The 50 Best Foods (and Recipes) for Gut Health
Experience less bloating, stomach distress, and constipation with these 50 foods and recipes that will boost your gut health.
Asparagus contains prebiotic fibers “that serve as fuel for the good bacteria in your digestive tract,” says Mike Roussell, PhD, cofounder of Neuro Coffee. Prebiotics, which are found in other high-fiber foods, are “distinctly different from probiotics, which are the bacteria themselves,” Roussell says. Prebiotics act as the food source for probiotics. In short, probiotics need healthy things benefitsto eat when they’re in your stomach—and prebiotics act as that trusted food source. Getting a healthy dose of prebiotics in your daily diet can help make your probiotics healthier and happier and boost your gut health. Check out these 13 probiotic foods to work into your diet.
Any richly colored fruits or vegetables, like blueberries, pomegranates, and beets, are rich sources of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. “Anthocyanins contain several health benefits—especially around the health of your blood vessels—but they are also poorly absorbed in your digestive tract, meaning that you don’t take up all the anthocyanins that you eat,” Roussell says. “That is actually fine because the bacteria in your gut love anthocyanins. The good bacteria in your gut consume the leftovers, which helps them grow and flourish, making your digestive tract a healthier place.”
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Gut expert Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, a functional medicine practitioner, says that this delicious and popular fruit is a boon for bacteria in your gut. She says that in addition to having healing properties, avocado promotes butyrate—a healthy fatty acid—in the digestive system, and that helps calm inflammation. Research suggests that butyrate is particularly beneficial to gut health. Another study indicates that it might ease gut-related health conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Read about the only Crohn’s disease diet these experts recommend.
This tart hot dog topper deserves a more revered space on your plate, Roussell says. A fermented cabbage condiment, sauerkraut “contains good bacteria that you can use to improve your digestive health,” he says. The fermentation process introduces plenty of healthy probiotics. As long as the sauerkraut is fresh and not pasteurized, the bacteria live on. But don’t rest on your laurels if you eat a few probiotic-rich foods each week, Roussell advises. “It is important to remember that there is a large turnover of bacteria in your digestive tract, so you constantly need to be providing your body with an influx of healthy bacteria,” he says. “This is why, for the long-term health of your gut, it is important to find food that you enjoy eating and will eat on a daily basis.”
Like asparagus, onions are a great source of prebiotics, Roussell says. Leeks, the onion’s cousin, also get the thumbs-up for gut health. Onions break down very slowly, and the lingering fiber gives the bacteria in your stomach something to snack on while it grows and multiplies. Your gut could be the key to understanding a lot about your health.
Broccoli and cauliflower
Cruciferous vegetables are beloved for their low-carb count, versatile uses, and high-fiber total. However, Lukyanovsky suggests that there’s another reason to love them: They may boost your gut health and and help your digestive tract stay healthy and keep things running on the regular. Research shows that these veggies’ anti-inflammatory effects help prevent gut irritation and help your body clear out unwanted substances, too. Plus, the fiber, which breaks down very slowly in your stomach, provides prebiotics for the good bacteria to eat.
Almonds may very well be the perfect snack. They pack a great deal of fiber in a lower-calorie bite. Plus, one study found, almonds and almond skins promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and slow the growth of the unhealthy variety. Plus, Lukyanovsky says, they’re a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which decreases inflammation and boosts brain health. Don’t ignore these signs that your health gut needs a boost.
Cottage cheese with live cultures
Because of the intense focus on gut health, many food manufacturers have started adding bacteria to products so that you can boost your bacteria bounty. Better yet, manufacturers are letting natural bacteria live, when they once killed them off with high heat. A snack of cottage cheese each day is enough to provide billions of probiotics to your stomach. Just be sure to read the label and look for L. acidophilus and B. bifidum, the two most common bacteria used in cottage cheese. Be sure to note these probiotic-rich foods (that aren’t yogurt) that are also good for your diet.
The high-fiber content of sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes creates a feast for probiotics in your stomach. Indeed, like asparagus and onions, these prebiotic-rich root vegetables break down and move slowly through your gut. That gives the good bacteria, the probiotics, in your gut a healthy snack while they do their bad-bacteria-busting duty. Purple sweet potatoes are also a good source of anthocyanins, the antioxidants that help healthy bacteria flourish.
