The gut plays a large role not just in your digestive health, but your overall health in general. In fact, there are strong links between your gut health and your brain. If you struggle with fatigue, brain fog, or trouble focusing, it might actually be from your gut.
Below you will find a list of not just the best foods for your gut and digestion, but also the worst foods. This helps you create a healthy, well-balanced diet that makes you feel good, gives you energy, and helps with your brain fog all at the same time.
The Best Foods for Gut Health
Let’s start with the best foods for your gut. These are the foods that often contain higher amounts of nutrients, like fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, protein, and many different vitamins and minerals. Of course, some foods on this list you might still be sensitive to if you have conditions like Crohn’s, IBS, or gastritis, but it is a good place to start.
If you can handle dairy, yogurt is one of the best foods to add to your daily routine. Look for yogurt with live cultures. Greek yogurt is one example, as it contains a good amount of probiotics to help your gut microbiome. Just a small serving of yogurt a day is all you really need. You'll get that gut-friendly bacteria along with calcium and protein as an added bonus.
Tip – Get the unsweetened varieties of yogurt, then sweeten it yourself with honey or another type of natural sweetener. It will be less processed and you can avoid unhealthy sugars.
Next up is another type of probiotic in kimchi. If you have never heard of this before, it is a type of fermented vegetable that is popular in Korean cuisine. Many fermented foods will help to balance out of the good and bad bacteria in your stomach and improve your digestive system. Plus, it has many other vitamins and minerals, and a good amount of fiber.
Tip – Kimchi tastes great when served with meat or fish. If you are not a big meat eater, try it with your eggs.
Apple Cider Vinegar
This has become a trending topic in recent years, so it’s probably something you are familiar with. There are many health benefits to apple cider vinegar, which is why it is so highly regarded, especially in the alternative and natural health space. But for gut health, it also has some unique benefits.
Apple cider vinegar can help create more hydrochloric acid, which is a type of acid in your gut that allows you to digest carbs and fats more effectively. It is also great for people with GERD or acid reflux.
Tip – Take a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning, mixed with a small amount of water.
Another type of fermented vegetable that is amazing for your gut health is sauerkraut. It is made from cabbage that is fermented and can be put alongside many dishes, like sausages, meats, even other vegetables. Like other fermented vegetables, it is a type of probiotic food.
Tip – Top your hot dog or Italian sausage with some sauerkraut.
Fish and Fish Oil
Both fish and fish oil are really good for your gut, and the rest of your body. If you have been dealing with digestive issues, adding a serving of fish to your day can help tremendously. You can also use fish oil supplements if you prefer and aren’t a big fan of eating fish.
In addition to the gut benefits, fish and fish oil also contain omega-3 fatty acids, and protein, all of which are great for your health.
Tip – Enjoy salmon or another fatty fish a few days a week to increase the fish oil in your diet.
If you have ever tried Ginger-Ale or ginger tea for a tummy ache, then you are already aware ginger can be great for nausea and stomach upset. But in addition to helping when your stomach is already hurting, ginger also helps digestion on a more regular basis. IT comes in many forms, making it easy to add to your diet.
Tip – Have a cup of ginger tea each evening to settle your stomach.
When it comes to nuts, most of them have a good amount of vitamins and minerals, but almonds are best for your gut. They contain probiotic properties, therefore a handful of almonds or almond butter is going to improve your digestive health.
Tip – Dip your apples in almond butter as a healthy snack.
Next to yogurt, kefir is probably one of the healthiest and best forms of dairy for your gut health. It is a cross between milk and a liquid yogurt, with many different live strains of good bacteria to help improve your digestion.
Tip – Improve your gut health by using kefir for your morning smoothie instead of regular milk.
Sprouted Grain and Sourdough Bread
When it comes to bread, you don’t need to skip it entirely to improve your gut, unless you are sensitive to wheat or gluten. However, you do want to choose the right varieties to help your digestion. This includes both sprouted grain bread and sourdough bread.
Sprouted grain bread is much less processed and contains more of the actual whole grains it promises. It is much gentler on your stomach than other types of wheat bread. Sourdough bread is ideal if you have a sensitive stomach, but still want bread. Many people with IBS can still eat sourdough.
Tip – Enjoy a piece of sprouted grain bread with avocado and egg for a well-balanced breakfast of carbs, fiber, fat, and protein.
