple cider vinegar contains prebiotics that help to balance your microbiome and keep the bad bacteria in check. It also contains antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties which are all helpful in supporting a healthy gut.  

Vinegar has been shown to slightly lower some bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Colonies of bacteria like these contain more bacterial endotoxins known as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Higher levels of LPS are associated with a host of inflammatory health problems and leaky gut syndrome.   

  • 2. Bone Broth
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Bone broth is made by cooking the connective tissues and bones of animals. The broth is packed full of gelatin and amino acids glycine, glutamine, and proline. These amino acids can help to build up the fluid in your digestive tract so that food can pass more easily. Proline helps your body to metabolize food and synthesize proteins.  

Glutamine has been found to improve leaky gut by protecting the functioning of the intestinal wall. Consuming bone broth is a simple yet effective way to boost your digestive system while protecting your gut at the same time.

If you're in need or a deliciously easy bone broth recipe, I'd highly recommend you try this one Gut Healing Bone Broth.

  • 3. Dark Green Vegetables
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

It’s no surprise that dark green vegetables are good for you. We all know that greens are a part of a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Dark green vegetables are a fantastic source of insoluble fibre. This type of fibre adds bulk to the stool which helps to speed up the digestive system.

Research has found that a compound found in Brussels sprouts called sulforaphane may help to prevent the overgrowth of a type of bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Helicobacter pylori is the primary cause of peptic ulcers and gastric cancer.    

Dark green vegetables to add to your diet include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts

Green vegetables are also an excellent source of magnesium which can help relieve constipation. It does this by improving the muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract. As well as this, one study found that a specific sugar found in dark green vegetables feeds good bacteria in your gut. The same sugar is thought to help with digestion while impeding some of the harmful bacteria in your gut.

Here are my top recipes containing a good serving of greens:

  • 4. Almonds
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Almonds are not only a great snack when you’re on the go but they also have good prebiotic properties. They are high in fibre, fatty acids, and polyphenols. Almonds have been shown to increase Bifidobacteria in humans. Bifidobacteria is a type of beneficial bacteria that can improve gut health and prevent intestinal inflammation.     

For a person with a healthy gut, almonds will help keep you on the right path. However, if you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or are sensitive to high FODMAP foods then you should limit eating almonds.

Like other nuts, almonds contain a protein known as lectin. People with stomach problems such as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut syndrome may find almonds tricky to digest due to its lectin content. Soaking almonds can help to make them more digestible.

  • 5. Apples
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Apples are an excellent prebiotic and a rich source of pectin, a soluble fiber. Pectin is broken down by friendly bacteria in your gut. It helps to increase stool bulk and speed up the movement in your digestive tract. It’s commonly used to relieve both diarrhoea and constipation. Research suggests it can decrease the risk of intestinal infections and inflammation of the colon.

Apples should be avoided if you have SIBO or are sensitive to high FODMAP foods while you rebuild your gut. If you have a good working gut, then apples are great for supporting gut health and you won’t have any problems.

  • 6. Chia Seeds
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Chia seeds are a good source of fibre and can aid in digestion. They work in a similar way to a prebiotic, encouraging the growth of good bacteria and assisting with overall healthy digestion. The high fibre content works to promote regular bowel movements and healthy stools.

Chia seed puddings are some of the easiest recipes to make, and what is great about them is that you can make them up way in advance.

My article on the 9 proven benefits of chia seeds has a couple of easy recipes for you to try, or try some  of our other scrumptious gut healing recipes that contain chia seeds:

  • 7. Kefir
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Kefir is a cultured and fermented dairy product that is made by adding kefir “grains” to milk. These grains are made from a combination of yeasts, bacteria and milk proteins.

In several studies, kefir has been linked to an increase in healthy digestion-improving bacteria while causing a drop in harmful bacteria. Consuming kefir has also been associated with a decrease in inflammation in the gut, further promoting good digestion and a healthy gut.

Why not try some of my favourite kefir recipes?

  • 8. Sweet Potato
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Sweet potato contains antioxidants and fiber that aid the gut. It contains both insoluble and soluble fiber that works to provide several benefits to the gut.

Studies have found that antioxidants in purple sweet potatoes encourage the growth of healthy bacteria like  Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species.

Sweet potatoes are also a good source of resistant starch. Resistant starch works in a similar way to soluble and fermentable fibre. It helps to feed the friendly bacteria found in your gut and increase the production of fatty acids.

You can learn more about this in my article What is resistant starch and why you should care.

My top sweet potato recipes:

  • 9. Sauerkraut & Kimchi
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Sauerkaraut and kimchi are fermented vegetables that are a great source of probiotics, fiber and vitamins. Kimchi contains the bacteria Lactobacillus kimchii as well as other lactic acid bacteria which benefit digestive health.

Research shows that even just half a cup of sauerkraut can deliver up to 28 unique bacterial strains that feed friendly bacteria and promote gut health. As well as its probiotic properties, sauerkraut is a good source of vitamins B, C and K and contains sodium, iron, and manganese.

