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Best Foods for Gut Health

Gut health is supported when we include specific gut-healthy foods in our daily diet. These foods generally include prebiotic, probiotic, and fermented foods. 

Prebiotics are food fermented by bacteria in the gut, resulting in specific changes in the composition or activity of the gastrointestinal microbiota, and conferring benefits on host health. They stimulate and encourage the growth of good gut bacteria in our digestive tract. 

Probiotics are the living microorganisms that maintain and improve the microflora or good gut bacteria in the digestive tract. 

Fermented foods are high in different strains of probiotics. This article breaks down prebiotics and how a diet high in prebiotics can help us establish and maintain a strong and healthy gut flora. 

Please note that while the above foods do promote gut health in most individuals, those with IBS, Ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease need to be more discerning when including these foods as they could potentially trigger a flare-up. If you have a gastro condition, it’s best to consult with your doctor or dietician before including any new foods. 

How to integrate gut-healthy foods into your diet 

It’s best to start with small portions and slowly increase when introducing new foods. Begin with one new food at a time. Trust your body and observe your digestion. Most foods are more easily digested when cooked, especially when digestion is delicate.  

  • Greens should be lightly steamed, sautéd, or grilled, while root vegetables should be well cooked by boiling or par-boiling and then grilling. 
  • Fruit should be eaten on its own, between meals. 
  • Grains and legumes should be soaked for 6-9 hours, (overnight is best) or cooked in a pressure cooker. 

Prebiotics for Gut Health 

You can better serve your digestive system by choosing prebiotic foods that support your gut microbiota. For it is here, in this wonderful forest of enzymes, bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that food is metabolized into vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. 

Prebiotics are gut-healthy foods that contain Inulin, a fermentable dietary fiber found in certain starches. Research shows that digesting probiotics increases the Bifidobacterium genus (a strand of anti-inflammatory gut bacteria) in the digestive tract, reducing gas and bloating. These foods are fermented by bacteria in the gut creating health benefits to the organism and setting the stage for healthy digestion. 

Onions & Garlic 

The base of any good soup or stew, onions, and garlic have been used medicinally for thousands of years. High in Sulphur compounds, the allium family of vegetables (onions, leek, chives, scallion, and garlic), have been found to reduce cholesterol and lower the fasting blood sugar of diabetic patients as well as being beneficial for cancer prevention

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Allium chinense is used for digestive health, to improve circulation, optimize blood health, and increase Qi energy. In folk law, grated onion is packed into children’s socks at night to stop a persistent cough or left in a bowl in the room of those sick with colds or the flu.

Best sauteed in olive oil, onions are also delicious as a lacto-fermented pickle. For sweet onions let them sauté until they are transparent. If you are avoiding oil, you can also sauté onions in water. 

Dandelion Greens 

Rich in iron, dandelion leaves encourage the production of healthy gut bacteria, lowering blood sugar and inflammation. 

Throw some raw dandelion greens into a starter salad, and dress with olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon, and a good quality mineral-rich salt. The root of the dandelion plant can be roasted and ground to make a great coffee substitute and liver tonic. 


A mild flavored and delicious root, Leek is a great source of carotenoids, B complex, and vitamin C, while also promoting liver function. 

Wash the leeks well and add to your favorite soup, vegetable bake, or meat or chicken stew. Leeks are also delicious when grilled with white fish.


Asparagus is said to have drying qualities in Ayurvedic medicine, acting like a balm for inflammation. High in potassium, calcium, vitamin C, B, folate (B9), and beta carotene. asparagus acts on the kidneys and purifies the blood. 

Lightly steam to retain its green color, flavor, and prebiotic and nutrient-dense qualities. 

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunchokes, is a native North American root vegetable high in copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. 

Jerusalem artichokes are a root and must be cooked. Added to soups and stews they add a rich flavor, and they can be pureed for a deliciously healthy replacement for mashed potatoes. 

Chicory Root 

Chicory Root has been used in ancient cultures for thousands of years and was first described by Theophrastus, the Greek philosopher, and botanist, and later in Rome in an ancient recipe book entitled, Apicius-De re coquinera, where the root was, ‘preserved with oil and onions, and in winter consumed with vinegar and honey’. 

