What foods are good for gut health? Can bacteria really be good for you? Read on to find out more about the best foods for a healthy gut…
High-fibre foods help to feed gut bacteria, allowing them to thrive and grow, important for improving and maintaining a healthy gut.4
Some nutritionist recommendations include:
- Classic whole grains: brown rice, bread, pasta.
- More unusual wholegrain sources: quinoa, amaranth. These are naturally gluten-free, have a pleasant nutty taste, and make a good alternative to rice or couscous.
- Dried fruits
Colourful fruits and vegetables
The different phytochemicals found in coloured fruits and vegetables can help to encourage the production and stability of a diverse range of positive bacteria in your gut, reducing inflammation and creating a positive environment for gut health.5
“Plant-based diets are often better for the gut microbiome as they are naturally higher in fibre and phytochemicals,” says Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Eliza Glynn.
Prebiotic foods such as garlic, onion, chickpeas, beans, artichoke, bananas, leeks, milled flaxseeds (can be sprinkled on cereal, porridge, or added to foods), and oat bran (can be used to thicken soups and stews instead of corn-starch) are special fibres which good gut bacteria love to feed on.6
They’re “pre” biotic as they are not made up of live bacteria, but rather help to feed your microbiome’s existing bacteria.
If you’re struggling to get enough prebiotic foods into your diet, inulin powder can be added to sweeter foods or breakfasts as a helping hand.
Probiotic foods: Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a national dish of Germany, made by fermenting finely cut raw cabbage in multiple lactic acid bacteria.
It is filled with good bacteria and has been proven to reduce inflammation.7
However, some studies have seen participants suffer from diarrhoea if eating sauerkraut too regularly.
Probiotic foods: Kimchi
Kimchi is like Korea’s version of sauerkraut.
This side dish is made of salted and fermented vegetables, such as cabbage, radish, spring onions, garlic, ginger, and various seasonings.
As it is also fermented in lactic acid bacteria, it has been proven to support gut health.8
Sauerkraut and Kimchi not to your taste? Try sourdough bread as a gentler way of getting beneficial bacteria into your diet.
Probiotic foods: Miso
Miso is another fermented product, this time made by fermenting soybeans.
Not only does it help to support your microbiome by being packed with good bacteria, but it also helps your gut to produce vitamins K and B12, helping your body to heal and regulate metabolism and energy.9
Probiotic foods: Kefir
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that has a similar consistency to runny yoghurt.
It is made from kefir grains and is incredibly popular for its versatility and ability to aid digestion, reduce inflammation, and even strengthen bones as a source of calcium.
Food that’s high in polyphenols
These antioxidants are found in certain plant foods, including berries, purple carrots, spinach, grapes and dark chocolate.
Black rice and dark beans are another good source and it’s the polyphenols that give black rice and beans their colour.
Selected dried fruit, such as raisins, are also high in polyphenols as the drying process concentrates polyphenol content.
As a large amount of polyphenols are only broken down and absorbed once they reach your large intestine, they help gut bacteria to produce compounds that support immune functioning, brain health, and digestion.
If you may not be getting enough good bacteria through your diet, you can choose to take probiotic supplements with a variety of bacterial strains and a high potency of bacteria.
- High-fibre foods: Fibre feeds your gut bacteria!
- Colourful fruits and vegetables: A variety of phytochemicals create a diverse microbiome, important for gut health.
- Prebiotic foods: Foods like bananas, garlic, onion, and chickpeas are filled with special fibres that feed your beneficial bacteria.
- Sauerkraut: A German dish that gives you an easy fix of live bacteria via fermentation.
- Kimchi: The Korean twin of sauerkraut, meaning it’s also full of beneficial bacteria that help support your gut health.
- Miso: Fermented soybeans that can be used in a variety of dishes, plus added vitamin K and B12.
- Kefir: A thin yoghurt that’s popular for its live bacteria-filled benefits, such as aiding digestion.
- High-polyphenol foods: Foods like black rice and dark berries help to feed your gut bacteria and are high in antioxidants.
- Probiotic supplements: If you’re struggling to get all you need from your diet, probiotic supplements may help.
9 of the best drinks for a healthy gut
Read on to find out more about the best drinks for a healthy gut…
Green or white tea
Green tea is often recommended to aid digestion and promote gut health, and there’s a reason for this.
According to a review of studies linking green tea to a healthy gut, green tea can “influence the gut microbiota by either stimulating the growth of specific species or by hindering the development of detrimental ones.”10
“White tea can be an alternative to green tea, as this can be an acquired taste. White tea is more mellow and some people may prefer it to the bitterness of green tea.
However, intakes of both should be limited due to caffeine content.
Coffee alternatives such as these are a good source of polyphenols and prebiotics as most are sourced from chicory or rye,” suggests Holland & Barrett nutritionist, Alexander Thomson.
Kefir milkshakes or smoothies
Remember how the good bacteria in kefir can support our gut health? Well, it’s as simple as swapping milk with kefir in your favourite milkshakes and smoothies.
Fruit and vegetable smoothies
Fruit and vegetable smoothies are packed with all kinds of nutrients and vitamins, so blending a few of your favourites together for an on-the-go smoothie is perfect, especially as they help to keep the bacteria in your gut diverse, important for gut health.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Even if it’s not your favourite pre-meal habit, the lactic acid bacteria within apple cider vinegar is believed to promote healthy levels of beneficial gut bacteria, aiding digestion and reducing the risk of bloating.
Fermented soybean milk, which offers an alternative to dairy for those who are vegan or lactose-intolerant, promotes the growth of good bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli with its high protein and fibre contents.11
In the same way that polyphenol-rich foods support your gut health, a glass of red wine – also high in polyphenols—has been shown to increase levels of beneficial bacteria.12
Miso soup contains all the goodness of miso paste used in food to create a warming broth filled with flavour and good bacteria, specifically a probiotic named oryzae, which supports a healthy gut.13
Superfood powders for gut health
Superfood powders take all the superfoods for gut health and turn them into convenient powders that can be blended with drinks, smoothies, soups, and more.
In this way, they help you to easily increase the good bacteria supporting your microbiome.
Similar to probiotic supplements and powders, a probiotic drink could be your shortcut to a healthier gut.
If you find yourself struggling to increase your beneficial bacteria via the prebiotic and probiotic options in your diet, this could support your ongoing health goals.
- Green or white tea: Alternatives to coffee that have been linked to increasing good bacteria and decreasing bad bacteria.
- Kefir milkshakes or smoothies: An easy way to get beneficial bacteria into your diet.
- Fruit and vegetable smoothies: Blend a few of your favourites and support a healthy, diverse microbiome.
- Apple cider vinegar: Support your digestion and reduce bloating with lactic acid bacteria.
- Soybean milk: High in protein, fibre, and beneficial bacteria for your gut.
- Red wine: Rich in polyphenols, believed to support the growth of healthy bacteria.
- Miso soup: A warming option that contains all the benefits of the fermentation process.
- Superfood powders: A convenient way to increase the variety of healthy bacteria in your gut, easy to mix into drinks, smoothies and soups.
- Probiotic drinks: Increase your beneficial bacteria on the go with a handy probiotic drink.