Your gut health, meaning the bacteria and other organisms that are or aren’t present in your digestive tract, could be affecting your weight. And one of the most important factors in building a healthy gut is the food we eat.
Healthy food nourishes our bodies, but it can be difficult to understand what foods specifically assist in maintaining a healthy gut. You may find yourself asking, is this going to hurt my gut or help it? Making conscious food choices to help your gut foster an environment that promotes good microbes could make a difference in your weight care journey. Here’s how.
The United Nations defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics aren’t new: Since ancient times, good bacteria helped produce fermented and cultured foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, tempeh, fermented pickles, and sourdough. While it might seem these are the foods to load up on if you want a healthy gut, there are actually very few studies that show these foods can improve your gut microbiome. Yogurt has soared in popularity in the U.S. in part because of its probiotic content—but look at the labels of some sweetened, fruit-flavored varieties and you’ll see why they might not deserve their health halo. (Some yogurt flavors have more sugar than a half cup of ice cream. Yikes.) Bottom line: Eat foods that naturally have probiotics if you love ‘em. Many still offer other health benefits. But, for now, there’s no solid evidence that they can improve your gut health.
Your body needs a way to cultivate an environment in your gut that helps grow good bacteria. Prebiotics are what feed or fuel the good bacteria in your gut. They’re mainly indigestible carbs and plant fibers. (Yes, this means you should eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.) Eating foods high in fiber allows the good bacteria to grow. Emerging research has also found that prebiotics strengthen gut health by decreasing the risk of constipation and diarrhea. The flip side of that coin is that there are certain foods to eat less frequently because they can cause more gut disruptions. (See our list below.)
Prebiotic-rich foods include vegetables, oats, seeds, nuts, gluten-free grains, lentils, legumes, celery juice, ginger, artichokes, leeks, onions, raspberries, beans and legumes, flaxseed, asparagus, celery, garlic, unripe or green bananas (as they ripen, the fiber converts to sugar so they no longer provide the same prebiotic and probiotic benefits), apples, pears, berries, dark chocolate, bone broth, and wild-caught salmon.
Try these recipes to switch it up and make sure you’re getting enough prebiotics!
Coconut yogurt parfait with berries via HelloGlow
PB Protein Overnight Oats via EatingWell
Black Bean Breakfast Bowl via AllRecipes
Avocado Sourdough Toast via BBC GoodFood
Basic Broiled Salmon via Girl in Healing
6-Ingredient Chopped Salad via Well and Good
Slow Cooker Mediterranean Chicken & Chickpea Soup via EatingWell
Coconut Curry Veggie Soup via Nourish with Kristine
Butternut Squash & Lentil Soup via A Couple Cooks
Veggies with Hummus
Apple or Banana with Nut Butter
Cooked oats/quinoa with sliced fruit or berries on top
Celery with Nut Butter
Avocado Toast (on Ezekiel sprouted grain bread)
Unsweetened Coconut strips/chips