Chicory root supports gut and digestive health, impacting the GI tract. It has a positive effect on the liver and exerts anti-inflammatory properties, as ninety percent of the roots’ dry weight is fiber, made up of inulin, pectin, and cellulose. 

The root should be scrubbed well and may be sliced and roasted on a baking tray, with a drizzle of olive oil, mineral-rich salt, and fresh or dry herbs. High in fiber, the leaves, though bitter, can also be eaten. To get rid of some of the bitterness, you can blanch the leaves and then transfer them immediately into iced water. Chicory leaves make a refreshing change to a lettuce salad. Like dandelion root, roasted and ground chicory root is also a popular coffee substitute. 


Oats are high in dietary fiber and have been shown in studies to increase good gut bacteria. They have been shown to reduce cholesterol and protect the gut against carcinogenesis in the colon. 

Although one of the healthiest foods for the gut, the size and structure of the grain matter, as does the source. Commercial oats, which have been sprayed with glyphosates, crushed, and precooked (quick or instant oats), should be avoided. Choose whole grain, steel cut, or rolled organic oats that require slow cooking. 

Whole oats should be pre-soaked with a pinch of salt and cooked for twenty-five to thirty-five minutes. Rolled oats will take about ten to fifteen minutes. Oats are a great gluten-free grain, but those suffering from celiac disease must be careful as oat fields may be contaminated when grown near wheat. 

Oats are better digested when cooked. If you prefer granola to cooked oats you can bake rolled oats in the oven before adding your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to your granola. If you find oats difficult to digest, try eating them later in the day rather than first thing in the morning. 


Bananas are rich in fiber, vitamins A, B, and C, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. Easy to eat on the run, bananas provide a rich source of prebiotic, inulin-rich fiber. 


High in pectin and polyphenols, apples are one of the best fruits we can eat. Buy organic where possible and change varieties often. Commercial apples may be covered in a waxy finish so avoid those or soak in a warm wash before eating. Apples can be cooked and pureed or used to fill pies or apple cakes. You can leave out the sugar if you use sweet apples. 

Legumes & Pulses 

Rich in vegetable protein, minerals, and B vitamins, legumes and pulses include beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, peanuts, and cashews. 

Soaking legumes overnight helps break down the plant’s own protective enzyme inhibitors making them easier to digest. Soaking tricks the legumes into believing they are being germinated and this starts the process of breaking down the enzyme inhibitors. Soaked legumes may be added to soups or stews or used as the base of Indian or Asian meals. Sauté your favorite spices in a little olive oil to release flavors and then add the pre-soaked legumes. Cover with your stock of choice and cook on low till the legumes are soft. 

You can add coconut cream for a Thai or Eastern flavor, a homemade or bottled tomato sauce, or spice with chili to make Mexican chili beans. Legumes are pulses that can be pre-soaked and then frozen to make for quicker cooking.

Probiotics & Fermented Food for Gut Health 

Probiotics may come in pills or supplements which you can buy from your local health shop or pharmacy. They may be alive or inactive, meaning you must swallow them to ‘wake them up’, and they are available in various combinations of different strains – the more the better. 

But the best way to increase your probiotic intake is through lacto-fermented and naturally leavened foods. 

Fermented foods are living organisms. Here are some you can easily introduce into your home, kitchen, and family diet. 

Sourdough Bread

Sour-dough bread is made the old-fashioned way, from yeast collected naturally from the local environment. This is called a starter, and it is a living yeasted culture that we feed daily to keep it alive. 

It’s simple to make your own naturally fermented, yeasted starter. All you need is a clean bowl, some clean water, spelt or any flour, and a light towel or piece of cheesecloth to cover. The mix sits covered on the counter for several days until it comes alive, bubbling and frothing with natural yeast giving it a slightly sour smell. This is then added to flour, water, and salt, to make the bread rise. If you don’t have time to make your own, sour-dough bread is readily available and easier to digest than commercially yeasted bread. 

