Your gut health should never be ignored. Not only can it affect areas of your life like your mental and cognitive health, but recent studies have also found it can affect things like blood pressure levels.
Pursuing a healthy gut is possible, but it may require some changes to your daily diet. For example, eating a lot of processed foods and drinking large amounts of alcohol is known to alter the gut microbiome in negative ways. For example, research has found that diets high in processed foods can produce higher levels of harmful bacteria in the gut, which lead to more toxins in the body, and drinking higher amounts of alcohol can also lead to more intestinal inflammation and damage to the gut. gastrointestinal tract. treatment.
So when it comes to finding the right ways to eat for a healthy gut, how do you know what to choose? To find out, we asked some experts for their recommendations for eating habits that are good for gut health. These eating habits can help improve digestion, as well as promote a healthier gut microbiome by fighting harmful bacteria with increased production of “good” gut bacteria.
Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss 7 Healthier Foods To Eat Right Now.
Eat fermented foods
According to our experts, incorporating fermented foods into your diet can significantly help your gut health. “You should include a fermented food in your diet every day. This can be plain whole-milk yogurt, miso, or a fermented vegetable like real sauerkraut,” she says. Marie Ruggles, MS, RDauthor of the award-winning book, Optimize Your Immune System: Build health and resilience with a kitchen apothecary.
A 2021 study found that a diet high in fermented foods, such as yogurt and kimchi, increased microbiome diversity, reduced inflammation and improved immune response.
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Enjoy yogurt for breakfast or as a snack
Enjoying yogurt for breakfast or consuming it as a midday snack can be a great way to take care of your intestinal health.
“Yogurt is a fermented food and contains probiotic cultures that can strengthen your gut,” she says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDNauthor of Finally full, finally thin and a member of our expert medical board. “Some Greek yogurts also contain added probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, which can help increase the good bacteria in your digestive tract.”
“Yogurt also makes a fantastic base for other high-fiber, gut-friendly foods like berries, nuts, and seeds,” she adds. Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LDauthor of The sports nutrition playbook and a member of our expert medical board.
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Incorporate more oats
Eating more oats may help your gut health because “oats are a prebiotic food, which feeds the good probiotic bacteria in your gut,” says Goodson. “Oats also contain beta-glucan fiber, which has been linked to healthy gut bacteria.”
And if you’re looking for ways to eat more oats, you don’t have to limit yourself to just oatmeal. “Oats are also extremely versatile,” says Goodson. “You can use them to make oatmeal (like I do every morning), use them as a power snack base to make a nutrient-rich snack, and even grind them to make flour, which can be used in a variety of recipes. “
Eat lots of beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are great additions to your diet when you want a healthy gut because second Laura M. Ali, RDNa culinary nutritionist based in Pittsburgh, they act as prebiotics and provide food for the probiotics inside the gut.
“Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and lentils are excellent sources of fiber that work throughout the gastrointestinal tract and aid in digestion by teaming with probiotics,” says Ali.
When you don’t get enough fiber in your daily diet, you may experience things like bloating, increased hunger and stomach discomfort. This could mean it’s time to implement more legumes or beans into your meals.
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Stock up on berries
Along with beans, Ali strongly suggests incorporating more berries into your diet, too.
“Not only are they a good source of fiber, but they’re packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which help feed those healthy bacteria and reduce inflammation in our gastrointestinal tract. You can mix them with a little kefir in a smoothie for breakfast, and you are off to a great start for the day,” says Ali.
Diversify your food
Believe it or not, your gut can actually be negatively affected by eating too many of the same foods and not allowing for dietary diversity in your meals. Research shows that the wider range of plants we eat, the more diverse our gut bacteria will be, which is an indicator of good gut health.
“Make a habit of experimenting with new foods and include a wider variety of plant foods in your diet,” says Ruggles, “Because the unique compounds in each food provide fiber that feeds different species of beneficial bacteria already living in your gut, and a diverse population of bacteria strengthens your immune system.”
When it comes to taking care of your gut, making sure you’re eating enough fiber, drinking enough water, and getting plenty of rest are key to ensuring a healthy gut microbiome and happy tummy.
An earlier version of this story was published on December 17, 2021. It has been updated to include additional copy, proofreading reviews, current research, and updated contextual linking.