Creamy Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Salad recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
Many traditional potato salads are filled with high-calorie mayonnaise. This dairy-free version from nutritionist Kimberly Snyder manages to be plenty creamy and flavorful without the dairy. Plus, roasting the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them turns them extra sweet and toothsome instead of mealy and grainy. Bonus: This recipe also has a healthy dose of green onions, which provides a bit of prebiotics, too.
Lukyanovsky recommends that her patients incorporate olive oil into their diet because it “supports liver detoxification,” she says. Research also suggests that this common source of healthy fat is great for your gut health because it reduces inflammation. The primary fatty acid in olive oil, monounsaturated fatty acids, helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal tract. This makes the process of breaking down and absorbing nutrients from your food easier. It also gives your gut bacteria a healthier place to call home. Find out if you really need to take a probiotic after taking antibiotics.
“The best foods for gut health contain a little-known sugar called inulin,” says Steven Gundry, MD, a heart surgeon. “It turns out that inulin is an oligosaccharide that we cannot digest, but friendly bacteria that promote health need it to grow and thrive.” Dr. Gundry says it’s important to give those probiotics the foods they like to eat if you want to ensure that you have long-term great health. Other good sources of inulin include asparagus, jicama, chicory, garlic, onions, and leeks.
Fresh ground flaxseeds
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Dr. Gundry also recommends working fresh ground flaxseeds or psyllium husks into your regular diet plan. Both are good sources of healthy fats, and both “contain other soluble fibers that feed friendly bacteria,” he says. Don’t bother with whole flaxseeds. They pass right through your digestive system intact. If you want the benefit for gut health, you’ll have to grind them yourself or look for the preground variety at the store. Don’t ignore these 13 signs that your microbiome could be in trouble.
If you’ve never had a bite of this funky Korean cabbage condiment, now’s the time. Kimchi is fermented in a spicy-sweet brine, where it turns soft and chewy. During the fermentation process, the kimchi soaks up plenty of good gut bugs. You can make your own kimchi or buy some at the store. Just be sure you’re picking up fresh kimchi, not a pasteurized product. Pasteurization heats up the cabbage and kills all the bacteria you want for gut health. “The cabbage family—including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, arugula, bok choy, Napa cabbage, sauerkraut, and kimchi—all contain gut-bug-friendly compounds that actually tell immune cells lining the gut to calm down and chill out,” Dr. Gundry says. “It makes any meal less inflammatory.”
Summer Kimchi recipe
Homemade kimchi is surprisingly easy to make. But before you do, try a few varieties of this condiment to find a flavor profile you like. It helps to know what you’re going for when you’re making your brine and picking your herbs and spices. This kimchi recipe calls for ginger and red chili paste, but you can mix up the flavors with lemongrass, red pepper flakes, or any other ingredients that tickle your tongue. The possibilities are endless.
“There’s something about happy yellow dandelions that coaxes out smiles on even the grumpiest days,” says Jamie Morea, a microbiome expert and founder of Hyperbiotics. Their cheery disposition aside, dandelion greens are one of the best foods for your gut health. That’s because research indicates they’re a good source of prebiotics, the food other good bacteria eat. One study even discovered that dandelion greens are particularly effective fighters against some bad bacteria, including the ones that can lead to staph infections and foodborne illnesses. Learn the 13 best foods to eat when you’re feeling bloated.
Chia seeds are very filling, thanks to fiber—11 grams in just two tablespoons. “Aztec warriors believed that just a single spoonful could sustain them for an entire 24 hours,” Morea says. “They’re a wonderful addition to your prebiotic snack lineup because they have the capacity to hold lots of water to help maintain hydration.” This soluble fiber, while keeping you full, also helps keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly so you maintain regular bowel movements. “Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach and intestine and forms a gel that slows digestion. This causes you to feel full and may help with weight loss,” says Alexandra Guillaume, MD, director of gastrointestinal motility and an assistant professor of medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.
Chia Seed Delight recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
Chia puddings are a fun way to eat these seeds because the moisture turns the petite pieces into gelatinlike lumps. Mixing them with plant-based milk helps eliminate some of the sliminess and adds a delicate creaminess, as in this Chia Seed Delight from Snyder. For a bit of sweetness and a greater dose of good bacteria, you can add fiber-rich fruits like blueberries and raspberries. Find out how to pick the best probiotic for weight loss.
