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Here are the best foods to eat for gut health

Nourish your gut microbiome with these affordable, delicious foods.
vegetarian chili
Beans are great for your gut — and affordable.lacaosa / Getty Images

Eating the right foods can fuel the microorganisms that live in your gut, leading to a plethora of health benefits. And eating the wrong thing can have negative consequences on your gastrointestinal tract. Luckily, some of the best foods for gut health are delicious and easy to find.

The microorganisms that live in your gut are a type of beneficial bacteria, which help with digestion and absorbing nutrients. Having a diverse gut microbiome can also boosts other aspects of your wellbeing, from your immune system to your mental health. chatted with two registered dietitians about the best get health foods.

Heaps of Oat Flake on White Background
Eating oats increases gut bacteria.Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images

What is gut health?

Gut health is all over TikTok and social media platforms, and it can mean a range of things. Generally speaking, the term "gut health" encompasses the trillions of microorganisms that make up the gut's microbiome and their effect on a person's health.

“The composition and health of the gut microbiota have been linked to a variety of health conditions, both GI and otherwise,” registered dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman tells “(Poor gut health) is associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel diseases and digestive system cancers (especially colon cancer) and conditions like frailty, mood disorders and metabolic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

On the other hand, a healthy gut can reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, bowl diseases, heart disease and depression.

How do you make sure you have a healthy gut?

The foods you eat and those you leave out of your diet play a major role in your gut microbiome.

For example, the largest study on the human microbiome, referred to as the American Gut Project, found that eating a wide range of plants increases the diversity of microbes in the guy, Alyssa Lavy, registered dietitian and owner of Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness, tells

Having more diverse microbes in your gut can make your body more stable and able to bounce back from disease, research shows. But having less diversity in your gut microbiome, often due to eating lots of processed foods and saturated fat, may increase risk of heart problems, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

So what are the best foods for gut health? Generally speaking, they come from plants and don't have much saturated fat or sugar. But you need to eat these foods on a regular basis, Duker Freuman stresses.

"Eating beans once in a blue moon doesn’t have some magically transformative impact on gut health," she says.

Best gut health foods

According to both dietitians, you should fill your plate regularly with these eight kinds of food to build a healthy gut.

High-fiber foods

Fiber helps foods past through the digestive system. There are types of this carbohydrate: soluble, which becomes a gel during digestion because it absorbs water; and insoluble, which helps move food through the gastrointestinal tract. Both types are critical for gut health.

High-fiber foods include:

  • Vegetables, especially broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts potatoes with skin and kale
  • Pulses (beans, lentils and peas)
  • Fruits, especially pears with skin, apples with skin and berries
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, farro, barely, quinoa and wheatberries


Oats are known for their soluble fiber, which can improve stool consistency and bowel regularity. “They also contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that is thought to reduce cholesterol,” says Lavy. A review of the research says that eating oats increases the bacterial count in the gut, reduces gut permeability and leads to more inflammation-fighting short chain fatty acids.

Kiwi Macro,Fresh Kiwi fruit sliced use for background
Kiwi contains actinidin, an enzyme beneficial to gut bacteria.banjongseal324 / Getty Images/iStockphoto


This deliciously sweet green fruit has vitamin C, potassium and 2 grams of fiber per kiwi. In addition to the fiber, the kiwi has another compound that may help keep you regular. “Recent research shows [kiwi] may be helpful in improving motility and stool consistency, which is likely due to actinidin, an enzyme present in the fruit,” says Lavy.

Probiotic foods

Probiotics are living microorganisms that reside in the gut and may have health benefits. The most common probiotics are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. They develop during the fermentation process that occurs when making foods like tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and kombucha. Microbes are also added yogurt to break down the sugar lactose into lactic acid.  

The following foods are rich in probiotics:


Have you ever noticed that one of the ingredients in yogurt is “live active cultures”? These are the live bacteria that ferment the milk product to create yogurt or its familiar tangy cousin, kefir. “Fermented foods have their own diverse and unique microbial populations, which can have transient health benefits as they pass through our guts on their way out the proverbial back door,” says Duker Freuman. Plus, research has found that fermentation can result in the release of bioactive peptides (organic substances), which may reduce cholesterol.  

Sauerkraut and kimchi

Both of these tangy condiments are made from cabbage fermented in a salty mixture. The end result is a good-for-the-gut crunchy topper for sandwiches, stir-fries and more. Both sauerkraut and kimchi contain a probiotic that increases immune response and reduces inflammation. Not to mention that a study in mice suggests that probiotics in kimchi may help treat inflammatory bowel disease, but more research is needed.


If you’ve never had tempeh before, say hello to one of your new favorite plant-based proteins. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that is blended with a grain– usually rice– and formed into a solid block. It’s easy to slice, marinate and cook, and it’s also full of probiotics. The research on tempeh is limited, but one study suggests that eating this soy product increased the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Another interesting study gave elderly participants tempeh-derived probiotics in supplement form for 12 weeks. The researchers found that one of the probiotics in tempeh increased memory, language and spatial perception in the participants.

Bananas are full of prebiotic fiber and resistant starch, a carbohydrate that aids the large intestine.
Bananas are full of prebiotic fiber and resistant starch, a carbohydrate that aids the large intestine.Getty Images

Prebiotic foods

Prebiotics are fibers that feed the microbes in the gut. Eating these fibers helps the probiotics in the gut flourish and grow. Luckily, they're found in several plant foods, including beans, artichokes, garlic, onions, asparagus, barley and wheat bran.

Here are three prebiotic-rich stand-outs:


“Beans support a healthy gut microbiota specifically through their prebiotic fiber, which nourishes some of the microbes that produce short-chain fatty acids,” says Duker Freuman. “These short-chain fatty acids reduce the pH of the colon, which plays a role in colon cancer prevention, and they inhibit disease-causing species of bacteria,” adds Duker Freuman. Plus, recent research suggests that some varieties of beans may also improve the integrity of the intestinal barrier, which keeps bacteria from getting too close to the inner layers of the gut wall and provoking immune cells. Not to mention that beans are affordable and versatile.


Artichokes are also rich in prebiotic fiber, which “selectively feed health-promoting members of our microbiota, including species in the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria genera,” says Duker Freuman. She adds that these microbes provoke the intestinal cells to secrete mucus, which improves the mucosal barrier function. They also produce short chain fatty acids, which promote an anti-inflammatory environment throughout the gut.


It’s time to stop avoiding this starchy fruit, which is advantageous for gut health. Not only are bananas full of potassium, a nutrient that lowers blood pressure, but they are also known for treating constipation. Bananas contain prebiotic fiber and resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that is absorbed slowly in the large intestines and results in fermentation.

The bottom line

“It makes more sense to think about overall dietary patterns for good gut health rather than specific foods,” says Duker Freuman. In other words, these foods are great for gut health but you don’t need to try to limit yourself to them. Just integrate them into your meal plan.

Duker Freuman also notes that a diverse diet full of plant-based foods is the best for overall gut health, so choose the high fiber foods you enjoy the most. “Your consistent, regular eating habits are what promote long term gut health,” says Duker Freuman, “there are no shortcuts here.”