Your gut is essential for your overall health and well-being. Often called your "second brain," your gut plays a major role in everything from digestion and nutrient absorption to mood, immunity, and more. With over 100 trillion microorganisms residing there, including about 1,000 different species of bacteria, supporting a healthy gut microbiome is key.
The good bacteria in your gut help digest food, synthesize vitamins, and protect against harmful pathogens. They also influence processes throughout your entire body, from brain function to metabolism and inflammation. Since diet is one of the primary ways to nourish and maintain a balanced gut microbiome, focusing on the best foods to eat is vital.
In this post, I will discuss 16 top gut-friendly foods to incorporate more of into your diet, along with their specific health benefits for digestive wellness. Keep reading to learn which nutrients, prebiotics, and probiotics can best support your microbiome and overall gastrointestinal comfort.
Probiotic-rich yogurt is one of the most well-known gut-healthy foods. It contains live active cultures like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that support a diverse microbiome. The probiotics in yogurt help restore balance to your digestive system when occasional unpleasantness arises. They also aid nutrient absorption and may indirectly promote weight management.
When choosing yogurt, look for options with 5 billion or more live cultures. Greek yogurt is creamier and higher in protein, but regular yogurt also works. For added benefits, consider varieties fortified with immunity-boosting vitamin D or bone-supporting calcium and minerals. Just watch added sugars - stick to plain versions and top with your own fresh fruit. Yogurt is dairy-based, but soy, coconut, and almond yogurts provide dairy-free probiotic options too.
Similar to yogurt, dairy or non-dairy kefir is a fermented probiotic drink packed with beneficial bacteria and yeasts. With over 40 live active cultures, it may support digestion and bowel regularity even more robustly than yogurt. Kefir also contains unique miicronutrients like B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and proteins to nourish your microbiome.
Look for plain, unsweetened kefir with active cultures and less added sugar. Plain dairy kefir has a slightly thicker, creamy texture compared to milk. You can also find kefirs made from coconut, almond, soy or water if you want a non-dairy version. Simply sip kefir on its own or incorporate it into smoothies, oatmeal, salad dressings, and more for a daily probiotic boost. Either yogurt or kefir once per day can aid gut health.
Kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables offer an excellent prebiotic and probiotic combination. Not only do they introduce beneficial bacteria through the fermentation process, but they contain fiber-rich prebiotics like oligosaccharides to fuel the good microbes already residing in your gut. Some top probiotic-rich fermented veggie options include:
- Kimchi - A spicy Korean staple made from fermented cabbage, garlic, ginger and chili peppers. It provides Lactobacillus bacteria and anticancer compounds.
- Sauerkraut - Crunchy, fermented cabbage is a classic gut-supporter brimming with enzymes and minerals like calcium.
- Pickles - Both traditional cucumber and fermented veggie varieties contain Lactobacillus and aid digestion.
- Kombucha - Fermented black or green tea packed with acids like glucuronic acid to support liver function and detoxification.
Aim for 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fermented veggies daily for an extra prebiotic-probiotic boost alongside other foods. Their flavors also complement many meals.
Technically not a prebiotic, garlic still supports healthy gut flora and defends against pathogens in your digestive tract. It contains allicin, a sulfur compound with powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Allicin helps balance harmful organisms like Candida andHelicobacter pylori while nourishing friendlyLactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains.
Garlic may also aid digestion and boost immunity. Simply mince, press or chop a few cloves of fresh garlic and add it to dips, dressings, soups or sautéed vegetables for an easy gut-supportive ingredient. Its taste enhances savory meals too. For a concentrated boost, look for aged or black garlic with increased prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS).
Homemade bone broth or a high-quality store-bought variety provides nutrients that nourish your microbiome. Sipping bone broth is comforting, gentle on the gut, and contains both collagen proteins and gelatin to support digestive health. The broth is rich in amino acids like glycine and proline along with minerals like calcium, magnesium, and silicon absorbed from chicken, beef, lamb or fish bones simmered for long periods.
These nutrients help maintain a healthy gut lining. Bone broth also neutralizes stomach acid and contains chondroitin sulfate to prevent injury. Research shows it may aid leaky gut and IBS symptoms by repairing the gut barrier. Even just a few cups per week can aid digestive wellness.
Unfermented fresh ginger adds zing to meals, but fermented ginger is also beneficial. It contains active yeasts and beneficial lactobacilli like L. plantarum from the fermentation process. Fermenting develops ginger's prebiotic properties and makes it more digestible too. Fermented ginger aids digestion, reduces gas and bloating, and exhibits antibacterial properties thanks to antioxidants like gingerol.
Look for ginger pickled in its own brine of salt water, or try homemade recipes where ginger is fermented with probioticstarter culture for several weeks. Enjoy it straight, add to tea or kombucha, or use a bit in cooking for a gut-soothing kick. The fermentation concentrates ginger's phytonutrients and antibacterial power.
Nature's candy comes packed with antioxidants that nourish your microbiome while supporting overall health. All types of berries from blueberries and strawberries to raspberries, blackberries and cranberries contain prebiotic fiber fractions like pectin, cellulose, and arabinogalactans. Their fibers feed beneficial bacteria as they pass through the gut.
Berries are also rich in ellagitannins that encourage Lactobacillus growth. Studies link berry intake to better balance of gut bacteria and protection against bad organisms. Try eating 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen berries daily, straight, on cereal or yogurt. They offer a naturally sweet snack or breakfast boost. Dried berries provide convenience with similar benefits when rehydrated.