Kefir is a cultured, fermented dairy beverage that is best described as a drinkable yogurt. It’s thick and tangy, and certainly not for everyone, but it is one of the best vessels for getting healthy bacteria into your diet. “Foods with probiotics can help rebalance the bacteria in our gut, especially after a gastrointestinal illness or a course of antibiotics,” says practicing geriatrician Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, chief scientific officer at Clover Health. “For most people with lactose intolerance, kefir and yogurt are easier on the stomach than milk, too.”
Frozen mixed berries
This convenient product doesn’t have any direct bacterial benefit, but it’s what it does for your overall gut health that counts. “I often recommend frozen mixed berries because they’re a great source of fiber, which helps promote regular digestion, a key for overall gut health,” says Jessica Cording, RD, an integrative nutrition health coach. “Also, because they’re frozen at peak freshness, all those awesome health-promoting antioxidants are locked in.” Find out why a healthy microbiome isn’t just good for your digestion but may also help you live longer.
“This fermented black or green tea drink has recently become widely popular, and for good reason,” says Allison Childress, PhD, RDN, CSSD, LD, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University. “It is a functional probiotic drink that contains bacteria and yeast essential for gut health.” If you’re new to the fizzy brew, you can find bottles—often starting at $4 or $5 each—in your grocery store’s fresh-food section. The bubbly nature can introduce gas to your stomach if you chug it, so start slow.
Fermented fresh pickles
Like sauerkraut and kimchi, pickles can be fermented in a salty brine that introduces plenty of good-for-your-gut bacteria. (Note that pickles made with vinegar won’t have probiotics—check the label.) “The fermentation process of pickles and other pickled foods increases the amounts of probiotics they contain,” Childress says. “This makes them not only easier to digest but beneficial to gut health.”
This unique type of honey, which is made by bees pollinating the Manuka bush, native to New Zealand, is revered for its antibacterial properties. In particular, research shows that this type of honey may help treat gastric ulcers. It’s also been shown to be effective at stopping the growth of Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection that causes severe inflammation of the bowel. Make sure you know the 15 worst foods for your stomach.
Nuts of all stripes are good for gut health, but pistachios stand out from the crowd. These nuts are filled with protein and dietary fiber, which helps keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly. In addition, one study showed that pistachios were more effective than almonds at boosting the number of “potentially beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria. Increasing the consumption of almonds or pistachios appears to be an effective means of modifying gut microbiota composition.”
Tempeh is a fermented soybean food. Vegetarians often use it to substitute for meat in recipes, but even meat eaters could benefit from a bit of tempeh in their diet. That’s because this food is a good source of prebiotics, the type of fiber that healthy bacteria like to eat. Tempeh is the best soy-based source of gut-boosting bugs, better than tofu. Plus, soy-based tempeh is a better option that bean-based tempeh, since one study found that the soy variety was better at encouraging the growth of good bacteria.
Tempeh Gyro Lettuce Wraps recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
If you’re unsure how to cook with tempeh, start with a recipe that’s easy to make. Snyder’s Tempeh Gyro Lettuce Wraps are wonderful for introductory purposes. For a bigger bacteria boost, replace the butter lettuce leaves with heartier greens, which have more fiber. Swiss chard, even kale, would be a great alternative.
These high-protein pulses also deliver a hefty dose of fiber, a great way to encourage the growth of good bacteria in your microbiome. One study showed that lentils, above all other pulses, are best for gut health: “When comparing to pulses, lentils have the highest starch content and insoluble dietary fiber content and high quantities of prebiotic carbohydrates that maintain the gut microbiota,” the researchers wrote. Plus, lentils are a good source of polyphenols, antioxidants that help fight a number of diseases, from diabetes to cancer. Don’t miss these 21 health secrets your gut is trying to tell you.
Tomato Basil Veggie Lentil Soup recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
When cooked, lentils turn toothsome, chewy, and even a bit creamy. When they’re in a soup or stew, they can take on a downright luscious texture. They’re the perfect filling addition to your basic tomato-basil soup, like in this version from Snyder. In fact, this soup is filled with several ingredients that are guaranteed to promote your gut health, from broccoli and spinach to onion and lentils.
