Best Foods to Eat for Gut Health

You are what you eat.

It’s long been said that you are what you eat, and nutritional science is increasingly finding that there’s a lot of truth to that axiom. The gut — more specifically, the diverse microbiome of bacteria that reside within it — can have far-reaching health impacts. Research has shown that the gut microbiome even has impacts on cardiovascular health.

“Strong gut health is linked to many benefits, such as improved immune, heart, brain and reproductive health,” explains Aderet Dana Hoch, a New York-based registered dietitian and owner of Dining With Nature by Aderet. “A healthy gut is also linked to enhanced mood and better sleep.”

In addition, the gut is critical to overall health, longevity and even recovery from injuries and surgery.

“There are more neurons and nerve connections from the gut to the brain than anywhere else in the body,” adds Dr. Hooman M. Melamed, a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon in Beverly Hills, California.

Your gut is home to many organisms.

Everyone has a microbiome, which is a collection of more than 100 trillion microbes that live on and in your body, primarily in the large intestine. With approximately 300 to 500 different strains of bacteria in your colon, your gut is full of trillions of tiny organisms that help your gut carry out its work. Having the right and diverse mix of gut bacteria has been linked to numerous health benefits such as:

— improved digestion

— enhanced immune function

— reduced risk of some diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, cancer and metabolic diseases, like obesity.

Sometimes, taking antibiotics can disrupt your gut health and upset the balance of healthy microbes in your gut. Then it becomes especially important to eat a diet rich in gut-friendly foods. Certain foods, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, can help foster a healthy gut microbiome.

“Having diversity in your diet can improve the gut microbiota and allow more of the good bacteria to flourish,” explains Amber Core, a registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Here are the best types of foods and beverages for gut health.

1. Probiotic foods

Anastasia Gialouris, a registered dietitian in Brooklyn, New York, says that “to support a healthy gut, we need to support our probiotics.”

Probiotcs are live, health-promoting microbes, mainly bacteria and yeast. Examples of probiotics include:

— Lactobacillus: Found in fermented foods, such as yogurt.

— Bifidobacterium: Found in some dairy products.

— Saccharomyces boulardii: A type of yeast found often found in probiotic supplements.

While probiotics can be sourced from supplements, many (but not all) fermented foods are teaming with probiotics, which can help populate the gut with beneficial microbes. In a small, 10-week study conducted at Stanford University and published in 2021 in the journal Cell, researchers found that a diet high in fermented foods boosts microbiome diversity and supports the immune system’s ability to fight infection.

Examples of fermented foods that are rich sources of probiotics include:

— Raw sauerkraut.


— Kimchi.

— Miso.

— Kefir.

— Kombucha.

Make sure to look for a label stating that the product contains live and active cultures. You should also be able to find the full probiotic name on the label.

2. Prebiotic foods

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are plant fibers that the healthy bacteria in the gut feed on. Although all prebiotics are fiber, not all fibers are prebiotics. When healthy gut bacteria break down prebiotics, they get energy for themselves. This increases their chance of survival in the gut. A diet high in prebiotic foods improves digestion, supports the immune system and helps with the absorption of nutrients.

Prebiotic-rich foods include:

Bananas, raspberries, apples and kiwis.

— Leeks, onions and garlic.

Beans and legumes.

— Barley and oats.


— Dandelion greens.

— Chicory root.

— Asparagus.

— Jerusalem artichoke.

Konjac root.

— Flaxseeds.

3. High-fiber foods

Good bacteria also love to chomp down on fiber. Fiber is a type of nondigestible carbohydrate that passes through the body without breaking down into its constituent parts. It helps your body regulate how to use sugar and can keep hunger and blood sugar levels in check.

Fiber has long been touted as a great way of keeping your bowels regular as well. It can help firm up loose stools or alleviate constipation by helping the colon push waste along.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently recommends a daily fiber intake of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men up to age 50.

High-fiber foods include:

— Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale.

— Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli.

— Beans, peas, lentils and other legumes.

— Apples, pears, grapes and other fresh fruits.

— Prunes, raisins and other dried fruits.


— Root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots and beets.

— Whole grains, such as oats, quinoa, brown rice and whole-wheat bread.

— Popcorn.

— Dates.

— Nuts and seeds.

Eating fruits and vegetables with their peel will boost your fiber intake even more.

Other ways to support good Gut health

While research is ongoing, adding a prebiotic or probiotic supplement to your diet may help improve your gut health. Of course, most experts recommend getting your prebiotic and probiotics from whole foods in your diet. Ensuring good gut health goes beyond simply your diet.

“Gut health is not only influenced by what we eat, but other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, sleep quality, physical activity and mental health, like stress and anxiety,” Hoch explains.

Drinking plenty of water can also help support a healthy digestive system. It’ also import to check if you have food allergies or food sensitivities. You may have a food intolerance if you have symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain.

Understanding whether you have a condition such as celiac disease (an inability to digest gluten) or lactose intolerance (an inability to digest certain dairy-based proteins) can help you select foods that are less likely to irritate your digestive system.

Melamed adds that you should always read the ingredients of what you’re buying. Some products — such as breakfast cereals, salad dressings, ketchup and other condiments — are full of hidden sugarsand ingredients that could disrupt your gut microbiome’s balance.

Best foods for your gut health

The types of food that can support good gut health include:

— Probiotics, including fermented foods.

— Prebiotic foods.

— High-fiber foods.

More from U.S. News

Health Issues That Are Sometimes Mistaken for Gluten Sensitivity

The Best Foods to Prevent and Manage Diabetes

Foods That Stop Bloating

Best Foods to Eat for Gut Health originally appeared on

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up