The 8 best foods for your gut health. Eat these foods to heal your gut to add good bacteria to your system. Includes a list of easy recipes for gut health.
The more and more we learn about the complexity of our guts, the more we understand how crucial this system is to our health. Not only do our guts play a key role in how we feel physically, but there's an intense connection to our brains and other internal systems.
Everything from feeling tired and depressed, to dealing with issues like IBS and bloat, our digestive systems control it all. And when they're out of balance, which they are for many of us, it can cause ripple effects throughout the body.
Since the food we're putting into our bodies plays such a key role in the health of the microbiome in our digestive tract, I felt like this topic needed an entire post. We're not getting too much into the nitty-gritty of gut health, so if you have more questions about that, let me know and we'll create a whole separate post.
Best Foods For Your Gut
In today's post, I want to share some of the best foods for your gut and talk about how each of these foods benefits you. We're not talking individual foods either, but more categories so that you can pick and choose what you want to incorporate. I hope this post helps you understand a bit more about supporting your gut and how you can eat to heal.
1. Fermented Foods
We know that probiotics are super important for our gut health. Probiotics are the good bacteria we need to keep the flora happy that live in our digestive system. Foods that are fermented are full of this bacteria (which sounds scary, but is actually amazing). Think of these foods as “living” foods. They essentially sit for a period of time, in a cool dark place, where they are left to ferment which enables the bacteria to grow and thrive.
Fermented foods have definitely taken the wellness scene by storm. There are a million different types of fermented foods, and it can get a little overwhelming, so I want to share some of my favorites. Keep in mind, I think fermented foods should be eaten in moderation as they do tend to have some carbonation to them and can definitely cause bloat when eaten too excessively.
- Yogurts (non-dairy!)
- Vegan/Water Kefirs
2. Cooked Greens
Greens are good for you. That's just a fact. They're packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and often times protein as well. But they can also be quite challenging to digest, especially when eaten raw.
Have you ever noticed that you get really bloated or gassy after eating a large salad? If so, it's likely because you've consumed a ton of raw veggies, that likely haven't been chewed enough, and your digestive system just can't handle it.
While some raw greens are totally fine, especially when they're blended up in a smoothie and you don't have to worry about chewing them, it's actually easier on your digestive system to eat cooked greens. It's easier to chew, it's easier for the cell walls to be broken down and many of the nutrients are actually more available.
For cooking methods, I like to either steam or sautee my greens. It takes about 2 minutes, you can season them however you want and they're such a great side dish/addition to your meal. Another bonus? Try switching up your greens on a weekly basis and incorporate some bitters in like dandelion greens or nettle!
Did you know that bitter is our most sensitive taste? But it's also one that most of us don't enjoy. The interesting thing about the bitter taste is that it's an amazing thing for digestion.
Think about how your body reacts when you think of the bitter taste. I immediately start to salivate and salivation is your body stimulating the first part of your digestive system. Bitter flavor naturally increases your body's digestive response and increases the secretion of your body's natural digestive juices.
There are tinctures available to buy at the store, but there are also natural bitters you can eat. Ginger, fennel, orange peel, and lemon.
4. Cooked Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are notoriously tough on digestion. They can cause gas, bloating and even constipation. But they're still super nutritious and I think are a great part of a healthy diet.
These foods are super high in insoluble fiber, which as well learn in a minute, can be good if you aren't already struggling with digestive issues like IBS. If you do suffer from IBS or other digestive problems, and you still want to eat cauliflower and broccoli (because they're so YUM!), then consider cooking them.
Cooking cruciferous veggies helps to break down their cell walls and fibers which is easier on your system because they're already partially broken down. Since your digestive system has less work to do and therefore produces less gas.
For cooking, here's my list of the best methods for cooking vegetables for digestion:
- roasting (with a high-quality oil)
5. High Fiber Foods
I think fiber is one of the most underrated and underappreciated nutrients. It's super important when it comes to gut health and most of us aren't eating enough of it. Luckily for those of us who are eating a primarily whole food, plant-based lifestyle, you're probably eating quite a bit of fiber already.
Fiber can be found in most plants – fruits, veggies, beans/legumes, whole grains, etc. And fiber is so beneficial for the microbiome in your gut. The good bacteria in your gut like to feast on fiber, and when these bacteria are happy, they're helping to control your appetite and regulate your blood sugar.
Fiber is also great for digestion its self. Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of waste through your digestive tract and adds bulk to the stool.
High fiber foods include beans/legumes, greens, cruciferous veggies and fruits like banana, apples, and pears.
6. Sea Vegetables
I personally think sea vegetables are going to get super popular in 2019. It's one of those trends that I'm starting to see on restaurant menus and mentioned by health experts, but have yet to be embraced by the greater society.
We probably know the big players in the game: nori (used for sushi), spirulina and chlorella. I think those three are probably the most well-known, but there are TONS of other seaweeds and sea vegetables available out there. And guess what? They're amazing for your gut health!
The major benefit of eating sea vegetables are all the trace minerals they contain. They're one of the most nutritious foods in the world (and are also sustainable sources of protein), but they've also been shown to act as prebiotics which helps to fuel the healthy bacteria in our gut.
Some lesser-known seaweeds to try: kombu, dulse flakes, wakame
I adore fruit. Like so much. And I love that it's also amazing for you.
Not only does fruit taste good – hey, hey sugar – but it's also great for digestion. Fruit is high in fiber, which we just chatted about and since they're higher in starch, they're actually even more gentle on your system than fibrous vegetables.
There are also quite a few fruits that contain enzymes that support your digestive system. Papaya and pineapple are two of the best. Papaya contains papain which has a mild, soothing effect on the stomach and aids in protein digestion (awesome for smoothies!). Pineapple contains bromelain which is an anti-inflammatory enzyme amazing for your gut.
Other popular fruits that support digestion are prunes, figs, apples, and bananas.
8. Bone Broth
I”ll admit, I've never tried bone broth. I eat a plant-based diet, so bone broth is out for me, but I do believe for those of you who might eat animal products, it can be an amazing addition to your diet. Most bone broth is from beef, but there is also chicken available at some stores.
I hope there will soon be some vegan options on the market as I would love to have a stockpile of something like a healing mushroom broth in my freezer to pull out whenever I'm feeling a little off.
Some brands I've heard great reviews on are: Kettle & Fire, Bonafide Provisions, Brodo (local to NYC, but also ships)
Recipes for Gut Health
Now that you see what are the best types of foods for your gut, it's time to put those tips into action. I don't necessarily purposefully cook with gut-friendly foods, but after doing more and more research, there are quite a few recipes on this site that support good digestion.
Here are my favorite gut-friendly recipes:
Healing Cauliflower Holiday Soup
Hidden Veggie Pineapple Green Smoothie
Warm Lentil Salad with Spinach & Quinoa