Here is one of my favourite recipes for fail-proof kimchi, Quick and Easy Rainbow Kimchi.

  • 10. Flaxseeds
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Flaxseeds are a rich source of antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, and fibre. They contain an antioxidant called lignans that are fibre-related polyphenols. Lignans are thought to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Studies have found that polyphenols support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may even help to eliminate candida and yeast from the body.

  • 11. Green Banana Flour
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

With a texture similar to lighter wheat flours, green banana flour has a mild banana taste when eaten raw. The flour is a good source of resistant starch which helps protect the gut and encourages the formation of friendly bacteria.

When you eat resistant starch, it goes to your large intestine where it’s digested by bacteria and turned into short-chain fatty acids. The most important of these fatty acids is called butyrate. Butyrate is used by the cells that line your colon as fuel.

My top green banana flour recipe:

  • 12. Asparagus
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Asparagus is a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Fiber is essential for good digestive health. Asparagus is especially high in insoluble fiber which helps to add bulk to the stool and encourages regular bowel movements.

It also contains small amounts of soluble fiber as well. Soluble fiber feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut. Eating asparagus as part of a diverse and fiber-rich diet is a great way to achieve a healthy digestive system.

  • 13. Seaweed
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Gut bacteria play an integral role in your overall health. About 25-75% of seaweed’s dry weight comes from its fiber content. The fiber in seaweed is higher than a lot of other fruits and vegetables. Additionally, seaweed contains sugars known as sulfated polysaccharides. These sugars have been found to increase the growth of friendly bacteria in the gut.

  • 14. Cassava Flour
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Cassava is a root vegetable. Cassava flour is a whole food that keeps all of its fibre content and can be used as a base in your baked goods. Cassava is high in resistant starch and works in a similar way to soluble fibre. Resistant starch promotes good bacteria and is known for encouraging a healthy gut.

My top cassava flour recipes:

  • 15. Kombucha
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Kombucha is a fermented tea that’s made by adding certain strains of bacteria and yeast to green or black tea. It’s then fermented before being consumed. Kombucha’s high probiotic content improves digestion and promotes gut health. Studies in mice have shown kombucha may also contribute to the healing of stomach ulcers.

It is important to not overdo it with Kombucha however and I often recommend my clients introduce it in small quantity's once there gut is in good working order.

  • 16. Mango
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Mangoes are a good source of fibre. Fresh-frozen mango has been shown to be more helpful in relieving chronic constipation compared to a commonly given fibre treatment. Those given the fruit reported less severe symptoms and improved biomarkers of inflammation in the gut.

Taking care and nourishing your microbiome is the key overall health. A type of bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila promotes a healthy metabolism and helps your body deal with harmful microorganisms. Keeping the bacteria colony well fed is crucial and consuming mangoes is a great place to start.

I discuss Akkermansia muciniphila in more detail in this article where you can find out exactly what it is and how it benefits you.

  • 17. Coconut Oil
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Coconut oil can aid digestion, improve bacteria and gut health. The oil can be easily digested which makes it easy for your body to use.

Coconut oil helps the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. It also contains lauric acid which has been found to kill harmful pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and fungi.

  • 18. Wild Salmon
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the body. People with inflammatory bowel disease or other digestive problems often have inflammation in the gut. The omega-3 fatty acids may help to lower inflammation, therefore, improve overall digestion.  

  • 19. Garlic
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Garlic is very beneficial to your immune system and gut as it has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Garlic can act as a prebiotic, a source for the good bacteria. It’s naturally high in inulin, a type of fibre that's good for your digestive system. One thing to remember is that garlic starts to lose its prebiotic effect the more it's cooked so try rubbing it on toast or adding it raw to a salad instead.

  • 20. Onion
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Onions are a natural prebiotic that help to feed the good bacteria in the gut. A diet rich in prebiotics foods such as onions and garlic can help to keep your gut healthy and encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestine.

Onions are also a natural antihistamine food, which I wrote about in this article.

  • 21. Gelatin
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Gelatin is a product that’s derived from collagen and has been shown to have a number of health benefits as well as play an important role in gut health.

One study showed that gelatin helped to protect the gut wall from damage. Gelatin contains several amino acids that are the building blocks for proteins which are essential for the functioning of vital organs and providing energy.

  • 22. Hemp Seeds
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Hemp seeds are nutritious and a good source of healthy fats, minerals, fibre and proteins. Whole hemp seeds contain both insoluble and soluble fibre, benefitting digestive health and promoting a balanced gut. De-hulled hemp seeds or shelled hemp seeds have very little fibre in as most of the fibre lies in the shell, so be sure to choose whole hemp seeds.

My top hemp seed recipe:

  • 23. Grass-fed/Free-range Meats
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Grass-fed meats are a great source of healthy fats and vitamins and contain no GMOs with fewer pesticide residue. Some people with food sensitives to corn and soy may find grain-fed meats can flare up uncomfortable symptoms like bloating or heartburn. Grass-fed meats can be easier to digest and are more likely to be free from antibiotics and hormones.

