Supporting your digestion and gut health is important for obvious reasons (if you have ever had trouble going #2, you know what we are talking about). But having a healthy gut may also support some surprising functions too, such as supporting our immune health and possibly influencing our mental health.
There are many factors that can impact our digestive and gut health, including our genetics, mode of birth delivery (vaginal birth vs. being born via a c-section), and the use of certain medications. And when it comes to our diet, certain food choices can support our gut health tremendously, while others can hinder this health aspect. Generally, eating a diet rich in ultra-processed foods, a diet low in fruits and vegetables, and including large quantities of alcohol in a diet can negatively impact gut health.
And on the flip side, eating a diet rich in produce, plant-based protein sources (like nuts and beans), unsaturated fats (like avocado and olive oil), and sources of fiber have been linked to positive effects on gut health. Fermented foods can supply the body with probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, which can help keep your gut health goals in check too.
And these are the six that should find a spot in your gut health-supporting dishes to reap all of the benefits of these impressive food options. Read on to learn what they are, and for more, don’t miss 8 Best Supplements for Gut Health.
In traditional medicine, watercress is a food for digestion that has been utilized for digestion complaint relief. It is low in calories and is a natural source of fiber, a nutrient that helps support digestive health. Data published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that consuming watercress and other cruciferous vegetables can help positively alter the gut microbiome, helping the gut have a healthy balance of “good” bacteria that can help support our immune health and potentially help combat chronic low-grade inflammation.
But what makes this vegetable so appealing in the gut-health world is the fact that some data links consumption of cruciferous vegetables, like watercress, with a reduced risk of stomach cancer.
Pistachios are a plant-based source of complete protein that contains 3 grams of fiber per one-ounce serving. Data shows that the combination of fiber and phytochemicals present in pistachios can reach a part of the colon, ultimately helping modulate the microbiota composition. In one study comparing the effects of daily pistachio consumption compared to almond, pistachios showed a higher effect than almonds on the gut microbiota, increasing the number of potentially beneficial bacteria which may support our health.
The combination of gut health-supporting fiber with the healthy fats and plant-based proteins that pistachios provide may help lower blood sugars among those with diabetes, which is certainly a bonus.
Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that contains lactic acid bacteria, making it a source of ingestible microorganisms that may beneficially regulate gut health and even treat or prevent inflammatory bowel disease. This product may positively impact the gut microbiome balance and promote anti-inflammatory effects – two aspects that can support gut health.
Data has shown an increase in the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut after regular kefir consumption. So, while a sporadic kefir drink may be enjoyable, to reap the benefits of this fermented drink, making it a part of your daily routine is recommended.
Try using kefir in a smoothie—you won’t be sorry!
There is a reason why prunes are so popular in the nursing home circuit—they’re a great food for digestion. One serving of prunes provides 3 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber, which can help support digestive health. Prunes have been shown to significantly increase stool weight and frequency. One study, which evaluated forty constipated subjects over 8 weeks, showed that eating 50 grams of prunes every day (around 4-6 prunes) resulted in improved bowel movement consistency and frequency vs. consuming psyllium fiber.