Fungi are your friends—or, at least, they’re your stomach’s friends. Mushrooms are a good source of polysaccharides, a type of sugar or carbohydrate that your belly bacteria feed on for growth and development. One study shows that mushrooms spur the growth of good bacteria. They also protect your intestines against infection and inflammation. In short, they’re one of the best foods you can eat for gut health.
King Mushroom Green Bean Bowl recipe
Victoria Wall Harris/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
With this treat from Snyder, you’re getting several foods that are good for your gut: avocado, kale, mushrooms, and green beans. They supply prebiotics and heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory fats that can prevent irritation in your gut. The quinoa is also a good source of prebiotic fiber, but if you use sprouted quinoa, you’ll boost your dose of good gut nutrients. Learn the top heathy-eating tips from 17 nutritionists.
Not all probiotics can outlast the fermentation and culturing process that cheese undergoes; however, research suggests that the probiotics in cheeses like gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar do survive and make it through the gastrointestinal tract, where they serve up a dose of gut-healthy bacteria.
Oatmeal is an old-fashioned food that never seems to fall out of favor in the nutrition community. That’s because this high-fiber food boasts many health benefits. Oats are a good source of prebiotics; they also deliver plenty of insoluble fiber that can keep your gastrointestinal system working.
As if you needed permission to partake of this sweet treat: Research suggests that chocolate may have a positive impact on your gut microbiota. Foods with higher levels of cacao may help prevent the growth of bad bacteria and act as a prebiotic for existing good bacteria. Of course, too much sugar could be bad for your gut, so look for low-sugar varieties of high-dose chocolate. The darker, the better. Read more about the health benefits of chocolate.
While miso may be high in sodium, a little bit goes a long way for big flavor and healthy gut benefits. This fermented soybean paste—which comes in several colors, each with a unique flavor—contains probiotics that treat your tummy to a dose of good bacteria. You can use miso in soups, the traditional dish for this salty spread; it’s also great in unheated applications (heating sometimes kills the good bacteria), such as mixing it into mayonnaise for a quick sandwich spread or stirring it into Greek yogurt for a tangy dip. Check out these 11 immunity-boosting foods, in addition to yogurt, that you need to fight off colds and flu.
Ginger Miso Golden Beet & Fennel Salad recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
If the golden color doesn’t make your heart flutter, the incredible gut-health benefits of this salad from Snyder just might: Miso provides a punch of probiotics and salty tang. Both beets and fennel are good sources of prebiotics and slow-digesting carbohydrates, the preferred food source for probiotics already living in your gut. Plus, because beets don’t wilt like lettuce, you can make this good-gut side ahead and eat it all week.
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it will also help make your gut healthier. One study demonstrated that apples have an anti-inflammatory benefit on the gastrointestinal system. Plus, the fiber-rich fruit provides existing bacteria with a sweet snack. Another bonus: In the same study, researchers found that the same prebiotic action may also be related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In other words, there’s a chance that your gut bacteria may have a direct impact on your heart health. Making eating an apple part of your routine might help keep you regular, and it may also protect your ticker.
The Glowing Green Smoothie recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
Juice is a great way to get loads of vitamins and minerals from your favorite vegetables and fruit, but smoothies have an added benefit: You get to eat all the healthy fiber, too. In this Glowing Green Smoothie from Snyder, you can load up on gut-pleasing bacteria by using fiber-rich fruits like apples, pears, and bananas to form the sweet base of this smoothie. Greens, including spinach and romaine lettuce, round out the drink and the good-bacteria ingredients. Check out the best way to store probiotic supplements.
It may be the first food you think of when you’re talking about probiotics and gut health—and for good reason. Yogurt, a fermented dairy product, is a rich source of billions of probiotics and good-for-you bacteria. Eating yogurt regularly can boost the populations of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria bacteria, research shows. Both of these bacteria help keep you regular and protect your stomach and intestines from bad-bacteria damage. Almost every type of live-culture yogurt has the probiotic benefit. Just be sure to read the label, and avoid any with lots of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which can actually destroy the good bacteria.
Garlic will keep vampires away, and it does a decent job keeping bad bacteria at bay, too. Garlic, like onions, is a rich source of prebiotic fiber. This pungent ingredient breaks down slowly, giving the bacteria in your gut a healthy meal of good fiber.
