If I’ve learned anything from starting my own health journey, it’s that gut health is at the root of so much of our health issues. Personally, I know focusing on healing my gut health has made the biggest impact in my health, energy and wellness over the years.
It’s helped boost my energy, GREATLY improve my digestion, made my brain fog disappear and helped my skin clear naturally.
Doctors and researchers are starting to understand more and more about how our gut health and gut microbiome plays a much larger picture in our overall health, and what they’re finding is pretty amazing. Did you know the large intestine hosts more than 1,000 types of bacteria alone?
Studies have shown that a healthy gut can keep chronic disease at bay, reduces inflammation within your body, reverse irritable bowel syndrome, helps maintain a healthy weight, keeps your brain healthy and sharp and can also have a big impact on mental health too. According to this study, anxiety and depression are directly linked to gut health through the gut-brain axis as well.
Bottom line, if you want to feel better, think clearer and stay healthy, you need to make your gut health a priority!
And, it’s so much more than just popping a probiotic everyday and going on with your life. What you eat on a daily basis can be the best medicine you’ll ever feed yourself. It’s not a quick fix solution, it’s a lifestyle change, but it makes such a big impact in your wellbeing that you won’t miss your old diet or lifestyle.
This will look different for everyone, but for me, it’s adopting a diet that’s at least 70% plant-based. My basic rule of thumb to eat this way is that breakfast, lunch and snacks are all plant-based and if I do eat meat, it’s usually at dinner with my family. I do try and sneak in 1-2 plant-based dinners each week. It’s all about finding a healthy balance that works for you!
7 Best Foods for a Healthy Gut
Anything that is grown from the earth is okay in my book! I know there is some fruit fear out there because of the natural sugars, but fruits also contain so many amazing benefits. Plus, they’re tied with fiber, so that sugar is not released into your bloodstream the same way that refined sugar is. They contain essential vitamins and minerals and antioxidants like flavinoids.
Vegetables also contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also high in fiber which is essential to healthy gut function. Aim to eat 4-5 servings of vegetables every day. The more variety, the better, as different plants will give your body different prebiotic fiber that can help to feed your gut microbes.
I love the book, “Fiber Fueled”, and he said to aim to get 30 different plants in your diet each week—this includes ALL plants, so fruits, beans & legumes, etc.
Beans & Legumes
A staple in the diets of those living in the Blue Zones, areas of the world where people are healthiest and live longer. Beans and legumes have so many health benefits! They are rich in plant-protein, loaded with fiber and contain B-vitamins, iron, calcium and are very low in fat. They’re also incredibly inexpensive. So, if you think eating healthy is pricey, it doesn’t have to be!
These are low in calories, but incredibly nutrient-dense. They’ve got vitamins, minerals, and, you guessed it—fiber! Notice the trend here? Fiber rich foods equal a healthy gut. It’s so easy to get in leafy greens too. I toss big handfuls of spinach or kale into morning smoothies, eat a big salad at lunch and sauté them with lemon juice at dinner.
Personally, I don’t understand the whole Paleo and Whole30 movement that relies heavily on animal protein and vegetables, but ditches other incredibly healthy foods.
Whole grains have been a staple in diets across the world for many years, and they remain a staple in the diet of people who live in the Blue Zones. They’re filled with protein, fiber, B vitamins and more, and have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and even some types of cancer. How can that be bad for you?!
Probiotics are all the rage these days, and if you can get your probiotics from real foods, even better. These probiotics help diversify the beneficial bacteria in your gut. The more diverse your microbiome, the better!
A few foods to try: miso, kefir (if you tolerate dairy), miso, tofu, sourdough, kimchi, kombucha (in small doses because it’s very acidic!), sauerkraut, and anything else you can find that’s fermented! One of my favorites are these Bubbie’s pickles! You’ll find them in the refrigerated section at stores like Whole Foods, they’re delicious!
Nuts & Seeds
Lastly, nuts and seeds! These are packed with fiber, plant-protein, omega-3s, healthy fats and vitamins & minerals. They make for easy snacks, salad toppings and smoothie bowl toppings.
Foods to Avoid or Limit for a Healthy Gut
Gluten: A lot of people will tell you gluten, but personally, I don’t find that gluten will wreck your gut unless you are actually allergic or intolerant to it. If you find that it does bother you, eat it in small doses, or cut out completely until you’ve healed your gut.
Red Meat & Animal Protein: Red meat and other animal proteins take much longer for your body to digest than whole plant foods. Which means they’re harder on your digestive system and can also drain you of energy because it requires more from your body to breakdown than a big green salad topped with chickpeas would.
Dairy: While some people love yogurt for it’s probiotic content, personally, I limit dairy as I find the downsides outweigh the positives for me. Plus, I can get probiotics from other foods or supplements. If you’re lactose intolerant, please do not consume dairy!
Sugar: Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners are pretty terrible for gut health, so the more you can reduce this, the better. Eating a primarily whole foods diet will make a big difference. Reducing or ditching processed foods all together is smart too. If you have a sweet tooth, try my vegan snickers that have NO refined sugar! They hit that sweet spot and are so delicious!
So, the key takeaways from this post? Fruits and vegetables should be the mainstays of your diet, and you should be eating plenty of fiber. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber a day. If you currently eat a low-fiber diet, work up to this slowly because your body will need some time to adjust!
*This post is for informational purposes only and should be considered medical advice. I’m speaking from personal experience only.