The intestines, gastrointestinal tract, and the bacteria that surround it have come to the fore in health and nutrition in recent years.
“The words ‘take care of your gut’ have taken on a whole new meaning these days because science has shown us that there is a strong link between your health and the microbes that live in your gut,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table. “These organisms help us fight infections and can prevent the risks of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even cognitive health.”
Research shows that the microbes in the gut thrive best when fed certain types of foods and supplements, especially high-fiber foods. That’s because they contain prebiotics and probiotics.
“Foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics are great because they help colonize and nourish the good bacteria in our gut that essentially keep it in tip-top shape,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, registered dieter nutritionist and founder of the food blog Once Upon a Pumpkin. “Because our gut health is so closely related to various aspects of our health, from immunity to mood, it’s important to include gut-friendly foods in our diet on a regular basis. Everything is connected! “
Loading gut-friendly foods into your diet will benefit your entire body and general health. Here are 18 of the best foods for colon health.
The best foods for intestinal health
1. Everything fermented
“Fermented foods include foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, fermented tofu, pickles, and pickled products like pickled beets, radishes, garlic, and cucumbers,” says Taub-Dix. “These products act as natural probiotics and thus help replenish the“ good ”bacteria in the intestines. It is important to note that some of these foods can be high in sodium. So check the food labels if you need to limit your salt intake. “
Asparagus is a great source of prebiotics, which fuel the friendly microbes in your digestive tract. “ Robin Foroutan, MS, RDN, HHC, nutritionist for integrative medicine and spokesperson for the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics. “Asparagus can also help your body eliminate certain pesticides, and some pesticides, such as glyphosate, are suspected of being bad for gut health.”
3. Swiss chard
“Dark leafy vegetables are a health flagship, and that should be a fact – not a trend. Swiss chard is nutritious and high in fiber, ”says Sacha Madadian, Senior Editor on the America’s Test Kitchen book team. “A cup of sautéed Swiss chard contains 4 grams of fiber and is a great accompaniment to almost any meal and smooth enough to add to fillings like stuffed vegetables or sandwiches. And if you stick to the low-FODMAP diet, it is advisable to put Swiss chard on your plate – you can also eat as much as your appetite tells you, as it is free from bothersome carbohydrates. “
Connected: What is the Low FODMAP Diet and What Foods Can You Eat On It?
“Given the way yogurt is made, it contains beneficial probiotics,” says Michalczyk. “You want to look specifically for yoghurt that is labeled with the ‘Live & Active Cultures’ seal, which guarantees 100 million probiotic cultures per gram. I recommend topping your yogurt with honey for an even healthier (and tasty) snack because Honey can act as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are essentially food for the good bacteria, also called probiotics in the gut. Getting enough of both will help ensure optimal gut health. “
“With 8 grams of fiber per cup and half the recommended daily amount of vitamin C (an important nutrient for collagen synthesis), small raspberries are awesome!” Says Foroutan. “The high fiber content helps you stay regular, helps your friendly gut microbes thrive, and the high antioxidants reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.”
“Kombucha is a fermented drink with natural carbonic acid. Some kombucha drinks are made from green tea, which offers additional antioxidant benefits, ”says Taub-Dix. Just note that this drink may contain caffeine, and some contain more sugar than you would expect from a ‘healthy’ drink. If, on the other hand, the sugar content is low or nonexistent, the label may indicate that it contains artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. “
“Uniquely flowery, candy-sweet, fully filling and incredibly rich in fiber. Parsnips may seem too good to be true (to you) and we think they’re a seriously underutilized root vegetable, ”says Madadian. “We roast them on the stove or roast them on a sheet pan with chicken and other vegetables for dinner in a pan. One cup of sliced parsnips contains a whopping 6 grams of fiber (for comparison, 1 cup of carrots contains 4 grams). “
8. Chickpeas (also known as legumes)
“Legumes, also called dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils, are filled with prebiotics that the good probiotics feed on – it’s a symbiotic relationship, ”says Michalczyk. “Plus legumes are also a good source of fiber, which is important for general digestion and intestinal health.”
9. Bone broth
“Bone broth is hailed as an original intestinal remedy for its ancient roots and rich source of collagen protein,” says Foroutan.
“Onions provide the fiber inulin and fructooligosaccharides, both of which support intestinal health,” says Taub-Dix.
Connected: This is how you naturally improve your gut health
11. Cultivated foods
“Grown foods like buttermilk, sour cream, kefir, lassi and yogurt are naturally rich in probiotics,” says Taub-Dix. “And if you prefer a vegetarian, vegan, or dairy-free lifestyle, you can find yogurts that offer the same probiotic benefits without the dairy. You can naturally sweeten the sour taste of cultivated foods by adding fresh or frozen strawberries, and you’ll enjoy the extra fiber boost from the berries. “
“We believe tempeh, the fermented soy protein, is a perfect plant-based protein for the gut,” says Madadian. “It’s lean, high in fiber (it doesn’t often happen that you can eat your fiber and protein in one ingredient), and contains specifically prebiotic fiber, so it’s a booster for the gut microbiome. Fried platters are a good alternative to meat steaks for dinner, but we also like to crumble and fry them to add to vegetable and grain dishes and as a top salad. “
“Beans are the least used food in the supermarket. Beans are a feast for gut bacteria and don’t worry about the gas you might be producing – it’s a natural by-product of fermentation, ”says Taub-Dix. “The gas product can dissolve as your body gets used to eating beans regularly – what you should be doing!”
“It’s good for your gut if you add lots of fresh garlic to your food because garlic contains a powerful prebiotic fiber called inulin, which nourishes the good bacteria in your digestive system,” says Michalczyk. “Use fresh garlic in pasta dishes, to flavor proteins, in homemade salad dressings and more.”
“Almonds are high in fiber that can delight your gut bacteria and mouth in delicious ways,” says Taub-Dix. “Each ounce (that’s about 23 almonds) gives us 6 grams of vegetable protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, healthy fat and a wealth of other nutrients such as vitamin E, magnesium, calcium and a lot more.”
Connected: What are probiotics and what do they do?
16. Boiled and chilled potatoes (resistant starch)
“Resistant starch, like the starch found in boiled and then cooled potatoes, is a type of fiber that ‘resists’ digestion,” says Foroutan. “When it reaches your intestines, it feeds the friendly microbes in your digestive tract, making for healthier intestines.”
17. Canned lentils
“Yes, we are talking specifically about canned food. While all beans and legumes contain the fiber (and provide the protein at the same time) if you can tolerate them, canned lentils are really special for those on a low-FODMAP diet, ”says Madadian. “Beans are a no-go, but when canning, lentils are deliberately freed from their annoying carbohydrates so that you don’t have to say goodbye to them. For everyone else: high-fiber lentils can be easily transformed into something special – they are a great stir-up, but also make an excellent salad or side dish on their own. A ½ cup serving provides 4½ grams of fiber. “
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18. Probiotic supplements
Sure, it’s not exactly a food – but a probiotic supplement can really help. “Some people rely on probiotic supplements to improve digestion and soothe problems like constipation, gas, and irregularities. But not all probiotics are created equal, so it might be best to experiment with a few different types, ”says Taub-Dix. “Just check the label to see if it contains ‘live and active cultures’ and maybe look for a US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) label for third party review of the supplement content.”
Next, here are 13 foods that are high in vitamin D.