What you eat has a huge impact on your intestinal health. In fact, everything you put into your body affects the gut microbiota that protects you from disruptive digestive disorders, including irritable bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).1 Fortunately, you can take control of your gut microbiome through your shopping habits. Buying foods that work to improve digestive health—rather than undermine it—can have a profound effect on your well-being. So which grocery items will give you the biggest bang for your nutritional buck? Here are the top five foods to improve digestion and bring balance to your gut.
Fermented foods have been part of the human diet for centuries, and it’s a good idea to make them part of yours, too. Eating these foods, whether it’s sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, or miso (just to name a few), can have a big impact on your gut health. The fermentation process leads to the production of dietary probiotics—live bacteria that when ingested, can increase the microbial diversity in the gut, even after consuming them for just a short time.2 That’s important because probiotics can reduce the risk of digestive disorders brought on by the pro-inflammatory effects of gut dysbiosis.3
But if you’re not exactly crazy about kraut, try sipping on a kombucha. Evidence suggests that drinking this bubbly beverage can boost gut microbiota while reducing inflammation, improving liver detoxification, and decreasing intestinal dysbiosis.4
An easy addition to most any meal, beans offer a wide range of health benefits—particularly for gut health. They’re loaded with gut-friendly fiber, which promotes regular bowel movements and helps maintain a healthy bacterial balance. Beans also contain resistant starch, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic and feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut.5 Not only can eating beans regularly reduce the risk of gastrointestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease; beans may also help reduce your chances of developing other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
But which beans should you add to your gut-friendly grocery list? Any of them! Black, pinto, kidney, navy, you name it. And talk about convenient: there’s no need for cooking as canned beans are full of nutrients and perfect for keeping on standby in the cabinet. Supporting a healthy gut can be as easy as using a can opener!
Avocados are a nutrient-dense fruit known for their high content of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. They are also one of the best foods to improve digestion thanks to their anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and antioxidant activity.6 In a recent randomized trial that pitted avocado consumption against a control group, the avocado eaters experienced a significant alteration of intestinal bacteria compared those who didn’t eat the fruit.7
What’s even better about this superfood is that it has a domino effect on your health. People who eat more avocados tend to eat fewer carbohydrates and highly processed foods. In turn, they also eat significantly more nutritious vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. And that translates into lower body weight, BMI, and waist circumference.8
As far as protein goes, cold-water fish is about as healthy as it comes. But it’s not just their lean-protein content: this type of fish—including salmon, mackerel, black cod, whitefish, anchovies, herring, sardines, bluefin tuna, and striped bass—contains copious amounts of omega-3s that can have a significant impact on the health of your intestinal microbiota. Omega-3s possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce gut inflammation and promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms. If that weren’t enough, omega-3s also influence the gut-brain axis to positively affect mood and cognitive function, as well as alleviate anxiety and depression symptoms.9
Because this gut-healthy food is also great for your cardiovascular system, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice weekly. One serving equals three ounces cooked, or about three-quarters of a cup of flaked fish.
Berries have become famous for their antioxidant capabilities. And an ample amount of antioxidants are essential for a healthy gut. Antioxidants help regulate the composition and configuration of gut microbiota, thereby reducing intestinal oxidative stress and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease.10
Be sure to include a range of berries into your diet. Raspberries have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.11 Blueberries boost beneficial bacteria while also acting as a prebiotic, feeding the probiotics to enhance gut health.12 And strawberries boast a wealth of minerals, vitamins, folates, and phenolic compounds.13
Though all of these foods are essential for good gut health, you can also improve your intestinal microbiota with a targeted probiotic supplement. Probiotics work to regulate the composition of intestinal flora and enhance the immune system.14 If your digestive health has been compromised, a proven supplement like Kyo-Dophilus Max Probiotic can help replenish your microbiome and balance your digestive system.
Next time you’re putting together your grocery list, be sure to focus on the right foods for digestive health. And remember, it’s important to eat a wide range of foods to promote healthy gut bacteria. With the right nutrients from food, along with a probiotic supplement, you can optimize digestive health and experience the downstream benefits a healthy gut provides to your overall wellness.
- Bull MJPart 1: The human gut microbiome in health and disease. Integrative Medicine (Encinitas, Calif.). 2014;13(6):17–22.
- Ullrich S. Influence of fermented vegetable consumption on gut microbiome diversity. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2021;5(2):1188.
- Stiemsma LT. Does consumption of fermented foods modify the human gut microbiota? The Journal of Nutrition. 2020;150(7):1680–92.
- Aparecida de Campos Costa M. Effect of kombucha intake on the gut microbiota and obesity-related comorbidities: A systematic review. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2021;1-16.
- Kadyan S. Prebiotic potential of dietary beans and pulses and their resistant starch for aging-associated gut and metabolic health. Nutrients. 2022;14(9):1726.
- de Oliveira ECS. Dietary intervention with avocado (Persea americana Mill.) ameliorates intestinal inflammation induced by TNBS in rats. Inflammopharmacology. 2023;31:485–98.
- Henning SM. Hass avocado inclusion in a weight-loss diet supported weight loss and altered gut microbiota: A 12-week randomized, parallel-controlled trial. Current Developments in Nutrition. 2019;3(8):nzz068.
- Guan VX. Consumption of avocado and associations with nutrient, food and anthropometric measures in a representative survey of Australians: A secondary analysis of the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. British Journal of Nutrition. 2022;128(5):932–9.
- Costantini L. Impact of omega-3 fatty acids on the gut microbiota. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2017;18(12):2645.
- Riaz Rajoka MS. Role of food antioxidants in modulating gut microbial communities: novel understandings in intestinal oxidative stress damage and their impact on host health. Antioxidants. 2021; 10(10):1563.
- Lopez-Corona AV. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activity of phenolic compound family extracted from raspberries (Rubus idaeus): a general review. Antioxidants. 2022;11(6):1192.
- Zhou L. Antioxidant activity of high purity blueberry anthocyanins and the effects on human intestinal microbiota. LWT. 2020;117:108621.
- Giampieri F. Strawberry and human health: effects beyond antioxidant activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2014;62(18):3867–76.
- Wang X. Probiotics regulate gut microbiota: an effective method to improve immunity. Molecules. 2021;26(19):6076.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.