My top grass-fed meats recipes:

  • 24. Papaya
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Papaya contains a digestive enzyme called papain. Papain assists the digestive system by helping to break down protein fibres. The enzyme contributes to a healthy digestive tract and may also ease IBS symptoms like bloating and constipation.   

  • 25. Ginger
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Ginger has long been used as a traditional ingredient in Eastern medicine as a way to treat nausea and improve digestion. It’s been shown to accelerate gastric emptying. This is the time it takes for food to leave the stomach and enter the small intestine. By moving food through the digestive system quicker, it helps to reduce symptoms of slow digestion such as heartburn and stomach discomfort.  

  • 26. Erythritol
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Erythritol is a low-calorie, natural sweetener that tastes almost exactly like sugar. Erythritol offers several advantages over sugar as it doesn’t cause tooth decay or spike your sugar levels. Unlike other sweeteners, erythritol shouldn’t cause any stomach discomfort, however, it shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities.

My top recipes containing erythritol:

The Bottom Line

The food you eat has a big impact on the types of bacteria that live inside your gut. The trillions of bacteria in your body, most of which are in your intestines make up your gut flora and incredibly important for your overall health.

Following a diverse and healthy diet is the best way to promote a healthy gut. Stick to healthy fats from nuts and seeds like walnuts, pistachios, and flaxseed. Focus on choosing carbohydrates that are high in fibre but have a low-glycemic index like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables including zucchini, spinach, and cauliflower.

Slow burning carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and butternut squash are a great option as well as hypoallergenic proteins such as rice or hemp. When buying meats, find proteins like free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, or grass-fed meats. What you eat will form the basis of your gut and you need to choose the rights foods for encouraging a healthy gut.   

Worst Foods for Gut Health to Avoid

To get the most out of your gut, eating the rights foods isn’t enough. You need to limit or even avoid foods that are bad for your gut. Here are some of the worst food for gut health.

  • 1. Gluten
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

The chances are you’ve heard at least one person say that gluten isn’t good for you. While many people are sensitive to gluten or allergic and have to avoid it completely, research has shown that even if you’re not gluten-sensitive, it’s not a good idea to eat it for gut healing in general. Gluten can have long-term significant effects on the gut bacteria which in turn can affect your overall health.  

  • 2. Dairy
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

When it comes to dairy, some people are going to be more sensitive than others. There are different types of dairy and some may be fine for one individual and not for another.

Research has shown that a diet rich in dairy can have a big impact on your gut microbiome. It only takes a few days of increased dairy intake for those changes in your gut to take place.

  • 3. GMO Foods
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Genetically modified foods such as corn, wheat, and soy can be found in a variety of products. GMO-soy or corn have been made tolerant to the pesticide Roundup which means they get doused with the pesticide. Studies have found that glyphosate which is the active ingredient in Roundup could lead to a microbial imbalance or gut dysbiosis and then leaky gut.

  • 4. Nightshade Vegetables
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Again, whether you avoid nightshade vegetables or not is specific to an individual. Certain people are much more sensitive to nightshade vegetables and should, therefore, avoid consuming them.

Common members of the nightshade family include chilis, eggplant, tomatoes and paprika. These vegetables may cause problems for some people but be absolutely fine for others.

  • 5. Processed Foods
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

No doubt, you already knew that heavily processed foods are bad for you. Processed foods break down into components that feed the less friendly bacteria in your gut as well as offer a number of negative health effects.

By eating a lot of processed foods, you reduce the number of species of bacteria in your gut, often called your gut diversity. This is very crucial as the more diverse your gut bacteria, the better your health is likely to be.

  • 6. Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Put simply, sugar is bad for your body. When I say sugar I mean all forms of sugar and artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, white sugar, and brown sugar. Whereas prebiotics breakdown to feed the good bacteria, sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in your gut. The more sugar or artificial sweeteners you eat, the more the bad bacteria can grow and crowd out the good bacteria leading to several health problems.

  • 7. Vegetable Oils
26 Best Foods for Gut Health

Vegetable oils are high in linoleic acid and other easily oxidized omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. With these fatty acids, a balanced ratio is essential to good health. Evidence suggests that omega-3 can influence the gut-brain axis by affecting the gut microbiome.

Unlike coconut oil or olive oil, vegetable oils have been extracted and processed in a very unnatural way. Vegetable oils contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats which are highly unstable and oxidize easily.  

Summary

The gut plays a vital role in your overall wellbeing and health. It’s responsible for controlling several functions from your weight and immune system to your mood and brain health. By eating foods that promote friendly bacteria and aid in proper digestion, you can feel the gut benefits.

Eat a diverse range of foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables and fermented foods. The best way to maintain a healthy gut flora is through making the right food choices. If you’re not sure where to start, try our Gut Heal and Nourish Program for an easy to follow plan.

If you are looking to get to the root cause of your gut issues, you may want to check out our gut microbiome testing.

Thanks for reading I hope your enjoyed the article, if you did please share it or leave a comment below 🙂

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