Most people think of exercise or clean eating when it comes to their health. Many forget to care for their gut. No, we’re not talking about sit-ups; we’re talking about the bacteria inside your digestive tract. Improving your health may be a matter of the good versus bad bacteria inside you.
Choosing foods high in prebiotics and probiotics will help improve your immune system and digestion — and in some cases prevent diseases. These are the 15 best foods for maintaining good gut health. One superfood may be the most powerful item at your grocery store (page 10).
People enjoy this fermented cabbage dish as a side or topping for hotdogs, brats, and sausages. The acids that create sauerkraut’s sour flavor are the same acids that help the probiotics to flourish. An outstanding source of vitamins, protein, and fiber, sauerkraut can help people with irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Bone broth
What do you get when you slow-cook bones and bone marrow in water for one to three days? You get a gut-loving broth of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. You can also buy it bottled and ready to drink. If you suspect leaky gut, bone broth can help heal it and allow for better nutrient absorption. Some people love bone broth so much they drink it straight!
This Korean dish is served at every meal traditionally. Made by fermenting vegetables, usually cabbage and radishes, kimchi can be used as a side or included in recipes. An excellent probiotic, this spicy food is one of the most versatile items on this list.
If you want to grow the good bacteria already living in your gut, you can eat more onions. This vegetable has excellent prebiotic qualities that balance the digestive system. They come in many varieties and go with just about any dish. If you don’t like the flavor, try Jerusalem artichokes and chicory, which have the same effects.
Most people have heard about the health benefits of yogurt. And most yogurts can give you a boost of probiotics. However, this food can also be unhealthy. Read the nutrition label to enssure it doesn’t have tons of sugar. You can also get the benefits of yogurt if you’re lactose intolerant. There are several kinds of dairy-free yogurt that have added probiotics.
A long-standing ingredient in Asian dishes, miso is high in protein and fiber. It also packs a probiotic punch that resolves intestinal inflammation. (People who have high blood pressure should use this high-sodium food in moderation to avoid blood-pressure spikes.)
This prebiotic can help fuel the growth of good bacteria while inhibiting harmful bacteria. Raw garlic produces the best results. Try crushing or chopping a clove and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes before eating to allow allicin to form. Allicin is the sticky residue that appears when damaged garlic reacts to oxygen. It’s also a reason raw garlic is so healthy.
8. Sprouted grains
Sprouting grains before processing them into bread, cereal, and past create enzymes, which aid in digestion. For people who struggle to digest wheat, these sprouted grains really help. The prebiotic increases the nutrients your gut can absorb. It also reduces inflammation due to the added enzymes that break things down. The less energy your gut uses to digest, the more it can use to heal.
This one is hard to pronounce and hard to find in many parts of the U.S. Traditionally made with fermented rye, kvass often includes juiced beets. While it’s becoming popular in America, it’s been around for a long time in Eastern Europe. Similar to kombucha and kefir, kvass is packed with probiotics. To try Kvass, you may have to visit a health store near you.
If you like yogurt, you’ll love kefir. It often comes in small bottles for single serving shots or a large bottle to keep in the fridge. Kefir is more liquid than yogurt, so it can be consumed like a drink. The best part: It has 10 different live strains of bacteria, making it great for maintaining good gut health.
Try mangos for a gut-friendly treat. Loaded with fiber, nutrients, and flavor, this prebiotic is also one of the best foods for gut health. Eating mangos every day can even help lower blood sugar and reduce body fat, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition.
Kombucha comes packed with health benefits. Made from fermented sugars that naturally occur in tea, the bottled drink comes in many delicious flavors and has one of the most powerful probiotics. (Because of its high fermentation, kombucha also contains a small amount of alcohol.)
13. Apple cider vinegar
People with digestive issues often avoid acidic foods. Why does apple cider vinegar make the cut? It turns out ACV, when unpasteurized (the mother is present), can help with acidity balance and gut health. It helps the body create hydrochloric acid, which can digest macronutrients more efficiently. Whether you struggle digesting carbs, proteins, or fats, ACV can help.
14. Coconut oil
Many people suffer from stomachaches when they consume high-fat foods. But coconut oil is different. It’s anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial. If you get sick often, you may have an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. Coconut oil can help restore a healthy balance in moderation.
As we age, we produce less collagen, an essential protein that keeps our body’s structure together. By adding collagen to your diet, you can heal inflammation in the gut. It can also reduce the signs of aging and increase the elasticity of your skin. By helping your digestive system work like it did when you were younger, you boost immune system, too.
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