Saurekreaut & Lacto-fermented Vegetables 

Lacto-fermented vegetables can be made from cabbage (sauerkraut), grape leaves, beets, carrots, cucumbers, ginger, onions, garlic, daikon, turnips, and lemon to name a few. Kimchi, salsa, and chutney are traditionally lacto-fermented as are relishes, mustards, and bean pastes. 

Before refrigeration, vegetables were salted, pickled, and naturally fermented through the process of lacto-fermentation. With the advent of refrigeration and the commercialization of our food, we lost touch with this ancient method of pickling and preserving our foods and balancing our meals with the accompaniment of these pickles high in healthy gut bacteria.

‘Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacteria. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic acid-producing bacteria’. – Sally Fallon Nourishing Traditions

Home fermenting requires fresh and organic produce, good quality salt, some spices of choice, and well-washed bottles or mason jars. If preferred, you can buy fermented foods from your local health market but read the ingredients well. There should be nothing but salt, vegetables, and herbs listed in the ingredients as fermented vegetables do not require preservatives, color, or unnatural added flavors. 


Kombucha is a delicious, slightly effervescent drink, much like a soda, but full of goodness and high in natural yeasts and bacteria. The ginger ale your great-grandparents drank was probably a naturally fermented kombucha. Kombucha is also high in antioxidants and vitamin B and is a great way to increase probiotics naturally.

Made using a SCOBY, kombucha is essentially a tea, made with loads of sugar which the SCOBY feeds off during fermentation. Very little of the sugar is left once fermentation is complete. Best made at home, kombucha, like all living organisms, requires feeding and warmth but once you get started, you will enjoy the health benefits of a drink rich in probiotics. 

Today you can buy a range of kombucha in all kinds of flavors. It should fizz a little when you open the lid. Start with a shot-size glass once every few days and slowly build up. You can introduce it to family meals by testing out different flavors and giving children small amounts to taste. 


Miso is an ancient living culture and can be added to soups or stews for health benefits. In Japan, miso and noodle soup can be bought on the street in the mornings. It is a very Western idea to start our day with a sugary stimulant (tea or coffee) instead of a nourishing, salty one. Simply add one teaspoon of fermented miso to a cup of boiled water for a quick and easy, salty morning or afternoon drink. 

Miso soup is easy to make at home. Start with a simple dashi broth by warming up a strip of kombu seaweed in a small pot of water. Remove the seaweed before the water boils. Then add a healthy tablespoon of Bonito flakes which you can buy from an Asian grocery or health store. Simmer for a few minutes and strain. Now you can add your favorite vegetables – carrots, presoaked or fresh shitake mushrooms, and tofu.  At the end of cooking, turn off the heat and stir in some miso paste and soy sauce. Dress with toasted sesame seeds and chives. You can add Japanese noodles for a hearty meal. 

Be sure to buy the paste, not the powder, and to add it at the end of cooking, after turning off the heat, or you risk killing the living organisms. 


Kefir is a slightly bubbly soured dairy or non-dairy ferment, high in good bacteria. The ‘grains’ are a protein and polysaccharide made up of colonies of bacteria and yeast and provide a rich source of probiotics. 

According to a published study, ‘Whole kefir, as well as specific fractions and individual organisms isolated from kefir, provide a multitude of positive effects when consumed. These range from improved cholesterol metabolism and wound healing to the modulation of the immune system and microbiome, and even the potential alleviation of allergies and cancers.’ 

Dairy-based Kefir grains can be used to ferment any animal milk and non-dairy grains can be used to ferment coconut water or coconut milk to make a delicious addition to your probiotic kitchen. They are now easily available and like all living cultures, need a certain love and dedication but once you get used to the rhythm of making your dairy-fermented foods, your gut will thank you. 

Evinature’s Tips & Recommendations 

While integrating more gut-healthy food promotes digestive and overall health, patients with IBS or IBD require a more tailored approach in consultation with their doctor or a registered dietician who understands their condition, level of inflammation, nutritional requirements, and trigger foods.  This is because some probiotics and prebiotics are harder on the digestive system and can trigger a flare-up.



Rebecca Bermeister


Rebecca Bermeister


This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Rebecca Bermeister


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