Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Promoting healthy gut microbiota — the bacteria that live in the intestine — can help prevent metabolic syndrome — a combination of risk factors that increases a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke — suggests new research published in the journal Gastroenterology. This isn’t the only finding that has found our intestines are the center of health. Another study suggests that a healthy gut may determine whether or not we struggle with extra pounds.
And so the question is: how can we help our gut cultivate the good bacteria that promotes health rather than the bad bacteria that can aid disease to flourish? Read on for 12 foods that will help your gut get grooving with good bugs.
These flower-like thistle vegetables found in your produce department contain indigestible nutrients — aka prebiotics — that help feed the bacteria in your belly so they can grow. Take advantage of these benefits with this Artichoke Puree recipe.
Just like the artichoke, asparagus has prebiotic properties. Luckily, it’s easy to eat: toss with a little olive oil and either grill it or roast it in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes.
This staple of smoothies and post-workout meals can help get your gut’s bacteria in a healthy state, thanks to its prebiotic properties. Just take care to not eat too many, since too much potassium in the body can cause heart issues. Next time you’re looking for a post-workout smoothie, try this Pina Colada Smoothie.
Rabbits aren’t the only creatures that should nibble these brilliant colorful veggie sticks. Carrots contain a compound called arabiogalactans. Never heard of them? Well, they are a type of good bacteria that your intestines thrive on, according to a paper published in Alternative Medicine Review. Just another natural fibrous prebiotic that makes our list.
This flavor enhancer favored by Italians has already got a pretty stellar immune-busting reputation and now, add bacteria builder to its health cred. Garlic may help battle off bad bacteria while allow the good to proliferate, according to research published in an issue of Phytomedicine.
Have you tried this sweet root vegetable yet? If not, here’s a reason to seek it out: it is rich in inulin. Inulin is a type of fibrous prebiotic that is known to help encourage the production of healthy bacteria in your gut. The easiest way to eat it is to peel, cut and eat, but this Citrus-Ginger Salad recipe will showcase this root’s diversity.
Kefir and Yogurt
Fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and kefir, contain oligosaccharides, which are a type of carbohydrate that feeds beneficial bacteria. But how do oligosaccharides feed your gut bacteria? Our belly bugs help ferment theses carbs and produce short-chain fatty acids, lactate and gas.
Probiotics bifidobacteria and lactobacilli — both that tend to be in kefir and yogurt — thrive on oligosaccharides. People who eat kefir and yogurt have been found to see a growth of these beneficial bacteria occur. By the way, non-dairy options of these foods may have the same effect.
This ancient nourishing tonic has been said to strengthen immune systems for centuries, though the scientific community isn’t sold on this idea yet. But some see this fizzy fermented tea has a great substitute for soda and a lot better for you too. Considered a raw food, it coats your intestines in good bacteria. Bonus benefit: the fermentation process creates B vitamins that are known to improve energy levels.
Here is something you probably didn’t know: Manganese produces digestive enzymes and vitamin A in the body. By consuming foods high in manganese, such as leeks, you are helping your body create an environment that can keep your intestine walls healthy, which is important because these walls are the gatekeepers to the rest of your body — blood, immune system, etc. We wouldn’t want anything sinister slipping through. Add leeks to your menu with this recipe for Seared Pork Chops with Apples and Leeks.
Miso and Tempeh
Consider these fermented protein sources made of soy, wheat or barley healthy belly’s friends. Why? They contain isoflavones (think vitamins) and its own beneficial bacteria, which can make its home in your gut. Another benefit: Isoflavones have been found to halt the production of cancer cells and possibly fat cells.
Rabbits must know a good thing when they taste one, because like carrots, radishes contain arabiogalactans — the fibrous prebiotic that allows good bacteria to flourish. For your next taco night, consider making these fish tacosto give your intestines their own type of tasty meal.
Sauerkraut and Kimchi
Both are fermented cabbage, but kimchi is spicy. Both can deliver a serious prebiotic pop but only if you avoid the canned varieties which may kill the healthy bacteria in the canning process.