It’s time to start trading the regular broth for bone broth! This is so amazing for your health, containing dozens of vitamins and minerals, and collagen to help your bones and skin. You can use bone broth in your soup and other dishes. Also, you could just heat it up and drink like you would regular broth.
Tip – Add bone broth to your gravy or soup to make it more flavorful and nutritious.
In addition to those already mentioned, foods high in fiber are really good for your gut health. This includes a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, like:
- Whole wheat and whole grain bread
- Brown rice
- Green peas
- Brussels sprouts
Tip – Increase your fiber slowly, otherwise you might deal with a lot of bloating and gas.
Lastly, you have your foods that are known for being anti-inflammatory, which can also help your gut if you struggle with gas and bloating. Some already mentioned include almonds and fish oil. More anti-inflammatory foods that are good for your gut include:
- Flax seeds
The Worst Foods for Gut Health
Now for the foods that might not be the best for your gut. Keep in mind that some of these are healthy and nutrient-dense foods, but many people have sensitivities to them when it comes to their gut. For you, this might mean you can only eat a small amount of them at a time, you eat them sparingly, or you need to skip them entirely.
As always, you should listen to your body when deciding if these foods need to be avoided or not.
The worst foods for your gut include:
Naturally, processed foods are going to be high on this list. While you don’t need to eat a completely, 100 percent clean diet, it is a good idea to reduce how often you eat processed foods. How do you know it’s processed? Typically, if it doesn’t come in its whole form, like anything packaged or frozen, it has at least some processing done to it.
Tip – Try skipping excessive processed foods for a few weeks, then see if your gut health improves.
Fried and fatty foods can also be really hard on your stomach. Many people don’t have an easy time digesting them, leading to gas, bloating, and something stomach cramps. If you have medical conditions like gastritis or acid reflux, these high-fat foods can cause a lot more discomfort for you.
Tip – Save your fried foods for the occasional treat, not as a regular occurrence.
In addition to the fried foods, there are also a category of foods with a lot of saturated fat. Think about foods like full-fat cream and butter. Saturated fat can also be found in a lot of processed and fried foods, especially if you eat out at restaurants or fast food joints. Saturated fat can also disturb the good bacteria in your gut.
Tip – Use olive oil instead of butter when cooking.
When eaten in moderation, red meat like beef and porn should be okay. But if you are eating an excess amount of it, you might notice the adverse effects in your gut. Red meat can negatively affect your gut microbiome, and lead to a lot of digestive issues in the future. Plus, it is also harmful to your cardiovascular health.
Tip – To get the flavor of beef, combine ground beef and ground turkey for a lower-fat option that is still tasty.
Alcohol doesn’t need to be avoided entirely, but reducing it can do wonders for your gut. You might notice that the older you get, the harder it is to handle alcoholic beverages if you have more than one. This is a good sign that it is time to cut back or consider quitting.
Tip – Consider making non-alcoholic versions of your favorite drinks, such as margaritas and daquiris.
If you have ever eaten something that claimed to be “sugar free” chances are high that it used artificial sweeteners. Some alternative sweeteners are more natural, like Stevia and Monk Fruit, and might be very gentle on your stomach. But, you do want to avoid sweeteners like sucralose, sorbitol, maltitol, and aspartame.
Tip – Choose the versions of sweets with real sugar or natural sweeteners, instead of “diet” or “sugar free”.
Many citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are really healthy and contain a lot of antioxidants and vitamins. Unfortunately, some people are overly sensitive to them, and their gut does not handle them well. If you are dealing with gut issues, consider reducing the citrus fruits in your diet and switch to fruits like bananas and cantaloupe instead.
Tip – You might also be sensitive to other acidic foods like tomatoes.
These vegetables are another food that is good for you, but not always kind to your gut. You don’t need to remove them from your diet completely, but if you have a lot of gas and bloating, reducing them is probably a good idea.
Cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Spicy Foods
Last are your spicy foods. Again, these aren’t always bad for you, and you might even have a strong stomach that can handle them. But if you have gut issues and can’t figure out the cause, notice how you feel after eating something spicy.
Capsaicin is an ingredient in hot chili peppers that is often linked with the digestive issues people experience with spicy foods.
Tip – Start lowering the spice in your food slowly, gradually moving from hot to medium, then mild.
Not only does following this list of good and bad foods for your gut help your digestive health, but it can help you have a more balanced diet.