Gut Health Foods - 15 Foods For Good Gut Health
Food should be varied, colourful and high in fibre however, remember that portion sizes should always be in the right proportions for your energy expenditure and should be eaten at regular intervals throughout the day ideally three meals a day.
So here’s our guide to best foods for gut health. In no particular order, here's some tasty and unusual foods that are also good for your insides.
Live yoghurt is an excellent source of so-called friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. Look out for sugar-free, full-fat versions and add your own fruit for a tasty breakfast. Yoghurt drinks can contain high numbers of bacteria that are good for the gut, far more than you would find in a normal yoghurt. Do be mindful though as they can have a high sugar content.
This probiotic yoghurt drink is made by fermenting milk and is packed with good bacteria (which can help to reduce a leaky gut). It originated in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, as well as Russia and Central Asia. It also makes a great addition to smoothies and soups, or you can use it as a base for salad dressing (add lemon juice and seasoning).
Miso is made from fermented soya beans, plus barley or rice, and contains a range of goodies such as helpful bacteria and enzymes. A savoury paste used in dips, dressings and soup, it can also be used as a marinade for salmon or tofu. It’s a staple of Japanese cooking and suitable if you’re avoiding dairy. There is uncertainty within the research that the bacteria effectively reach the gut, nevertheless in regions where Miso is a staple fermented food source the population have better gut health and less bowel disease.
This is finely chopped cabbage that has been fermented. This great source of probiotics, fibre and vitamins is best known as a German dish, but versions exist in Eastern and Central Europe. Choose a product that has not been pickled in vinegar, as that doesn’t have the same benefits. It’s delicious served with sausages, and can be cheap and easy to make at home.
This Korean speciality of fermented vegetables brings the benefits of probiotic bacteria along with vitamins and fibre. Use it as a lively side dish with meat, salad or eggs. It’s so popular that Koreans say “kimchi” in the same way that we say “cheese” when they have their photos taken.
This is very fashionable at the moment, but there’s a good reason for that. Made by fermenting the dough, it’s more digestible than regular bread and its energy releases slowly. It makes fantastic toast too.
These have good probiotic properties, which means they are a treat for your gut bacteria – high in fibre, and full of fatty acids and polyphenols. A handful of almonds makes an excellent snack when you’re feeling peckish.
8. Olive oil
Gut bacteria and gut microbes like a diet of fatty acids and polyphenols. These are found in olive oil. Studies have shown that it helps reduce gut inflammation. Use it for salad dressing or drizzle it over cooked vegetables. Some studies have also found olive oil to be beneficial in easing indigestion problems and can also benefit your pancreas through lowering its requirement to produce digestive enzymes.
We all know water is crucial for gut health, but what else can you drink? Kombucha is a fermented tea drink thought to have originated in Manchuria that is full of probiotic good bacteria. It has a sharp, vinegary taste and can be used as a refreshing drink on its own or mixed with fruit and spices. It also makes the base for great cocktails.
Gut bacteria need fibre to flourish, so the more fruit and vegetables you consume the better. Peas are full of soluble and insoluble fibre to help keep your system in balance. Add peas to stir-fries, soups or salads.
11. Brussels sprouts
Much more than a festive staple, they contain the kinds of fibre that good bacteria like and sulphur compounds which help combat unhealthy bacteria such as H pylori. Stir-fry with garlic and bacon for a delicious side dish.
One of nature’s handiest and healthiest snacks, bananas are full of the kind of fibre that good bacteria enjoy. They also contain healthy minerals.
13. Roquefort cheese
Live, runny, smelly French cheese* will give your gut bacteria a boost – but eat it in moderation. Add it to salads or spread it on your sourdough. Whilst we cannot be ensured that all of the bacteria survive digestion to be beneficial it is believed that other properties help preserve some bacteria during digestion.
Garlic, with its antibacterial and antifungal properties, can help keep “bad” gut bacteria under control and help balance yeast in the gut. Use it as a flavouring for savoury dishes. The properties within garlic act as a fuel source to allow the bacteria to do their job better which overall improves gut function and can help heal your gut.
Fresh ginger can help in the production of stomach acid and it stimulates the digestive system to keep food moving through the gut. Add fresh grated ginger to soups, stews, smoothies or stir-fries. Pour boiling water on grated ginger to make refreshing ginger tea.
Why not learn more about your gut health by visiting our Gut Health Hub. Along with the article about best foods for good gut health, discover some fascinating facts about your gut, ways to keep regular bowel movements, and learn more about understanding symptoms associated with your stomach and the digestive system.
What are probiotics?
You may have seen yoghurts or yoghurt drinks that contain probiotics on the supermarket shelves. These live cultures and yeasts are frequently described as ‘good' or 'healthy' gut bacteria, or simply a ‘gut-friendly’ bacteria. The belief is that probiotics boost the number and variety of beneficial, or good, bacteria in the colon, to help your digestive and possibly general health. Fermented vegetables such as kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) and sauerkraut, miso and kefir (a fermented milk) are ingredients that are also naturally rich in probiotics and have become go-to gut health foods in recent years.
What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. They essentially provide the food that the probiotics need to thrive. Examples are artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, legumes, honey, oats and lentils. Prebiotics can also be manufactured artificially and used as supplements for better gut health.
Read our article about probiotics and prebiotics, and learn more about these healthy bacteria and how they work.
* Live runny cheeses are best avoided during pregnancy
NOTE: Altering your diet suddenly may cause changes in bowel habits or other symptoms.
About our healthcare
Benenden Health provides affordable private healthcare for everyone, giving you access to services such as our 24/7 GP Helpline and Mental Health Helpline straight away. Once you’ve been a member for six months you can request access to diagnostic consultations and tests, and if needed, treatment and surgery.
You'll also have access to a wealth of health and wellbeing articles, videos and advice on a range of health issues.
Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly on 1st April 2023. Next review date: April 2024.