In this article:
- What Is the Gut Microbiome?
- Why Is a Healthy Gut Important?
- Top 11 Foods for a Healthy Microbiome
- Foods to Eat for a Healthy Gut
Hate to break it to you, but only about half of your body is actually yours. It’s true — scientists estimate that only half of the human body is actually made up of human cells. The rest are cells of our microbial communities. These little colonists exist all throughout our body, and feeding them properly is critical to our health, especially when it comes to those that live in our gut microbiome.
What Is the Gut Microbiome?
Your microbiome is the world of microorganisms that live throughout your digestive system, primarily in your intestines. These trillions of tiny organisms include bacteria, fungi, and other microbial communities.
Why Is a Healthy Gut Important?
A healthy, balanced gut microbiome is essential to your overall health. An unhealthy microbiome can lead to complications such as digestive disorders, mood disorders, brain fog, fatigue, and trouble managing bodyweight.
Top 11 Foods for a Healthy Microbiome
For a balanced, healthy, happy gut, add these 11 foods to your regular rotation.
1. Sauerkraut and kimchi
Many cultures have fermented food in their cuisines, two that are extremely beneficial to the health of your gut microbiome are sauerkraut, a German staple made of fermented cabbage, and kimchi, an often spicy Korean condiment made with cabbage as well. Both foods undergo fermentation, a process where microorganisms digest the natural sugars in the vegetables and converting them into carbon dioxide and organic acids.
Fermented vegetables are high in probiotics, and are excellent fuel for the good bacteria and fungi in your gut microbiome.
One of the most popular food flavorings worldwide, garlic’s health benefits are often overlooked. But we don’t blame anyone for that — it’s hard to think about anything but its great taste!
Research found that garlic can boost the development of good gut bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, due to the prebiotic properties of garlic. Garlic is also thought to help prevent some gastrointestinal diseases, so go ahead and add more than the recipe calls for.
3. Jerusalem artichoke
The Jerusalem artichoke probably isn’t what you think of when you picture an artichoke — this is a starchy root vegetable savory in flavor.
This unique tuber is one of the best foods for gut health: Jerusalem artichoke provides about 2 grams of dietary fiber per 100 grams, 76 percent of which comes from inulin, an important prebiotic fiber. Research shows that the prebiotic effect of Jerusalem artichoke can increase the concentration of good bacteria in your gut.
4. Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli can improve intestinal health when it’s eaten as part of a regular diet. In fact, this cruciferous powerhouse is even found to reduce inflammation in the colon and decrease the incidence of colon cancer.
These incredible gut-healing effects may also apply to other veggies in the cruciferous family, so add cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage to your next grocery run. Try cruciferous vegetables roasted, steamed, in stir-frys, and in salads.
Tempeh is a fermented soy food that’s been eaten for centuries, and is particularly popular in Asia. It’s becoming easier to find in supermarkets and grocery stores these days due to the rise in popularity of plant-based eating.
A 2014 study showed that this popular protein can increase healthy bacteria, including Lactobacillus, a common bacterial species found in probiotic supplements.
Apples are a delicious fruit with many prebiotic benefits. Approximately 50 percent of the fiber in apples is pectin, which increases butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that feeds beneficial gut bacteria and decreases the population of harmful bacteria.
Polyphenols, which are also found in apples, and pectin have been linked to improved digestive health and fat metabolism. An apple a day may not solve all your problems, but it sure can add some balance to your microbiome.
Flaxseed is rightfully dubbed a superfood. Chock-full of phytonutrients, flaxseeds boast an incredible concentration of lignans, a powerful group of antioxidants. These seeds also contain soluble fiber and can help move things along through your digestive tract.
Try adding flaxseeds to Greek yogurt, kefir, or on whole grain toast with nut butter.
8. Kefir and yogurt
Kefir and yogurt are definitely two of the best foods you can eat to feed the good bacteria and fungi in your gut microbiome. While traditionally made with dairy, you can also find coconut, almond, and cashew-based versions of these cultured products.
Look out for some key differences between the two: Kefir typically has more fat than yogurt, but it also has more protein and more probiotics. Whichever you choose, make sure to go with varieties that don’t have a lot of added sugar, as excess sugar is one of the main culprits behind an unhealthy gut.
9. Jicama, Yacon and Burdock
Okay, so, these are actually three different foods, but hear us out. Root vegetables like Jicama, Yacon and Burdock root contain high concentrations of inulin, a prebiotic fiber proven to improve gut health. It’s also thought that these slow-digesting, complex carbs have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties.
Rich in prebiotics, asparagus is as healthy as it is delicious. Asparagus stalks are also rich in inulin, and adding asparagus to your diet can help promote digestive regularity.
Your asparagus options are essentially unlimited: Eat this veggie steamed, sauteed, roasted, or raw in salads. Enjoy over quinoa or rice, in with sweet potatoes, or in a range of dishes.
Bananas, especially when they still have their green tips, are brilliant at restoring harmony in your gut’s ecosystem. Bananas also have high concentrations of potassium and magnesium, which can aid against inflammation.
Foods to Eat for a Healthy Gut
When it comes to gut health, your best bets will always be fermented foods, cultured foods, fruits, and vegetables. Whole and sprouted grains can have a healthy place in a gut-friendly diet, too. In general, it’s a good idea to keep processed foods, added sugar, alternative sweeteners, and trans fats to a minimum.
Remember: The trillions of microorganisms in your gut can influence everything from your sleep quality and energy levels to your immune function and hormones. It’s best to keep them happy!
Editor’s note: This post has been updated for relevancy. Its first publish date was July 14, 2019.