Healthy digestion supports the immune system, digestion, brain health, and heart health. It can aid chronic pains with acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome. Even your mental state and mood depend on gut health, which relies on beneficial bacteria to maintain a balanced microbiome.
When the microbiome of your digestive tract is out of balance, you might experience nausea, bloating, constipation. Worse yet, ongoing bacterial imbalances can lead to more serious issues like diabetes or obesity. Luckily, there are foods you can include in your everyday diet to support a healthy digestive system. Here are the top five foods that are good for your gut health.
Sauerkraut is a popular food associated with good gut health, and for good reason. It is packed with probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in check.
Even better, sauerkraut is packed with vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and contributes to a healthy immune system.
But be careful, canned sauerkraut is pasteurized, which eliminates the healthy bacteria. Instead, look for fresh sauerkraut, or make it yourself, which is fairly easy and requires few ingredients.
The best part is you can add your own flavored twists to create tasty treats like beet ginger sauerkraut or ginger carrot sauerkraut.
You can even take the health benefits up a notch by adding anti-inflammatory turmeric.
Yogurt is a healthy gut favorite, and thanks to the high amounts of healthy bacteria that most varieties contain, even those who are mildly lactose intolerant can tolerate yogurt.
It comes in a variety of flavors, has dairy and non-dairy options, so is suitable for most people. And it’s very flexible, as it goes well alone, with fruit or as a sour cream substitute. Dairy-based yogurt is an excellent protein food, while both dairy and non-dairy boast high amounts of healthy bacteria.
One bacteria typically found in yogurt is lactobacillus acidophilus, a primary strain that is known to improve gut health and reduce uncomfortable digestive symptoms like constipation, gas, and upset stomach
Other commonly added bacteria might include S. Thermophilus, which is known to ward off harmful pathogens while reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, and B. Lactis, which may help break down food waste and improve the absorption of nutrients.
Kefir is a probiotic drink that adds healthy bacteria to boost your microbiome. It contains more probiotics than yogurt, improves bone health, and may even protect you from certain cancers. So, what, exactly, is this drink?
Kefir is a mix of fermented bacteria and yeast that has been popular in Asia and Europe for centuries. Known as the “kefir grain,” it is not a traditional grain such as rice and contains no gluten. It does contain living organisms that contribute to healthy digestion, regular bowel movements, and even supports the immune system.
One exciting study indicates that regular consumption of kefir may support weight loss and prevent obesity. Both milk and non-dairy versions of kefir are sold in plain and flavored varieties.
As with any product, avoid those that are high in sugar. Many brands are mainly lactose-free, so even those who are sensitive to dairy may be able to break down kefir, thanks to the healthy bacteria.
And one small study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that consumption of plain kefir may even help one overcome lactose intolerance.
Ginger may not be “food” but is easily added to many foods and beverages. It has been used as a digestive aid in many cultures for centuries and commonly used to reduce nausea. It is said to stimulate digestive secretions (enzymes) that help your digestive tract break down food and absorb nutrients.
It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the symptoms of digestive irritations like nausea and bloating. Try adding ginger to vegetable juice, seep a piece of ginger root to make tea, grate fresh ginger onto your salad or use it to add a little zing to your lemonade.
Not only will you enjoy better gut health, but you can take advantage of the other benefits like immune support, protection from gut infection, and even protection from certain cancers.
5. Green, Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens are not one food of course, but a class of foods worth mentioning. That’s because research has shown that these types of veggies have a specific sugar that can improve the growth of your gut’s healthy bacteria.
Not only that, the fiber found in leafy greens seems to be the perfect food for healthy microbes to flourish. Try adding a small green salad to one meal each day, and use a variety of leafy greens so you can take full advantage of the health benefits they have to offer.
Leave out Gut Harming Culprits
While you fill your kitchen with delicious foods for good gut health, be sure to pass on foods that can sabotage a healthy belly. Certain foods, especially when consumed in excess, can interrupt a healthy bacterial balance and irritate your digestive health with symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Some foods (and beverages) that are best in limited amounts include:
- Fried foods
- Sugary treats
- Foods with artificial sweeteners
Balance is Key
Balance in your microbiome is the key to a healthy and happy digestive system. Aim for clean eating with a focus on whole foods and be sure to drink plenty of water. Because when your gut is healthy, your body and mind will be, too.
Don't forget to check out our podcast at Yes.Fit Live! Both Coach Chris and Coach CC shed some light on health and fitness. If you want more info about gut health and a closer look at some additional food be sure to click here to listen to this weeks podcast! New podcast up every Wednesday.