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5 Foods for Gut Health

Top view of assorted fermented foods and drinks, sources of probiotics great for healthy gut and digestive system: kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, miso soup, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, wooden background

A balanced gut microbiome is essential for optimal health. To achieve this, people often consume pre- and probiotics. Probiotics act as a source of good bacteria, while prebiotics are the fiber which the bacteria feed on, allowing the bacteria to proliferate throughout the gut. Benefits often include improved digestion, boosted immunity, and healthy weight maintenance. Take care of your gut and it will take care of you!

So, what should you eat? Here are five nutritious, probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods you can start implementing into your diet today.

1. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a lacto-fermented green cabbage that contains probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Its probiotics help your body absorb nutrients easier, which is what makes it more nutritious than raw cabbage or coleslaw.

Unpasteurized sauerkraut contains beneficial bacteria that act as a defense to ward off infections, toxins, and harmful bacteria. Sauerkraut is also a good source of immune-boosting probiotics, and nutrients that may help to boost the production of natural antibodies.

You can add sauerkraut as a side to your meal, add it to a burrito or on top of eggs or a salad!

2. Kimchi

Another fermented food is Kimchi, a traditional spicy Korean dish made with salted fermented vegetables. It typically contains cabbage and seasonings like sugar, salt, onions, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers, however, can include other vegetables such as radish, celery, carrot, or cucumber.

Similar to sauerkraut, kimchi contains probiotics that promote healthy microorganisms within your gut that helps regulate your immune system, promote weight loss, and even fight inflammation.

You can eat kimchi on its own, but it makes a great addition to many Asian dishes like rice bowls, ramen, and salads.

3. Miso

Miso is a thick fermented paste made from soybeans and a bacterial culture called koji. Koji is a type of yeast that supports healthy digestion from the enzymes that it produces.

It is used to add a nice umami flavor to dishes due to its bold taste. Umami is often described as a savory flavor that deepens the taste of a dish. That said, miso is very salty, and a small amount can go a long way. Thus, it may not be a good choice for individuals who need to limit their salt intake. Be sure to consult your health care practitioner before incorporating into your diet.

This incredibly nutritious and savory paste can be used to make sauces, spreads, or used as dressings or marinades. However, probiotic filled miso is most often used to make a salty soup called miso soup that’s low in calories and high in B vitamins and protective antioxidants.

4. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that contains more probiotics than regular yogurt. It is made by adding kefir grains, which are made up of a combination of yeast and bacteria, to milk. Thick, creamy, and tangy like yogurt, research has shown that it improves lactose digestion, decreases inflammation, and boosts bone health.

Kefir has strong probiotic properties, which are beneficial for modulating your gut microbiota, as well as being a rich source of calcium. This milky probiotic drink is a good source of protein and lower in lactose, which can be better tolerated than a glass of milk for those with lactose intolerance.

You can enjoy kefir on its own or use it to give your smoothies and blended drinks a boost.

5. Barley

Barley is a prebiotic grain that contains beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. Rich in vitamins, minerals and easily available in many forms from barley grits, flakes, and flour. Soaking and sprouting barley may increase its antioxidant levels and can be used for baking.

Being a prebiotic grain, barley’s soluble fiber content provides food for probiotic gut bacteria, reducing inflammation and prevents constipation.

You can add barley to your diet by eating cooked barley on its own as a substitute for rice or add it to soups, stews, or salads. You can also bake with barley flour or use barley flakes as a breakfast porridge instead of oats.

Your gut bacteria are extremely important for many aspects of health and the best way to improve and maintain a healthy gut microbiome is to start by adding these gut healing foods to your daily intake.

Learn more about ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written by: Wendy Chen, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern



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