Did you know you can eat your way to a healthy gut? Changing your diet is one of the easiest ways to ensure your gut is healthy. A healthy gut can give you many benefits, including weight loss, better mental health, and protection from diseases.1
What is the Microbiome?
Your gut may just be the key to your health. It’s the site of the human microbiome – a fascinating subject that scientists are making more discoveries about every day. Around 100 trillion microorganisms, including yeasts, bacteria, and funguses, live throughout your body, mainly concentrated in your gastrointestinal tract. Your gut microbiome, or microbiota, is the colony of helpful microorganisms living in your gut.
Probiotics and Prebiotics Defined
What do probiotics and prebiotics have to do with gut health? Probiotics are living microorganisms taken for their health benefits.2 They help boost the effectiveness of your existing gut microorganisms. Probiotics can be found in supplements, and in certain foods you eat.3
Prebiotics are a type of fiber4 that act as food for the microorganisms in your gut (both your existing gut microbiota and any probiotics you may take).5 To grow and remain healthy – and keep you healthy, too – your gut microbiota needs to be fueled with prebiotics.
To fuel a healthy gut naturally, look for foods that contain both probiotics and prebiotics. Here is a day’s worth of easy meals to kick-start your gut health:
Healthy Gut Diet: Breakfast
For breakfast, try a tasty, gut-healthy yogurt parfait. You need just three ingredients: yogurt, granola, and one banana. When shopping for yogurt, choose brands with the “Live and Active Cultures” seal given by the National Yogurt Association.6 Yogurts bearing this seal contain probiotics. Bananas and granola, which is mostly made of oats, are both prebiotic foods.
To make the parfait, you’ll need a tall glass. Layer 2 tablespoons of yogurt, followed by 2 tablespoons of granola, and several slices of banana. Repeat this process until your glass is full. This easy meal is great for your gut, and it will give you energy to start your day.
Your stomach might start rumbling around mid-morning. Have a quick snack on hand to keep you full until lunch. Trail mix is an easy, gut-friendly snack food. Make your own using cashews, chocolate chips, and raisins. All three of these ingredients are prebiotic, even the chocolate!7
To make the trail mix, combine equal parts cashews and raisins. Use about half as much chocolate as the other ingredients.
Wash your snack down with kombucha, a fermented tea. Only unpasteurized kombucha contains probiotics, so look for unpasteurized brands. If you love kombucha, you may want to try making your own to save money. Kits and starter cultures for making kombucha are available online.
Healthy Gut Diet: Lunch
For lunch, try a healthy sandwich with a side of kimchi. To make the sandwich, you’ll need whole wheat bread, hummus, avocados, and a slice or two of turkey lunchmeat. Whole wheat bread and hummus, which contains chickpeas, are prebiotic foods.8 Lean protein and healthy, unsaturated fat have been shown to be beneficial to your gut microbiota.9 The turkey and hummus provide your body with protein, while the avocado gives you unsaturated fat.
Drink a glass or two of water with lunch, and more throughout the day. Water is important to your digestion, as it helps you break down foods and softens your stool.10
On the side, eat some spicy kimchi. This Korean dish is made mostly of fermented cabbage, and contains probiotics. You can get kimchi in many larger grocery stores. Make sure you get it from the refrigerated section – shelf-stable kimchi has been pasteurized and no longer contains live probiotics.11
Healthy Gut Diet: Dinner
Wild salmon served with a side of sauerkraut makes a good main dish for dinner. Sauerkraut is like the German version of kimchi, and it is also a fermented condiment made from cabbage that contains probiotics.
To make dinner, first, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Slice and sauté an onion in the olive oil, using medium-high heat. Then, add the salmon to the pan. Cook for about five minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low, and then add ½ cup water or broth. Cover the salmon, and then simmer for about 12 minutes.
Since heat can kill probiotics, add as much sauerkraut as you’d like just before serving. Serve with a raw spinach or kale salad – leafy green veggies are healthy prebiotic foods.
It’s not hard to eat a gut-friendly diet. Try adding some of these foods to your regular routine, and you’ll enjoy the many benefits of a healthy gut.