Best and Worst Foods for Your Gut
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •February 15, 2022
These gut healthy foods increase the diversity of bacteria in your gut (which is a really really good thing), reduce inflammation in both the gut and body, and promote SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids). SCFA’s have many positive benefits for our body including improving energy production, improving the integrity of the gut barrier, decreasing inflammation and regulating the immune system.
We often say that the root of all health starts in your gut. So we need to feed our guts lots of good foods! Eat these gut healthy foods on a daily basis. Even small amounts daily will add up and make big differences in your health over time. So if you don’t like beans or can’t tolerate them well, just have a few tablespoons. You can sprinkle beans on salads or add to your tacos for example.
Best foods for the Gut:
- Fermented Foods – 2-4 tbsp per day. Kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, miso. Eat a tablespoon of these before your meal, they are great for stimulating production of digestive enzymes and aiding in digestion.
- Green Leafy Veggies – kale, spinach, collards, beet greens, Swiss chard, arugula, salad greens
- Omega 3 super seeds – chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds. Aim for 1 tbsp of chia or flax seeds daily. Add to smoothies, put in oatmeal, yogurt and baked goods. Hemp seeds are a great source of protein (3 tbsp = 10 grams).
- Herbs – turmeric, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme etc. Add fresh herbs to your soups, stews and chilis. You can also simply sprinkle fresh herbs on a salad with some olive oil lemon and salt and then you have an instant tasty salad dressing.
- Beans and Lentils – all kinds. Yes these cause gas but a little gas is okay!! Start small if you are not sued to eating these. Even a few tablespoons or ¼ cups of beans/lentils daily will make big positive impacts on your gut. You can start by adding these to chilis and soups and sprinkling them on salads or in a quinoa bowl.
- Prebiotic Rich Foods – garlic, onion, leeks, beet root, asparagus, artichoke, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds
- Cruciferous Veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage (especially purple cabbage), collards, Arugula. Even better are Broccoli sprouts, these are a nutrient powerhouse rich in sulforaphane. Aim for 2 cups of cruciferous veggies daily. Roasting these in olive oil and salt is a tasty and easy way of preparing.
- Fruits – all but especially darkly pigmented fruits. Think red, black and purple (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pomegranate, red grapes)
Worst foods for the gut:
These induce negative changes in the microbiome, increase gut and systemic inflammation and many are linked with weight gain, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
- Processed foods with preservatives, additives and colorants – these additives have been shown to destroy microbiota (99% of preservatives have not been studied!). Other preservatives such as carboxymethyl cellulose, titanium dioxide and polysorbate 80 have been shown to reduce microbial diversity, increase inflammation, and promote more obesity in mice. Choose foods with a shorter list of ingredients and ones that are actual food!
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners. These often end in “-ose” (such as in diet sodas and “sugar free” products. Artificial sweeteners include Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Saccharin (Sweet’ N Low, Sugar Twin), Sucralose (Splenda), Acesulfame K. These are used soft drinks and “sugar free” foods.
- Refined and processed carbohydrates – white bread, pasta, boxed cereals, crackers, pretzels, bagels, cookies etc. okay to have these less frequently in smaller amounts but regular consumption is a big problem. The sugars in these foods allow for undesirable bacteria to grow in our guts and they are not god for our waistlines! Choose whole and intact grains as much as possible such as brown/wild rice, quinoa, millet, oats, oat bran, teff etc.
- Foods treated with herbicides and glyphosate. Studies have shown that these chemicals kill off good bacteria in our gut and lead to more intestinal permeability. Eat as many foods organic as your budget allows. Prioritize organic dairy, animal products, soy, corn and heavily treated fruits and veggies. When available purchase organic wheat or sources imported from Europe. Click here for the EWG’s Fruit and Veggie Dirty Dozen List.
- Unhealthy fats, Too much animal protein and dairy – okay to eat animal protein and dairy in moderation, but don’t overdo it! Aim for animal protein only once per day. Even better, have a couple completely vegetarian days each week. Think of dairy more as a condiment – cheese sprinkled on a salad for example. Unhealthy fats include vegetable oils (soybean, peanut, canola) and hydrogenated oil (shortening, margarine, trans-fats).
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.