A 3-Pronged Approach to Eating for a Healthy Gut Microbiome

Healthy Gut Microbiome

Belly bugs shape your whole life! Hard to believe, but the trillions of micro-friends hanging out in your gut impact way more than digestion. We’re talking immune power, mood boosts, and even your jeans size. So, show your gut buddies some love! Supporting a healthy gut microbiome helps your body maintain peace – from your brain to your immune system.

You might think supporting a healthy gut microbiome would be challenging but it depends upon your diet. To simplify things, there are three types of foods to eat to keep your gut microbiome diverse and thriving. Let’s look closer.

Probiotic-Rich Foods

Probiotics have become an increasingly popular health booster in recent years. These beneficial live bacteria and yeasts provide a wide range of health benefits when consumed regularly. By balancing digestion, immunity, and even moods, probiotics have earned their reputation as tiny but mighty health heroes.

You’ve seen probiotic staples like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha on grocery store shelves. Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and aged cheeses also contain abundant probiotics. The culturing process allows these good microbes to thrive. Adding just a serving or two of these foods to your daily diet can introduce millions of probiotics into your gastrointestinal tract.

Research continues to unveil new ways these microscopic bacteria keep our bodies functioning optimally. By crowding out harmful pathogens, probiotics fend off digestive woes like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and even IBS. They also bolster immunity against colds, flu, allergies, and other ills. Promising studies have also linked probiotics to mental health rewards like balanced mood and concentration too.

As our understanding of the microbiome expands, so does the roster of probiotic powerhouses. Keep an eye out for innovative products like probiotic waters, granolas, nut butters and more hitting the functional food scene, but don’t be too quick to buy into them.

You don’t need to veer far from the traditional fermented favorites to reap the digestive, immune, and mental benefits of probiotics. Simply adding a daily spoonful of yogurt, a mug of kombucha or a small side of kimchi can introduce millions of those microhelpers into your system.

Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics have emerged as an important complement to probiotics in supporting gut health. While probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria externally, prebiotics nourish the beneficial bacteria already living inside your gastrointestinal tract. This internal feeding fuels microbial balance to optimize digestion.

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that pass through the stomach and small intestine undigested. When they reach the colon, these fibers become food for the good bacteria residing there. As these friendly microbes feast on prebiotics, they multiply and release valuable byproducts. These include short-chain fatty acids that regulate immunity, metabolism, and more.

Like probiotics, prebiotic-rich foods have links to improved digestion, minimized gut inflammation, enhanced calcium and magnesium absorption, balanced blood sugar, and lowered risk for heart disease. Higher intake has also been associated with healthier body weight and composition in some populations.

The world of prebiotics continues to grow as research uncovers new sources. Currently, the best dietary sources include garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus. Bananas, apples, oats, and barley also make the list.

Legumes like lentils and chickpeas are packed with prebiotic fiber as well.

Aim for variety by incorporating these prebiotic-rich foods into your daily diet as part of an overall high-fiber eating pattern. Not only will this help feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, but it also promotes satiety, heart health, and stable blood sugar levels with nutrients to spare.

Foods with Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is aptly named – this fiber lives up to its reputation by resisting digestion in the small intestine. While your body breaks down most carbohydrates for energy, resistant starch travels untouched through the stomach and small intestine. It arrives in your colon where resident bacteria feast on these fibers.

The fermentation of resistant starch by gut microbes yields major health rewards. The fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids, which help nourish colon cells and regulate immunity. Beneficial bacteria also multiply thanks to this bounty of starch arriving in the large intestine. These are just some reasons why resistant starch joins other fibers like prebiotics and probiotics as a digestive health all-star.

Many carb-rich foods contain resistant starch, especially when cooked and then cooled. Allowing cooked potatoes, rice, pasta, and grains to chill overnight causes resistant starch to form. Lentils, oats, green bananas, and cashews also serve up this gut-healthy fiber. Even foods like white beans, bread, and cornflakes pack a modest punch of resistant starch without extra preparation.

As the links between resistant starch and health continue to stack up, food manufacturers have started fortifying products with this functional fiber. But getting resistant starch from whole food sources confers the most benefits. Aim to incorporate small portions of cooked/cooled carbs, lentils, oats, and nuts into your diet daily. This supplies resistant starch to feed your microbiome along with ample nutrients to power good health.

Making Your Diet More Gut Friendly

Making probiotics, prebiotics, and resistant starch part of your diet is easy. Have yogurt or kefir at breakfast, add sauerkraut or kimchi to grain bowls and sandwiches, and drink kombucha as a snack or dessert. For prebiotics, eat bananas or apples for snacks, have oatmeal for breakfast, and add lentils, garlic, onions, and leeks generously to soups, salads, and vegetable dishes.

Cook extra rice or potatoes to have handy to add to meals over the next few days to get that resistant starch benefit. Increasing high fiber foods can help minimize gas or bloating. Stay hydrated and be patient with your body’s adjustment.

Supporting gut health is one of the best things you can do for overall wellness. Focus on getting probiotics, feeding your good gut bacteria prebiotics, and including resistant starch through delicious, wholesome foods. Your body and mind will thank you.


  • Hills RD Jr, Pontefract BA, Mishcon HR, Black CA, Sutton SC, Theberge CR. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 16;11(7):1613. doi: 10.3390/nu11071613. PMID: 31315227; PMCID: PMC6682904.
  • Fan Y, Pedersen O. Gut microbiota in human metabolic health and disease. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 2020;19(1):55-71. doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41579-020-0433-9.
  • Bedu-Ferrari C, Biscarrat P, Langella P, Cherbuy C. Prebiotics, and the Human Gut Microbiota: From Breakdown Mechanisms to the Impact on Metabolic Health. Nutrients. 2022 May 17;14(10):2096. doi: 10.3390/nu14102096. PMID: 35631237; PMCID: PMC9147914.
  • Holscher HD. Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut Microbes. 2017 Mar 4;8(2):172-184. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1290756. Epub 2017 Feb 6. PMID: 28165863; PMCID: PMC5390821.

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