The foods you eat can play a significant role in the function and health of your gut, so eating a diet full of gut-healthy food is crucial for good overall health. “It’s so essential to eat to keep our gut healthy, as our gut (our microbiome) is linked to so many systems within the body,” explains Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, registered dietitian nutritionist in Miami, Florida.
She notes that there are 100 trillion microbes lining your intestinal tract that play many roles and responsibilities, including:
“If these microbes are ever out of balance, it can cause harm to our gut and increase our risk for developing certain (negative) health conditions,” adds Ehsani.
On the flip side, eating certain foods can also worsen gut health. “On the other hand, a diet that is high in processed foods, added sugars, and unhealthy fats can disrupt the gut microbiome and contribute to the development of chronic health conditions,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RD, registered dietitian in Chicago and owner of food blog Once Upon a Pumpkin.
Here are 19 of the best foods for gut health, according to registered dietitians and research. And for tips on the foods to avoid when it comes to your gut microbiome, check out 11 Worst Snacks for Your Gut Health.
Kefir is a nutrient-rich probiotic powerhouse. “Probiotics are the good bacteria, they are live microorganisms that live in your gut (microbiome) and can help balance it out and keep it healthy,” says Ehsani. “The probiotics in kefir can help promote healthy digestion and regularity, and also help other stomach upsets such as bloating, diarrhea or constipation, or even help chronic gut conditions such as IBS or IBD.”
She adds that probiotics and other bioactive compounds formed during kefir’s fermentation can even help adjust and change this gut bacteria, too.
Asparagus has been shown to provide several benefits for gut health and digestion. According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, asparagus contains a unique carbohydrate called inulin. Inulin functions as a prebiotic, which can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
“These beneficial bacteria can improve overall gut health, aid in digestion, and support the immune system,” says Michalczyk. “Asparagus is also a good source of fiber, which can help regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation.”
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that has been known to help improve the health of your gut.
“Fermented foods might provide health benefits such as adding good bacteria to your gut,” says Pankonin. “These foods might also help lessen the severity of symptoms for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.”
You may want to add garlic to your diet if you’re wanting a healthier gut, because this flavorful plant will also help keep your gut healthy.
“Garlic acts as prebiotic, which is like food for a probiotic,” says Pankonin. “Prebiotics essentially promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria.”