Healthy Greek Bean Dip recipe
Taste of Home
Serve up a dose of both pre- and probiotics with this crowd-pleasing dip. Beans and garlic are rich sources of prebiotics, and a scoop of Greek yogurt adds the probiotics. You can help grow the microflora of your family and friends without them being any wiser to your good gut intentions.
This hearty whole grain is a wonderful source of insoluble fiber, which helps keep your digestive tract flowing smoothly. “Insoluble fiber passes through the small intestine without breaking down,” Dr. Guillaume says. “It’s important for intestinal health because it adds bulk and draws water to the stool, aiding its passage through the large intestine. Good sources include whole grains, wheat and corn bran, popcorn, seeds, nuts, broccoli, cabbage, root vegetables, onions, green leafy vegetables, and fruit and vegetable skins.” Plus, when barley breaks down and ferments in your intestines, it produces butyric acid, the preferred fuel for your intestines’ cells. Don’t ignore these 8 signs that you’re on a bad diet.
Nutty Barley Bake recipe
Taste of Home
This filling side dish is a wonderful way to make sure you’re getting gut-healthy ingredients on your plate. In addition to fiber-rich barley, this grain bake has onions and almonds, both of which provide a prebiotic snack to the bacteria in your gut.
If you have difficulties processing lactose (a sugar that’s in milk-based foods), you may feel left out of the probiotic possibilities. Thankfully, many nondairy yogurts—look for ones made with soy, almond, or coconut milk—have the same great probiotic benefits as their dairy kin. What’s more, because your gut won’t be dealing with the lactose it cannot absorb, you’ll have a better chance of reaping the rewards of this fermented food.
These tropical fruits are good for more than a hit of potassium. They also contain polysaccharides, or carbohydrates that are slow to break down in the stomach. They’re another prebiotic food, so they help the bacteria in your belly prosper. For a double dose of microbiome-building bacteria, enjoy your bananas with a cup of yogurt or blended with kefir for a smoothie-like sipper.
Vanilla Cherry Nice Cream recipe
When you’re craving something sweet and chilled, reach for your blender and whip up this fruit-based frozen delight from Snyder that just happens to be a good source of good gut bacteria. In this cream you’ll use frozen bananas, with their prebiotics and fiber, as the base. Add cherries for fiber and a sweet-tart kick, too. Don’t like the cherry-banana combo? Get creative. As long as you leave the frozen bananas in place for the prebiotics, you can add any number of ingredients. Honey would be a good option, as would blueberries or raspberries, which are also great for your gut health. Read up on everything you need to know about probiotics.
Traditional buttermilk, like kefir and yogurt, is a fermented dairy product. That means it’s brimming with good-for-your-gut bacteria. But look closely at the buttermilk labels: Cultured buttermilk, which is what you’re most likely to find on grocery store shelves, has very few bacteria. It’s often heated or pasteurized to make it shelf-stable. Ask your grocery store or local dairy farmer about getting traditional buttermilk, or the milk that’s left after making fresh butter. Make sure you aren’t falling for these common myths about dairy.
Like tempeh and miso, natto is a type of fermented soybean food. That means it’s rich in probiotics, but research suggests that this sticky bean food may also improve your bone health. Thanks to high levels of vitamin K, natto may protect your bones while it’s also providing gut-protecting bacteria to your belly.
It might not be prized for its appearance, but seaweed is esteemed in healthy-eating circles. That’s because these long ribbons of plant material are good for your gut health. They provide plenty of prebiotics, whether you eat it dried as a snack, in soup, or wrapped around fish for sushi. Seaweed’s rich content of fiber and sugars called polysaccharides gives gut bacteria exactly what they crave. Check out these 10 other incredible health benefits of probiotic foods.
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are filled with fiber and resistant starch. Both of these nutrients are good for your gut. First, the starch and fiber, which are slow to break down in your stomach, provide nutrition for your stomach’s supply of bacteria. Second, research shows that preventing the overgrowth of bad bacteria lowers your risk of digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Chickpea “Tuna” Nori Wraps recipe
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder
Here’s another double hitter: This sushi-like wrap features both prebiotic-rich nori (seaweed) and fiber-rich chickpeas. For a snack or a meal, this wrap from Snyder is a great way to boost your bacteria variety and help keep your microbiome strong. Now check out these 21 health secrets your gut is trying to tell you.