Not just a protein powerhouse, beans and lentils provide prebiotic fiber your gut microbes love. Their complex plant carbohydrates in the form of oligosaccharides, resistant starch, and gums promote the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Beans are high in fermentable fibers that produce bowel-regularizing short-chain fatty acids too. canned beans or home-cooked varieties both support microbiome diversity.
Some top gut-friendly bean options and their benefits include:
- Chickpeas - High in resistant starch and minerals to nourish microbiota.
- Kidney beans - Rich prebiotic fiber aids balanced bacteria and butyrate production.
- Black beans - Their anthocyanins protect against pathogens in the gut.
- Lentils - Well-absorbed plant proteins, vitamins and minerals nourishyour gut.
Aim for at least one half-cup serving of cooked beans or lentils a few times weekly. Add them to salads, soups, chili or tacos for belly-boosting fiber.
Dark, leafy greens provide more than vitamins and minerals - they harbor prebiotic fibers like cellulose, hemicellulose, and xyloglucans as food for commensal bacteria. Kale, spinach, Swiss chard, collards and arugula all introduce nutrients and feed friendly microbes including Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Ruminococcus and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii for a balanced gut environment.
Beyond being a classic constipation remedy, prunes are a prebiotic superfood when eaten in moderation. Their insoluble fiber aids regularity and transit time through the colon. But prunes' unique prebiotic carbohydrates also nourish good gut flora. Their beta-glucans, fructooligosaccharides, and polyphenols all feed various friendly bacteria species.
Studies show prune consumption aligns stool microbiota, promotes Bifidobacteria dominance, and boosts butyrate levels to support colon health. Fresh or dried, 5-10 prunes at a time provide benefits without excess sugar. Add them to homemade granola, stuffing, or baked goods for a gut-soothing boost.
Whole grain oats are prebiotic all-stars containing beta-glucan soluble fiber. Their fibers selectively feed Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus in the colon. Oats may assist laxation and help maintain a diverse microbiome. Aim for 1/2 cup of oatmeal, granola or muesli daily.
Look for traditional rolled or steel-cut varieties with 3 grams or more fiber per serving. The complex carbs provide long-lasting energy while supporting regularity. Oats improve cholesterol levels too. Try overnight oats, hot cereal, or baked goods with whole oat flour for an easy gut-friendly addition.
The humble legume group encompasses dried beans, lentils, peas and soy foods packed with prebiotic carbohydrates. These complex plant-based proteins promote growth of bacteria including Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii.
Chickpeas, lentils, edamame, black-eyed peas and white beans offer a moderate dose of fermentable fiber per 1/2 cup serving. For added nutrition, varieties like soy, edamame and tofu deliver complete plant proteins as well as minerals and polyphenols. Their versatile textures complement many dishes.
Enjoy legumes several times per week for a balanced gut microbiome profile. No need to limit yourself to just one - rotate different types for maximal benefits.
Beyond vitamins K, C, and folate, asparagus provides prebiotic inulin fiber crucial for gut bacteria. Several studies link asparagus consumption to benefits like Bifidobacteria stimulation. Its fiber feeds good gut flora while fermenting into short-chain fatty acids.
For best nutrient absorption, cook asparagus gently by steaming, sautéing or roasting rather than boiling. Pair a half cup serving with proteins and healthy fats a few times weekly. Asparagus compliments salads, pastas, stir fries and roasted vegetables for belly-supportive meals.
Though not as sweet as garlic, onions still offer helpful prebiotics and polyphenols for gut health. Their fructans and sulfur compounds like quercetin nourish friendly bacteria. Onions may assist microbial balance and Digestive wellness due to their antibacterial and antiviral activities as well.
For ease, use minced onion or onion powder in cooking. Sautéing brings out beneficial flavonoids. Enjoy all types, from yellow, white and red onions to shallots and scallions regularly in meals for digestive support.
Not just a delicacy, artichokes provide fiber-rich prebiotics inulin and fructooligosaccharides to selectively feed beneficial gut flora. Their fiber ferments into short-chain fatty acids while supporting better microbial diversity.
Whether fresh, canned, jarred or frozen, artichokes nourish the colon without over-taxing digestion. Simply prepared artichokes make a great snack alongside hummus or add roasted chunks to dishes for flavor and fiber. Their prebiotics stimulate friendly Lactobacillus andBifidobacterium strains.
High-lignan flaxseeds promote a diverse, balanced microbiome through their soluble and insoluble fibers. Golden flax contains alpha-linolenic omega-3s as well as lignin prebiotics. Studies show flaxseeds selectively enrich beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
For gut health, add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal or homemade baked goods. Their lignans support hormonal and digestive wellness. Whole or ground seeds provide convenience with similar benefits.
Dark chocolate leads to various benefits due its high polyphenol content, especially for gut microbes. Cocoa's flavanols have prebiotic properties that feed healthy gut flora including Bifidobacteria. As a treat, aim for at least 70% dark chocolate for the most nutritional perks. Enjoy 1-2 squares daily for a gut-supportive sweet boost.
Focusing your diet around these top gut-friendly foods lays the foundation for digestive wellness and a balanced microbiome. Variety is key - aim to include several of the mentioned options each week for optimal nourishment of your commensal bacteria.
Small changes like starting each day with yogurt or kefir, eating a big salad at lunch, and cooking more homemade bone broth can make a difference over time. Snacking on berries, enjoying some dark chocolate, and drinking fermented ginger tea are also easy ways to support your gut on a daily basis.