The Best Foods for Maintaining Good Gut Health

Most people think of exercise or clean eating when it comes to their health. Many forget to care for their gut. No, we’re not talking about sit-ups; we’re talking about the bacteria inside your digestive tract. Improving your health may be a matter of the good versus bad bacteria inside you.

Choosing foods high in prebiotics and probiotics will help improve your immune system and digestion — and in some cases prevent diseases. These are the 15 best foods for maintaining good gut health. One superfood may be the most powerful item at your grocery store (page 10).

1. Sauerkraut

Bratwurst with sauerkraut
A bratwurst with sauerkraut | CabecaDeMarmore/Getty Images

People enjoy this fermented cabbage dish as a side or topping for hotdogs, brats, and sausages. The acids that create sauerkraut’s sour flavor are the same acids that help the probiotics to flourish. An outstanding source of vitamins, protein, and fiber, sauerkraut can help people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Next: This food takes 24-72 hours to make.

2. Bone broth

Beef bone broth
Toronto’s Healthy Butcher makes a beef bone broth. | Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

What do you get when you slow-cook bones and bone marrow in water for one to three days? You get a gut-loving broth of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. You can also buy it bottled and ready to drink. If you suspect leaky gut, bone broth can help heal it and allow for better nutrient absorption. Some people love bone broth so much they drink it straight!

Next: This food can add a kick to your recipes. 

3. Kimchi

Woman eating kimchi cabbage
Kimchi cabbage | Nungning20

This Korean dish is served at every meal traditionally. Made by fermenting vegetables, usually cabbage and radishes, kimchi can be used as a side or included in recipes. An excellent probiotic, this spicy food is one of the most versatile items on this list.

Next: Cooked or eaten raw, this food has endless variety.

4. Onions

Red onion
Chopping a red onion | KucherAV/Getty Images

If you want to grow the good bacteria already living in your gut, you can eat more onions. This vegetable has excellent prebiotic qualities that balance the digestive system. They come in many varieties and go with just about any dish. If you don’t like the flavor, try Jerusalem artichokes and chicory, which have the same effects.

Next: You probably have this food in your fridge right now. 

5. Yogurt

Yogurt for gut health
A deliciously good breakfast for your gut | goodmoments/Getty Images

Most people have heard about the health benefits of yogurt. And most yogurts can give you a boost of probiotics. However, this food can also be unhealthy. Read the nutrition label to enssure it doesn’t have tons of sugar. You can also get the benefits of yogurt if you’re lactose intolerant. There are several kinds of dairy-free yogurt that have added probiotics.

Next: This food adds tons of rich, savory flavor to any dish. 

6. Miso

Little boy eating miso soup
Hot miso soup | Westend61/Getty Images

A long-standing ingredient in Asian dishes, miso is high in protein and fiber. It also packs a probiotic punch that resolves intestinal inflammation. (People who have high blood pressure should use this high-sodium food in moderation to avoid blood-pressure spikes.)

Next: Wait until after your date to eat this food.

7. Garlic

Woman peeling garlic
Raw garlic | Westend61/Getty Images

This prebiotic can help fuel the growth of good bacteria while inhibiting harmful bacteria. Raw garlic produces the best results. Try crushing or chopping a clove and letting it sit for at least 15 minutes before eating to allow allicin to form. Allicin is the sticky residue that appears when damaged garlic reacts to oxygen. It’s also a reason raw garlic is so healthy.

Next: This might help people who are sensitive to wheat. 

8. Sprouted grains

Avocado toast with sprouted grains
A great way to eat sprouted grains: avocado toast | MarynaVoronova/Getty Images

Sprouting grains before processing them into bread, cereal, and past create enzymes, which aid in digestion. For people who struggle to digest wheat, these sprouted grains really help. The prebiotic increases the nutrients your gut can absorb. It also reduces inflammation due to the added enzymes that break things down. The less energy your gut uses to digest, the more it can use to heal.

Next: You probably never heard of this gut-loving drink.

9. Kvass

Drinking kvass
Traditional kvass drink | JackF/Getty Images

This one is hard to pronounce and hard to find in many parts of the U.S. Traditionally made with fermented rye, kvass often includes juiced beets. While it’s becoming popular in America, it’s been around for a long time in Eastern Europe. Similar to kombucha and kefir, kvass is packed with probiotics. To try Kvass, you may have to visit a health store near you.

Next: This food is great on the go. 

10. Kefir

Glasses of kefir
Kefir | Mekanikko/Getty Images

If you like yogurt, you’ll love kefir. It often comes in small bottles for single serving shots or a large bottle to keep in the fridge. Kefir is more liquid than yogurt, so it can be consumed like a drink. The best part: It has 10 different live strains of bacteria, making it great for maintaining good gut health.

Next: This tropical fruit may also help with weight loss.

11. Mangos

Little girl eating mango
A sweet mango snack | Hakase_/Getty Images

Try mangos for a gut-friendly treat. Loaded with fiber, nutrients, and flavor, this prebiotic is also one of the best foods for gut health. Eating mangos every day can even help lower blood sugar and reduce body fat, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Next: Whole Foods once pulled this from their shelves for its alcohol content.

12. Kombucha

An excellent way to drink probiotics | ThitareeSarmkasat/Getty Images

Kombucha comes packed with health benefits. Made from fermented sugars that naturally occur in tea, the bottled drink comes in many delicious flavors and has one of the most powerful probiotics. (Because of its high fermentation, kombucha also contains a small amount of alcohol.)

Next: You can consume this in capsule form if you prefer.

13. Apple cider vinegar

A bowl of apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar | Madeleine_Steinbach/Getty Images

People with digestive issues often avoid acidic foods. Why does apple cider vinegar make the cut? It turns out ACV, when unpasteurized (the mother is present), can help with acidity balance and gut health. It helps the body create hydrochloric acid, which can digest macronutrients more efficiently. Whether you struggle digesting carbs, proteins, or fats, ACV can help.

Next: This fat can also be used topically. 

14. Coconut oil

Woman With Spoonful Of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has many uses. | Highwaystarz-Photography

Many people suffer from stomachaches when they consume high-fat foods. But coconut oil is different. It’s anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial. If you get sick often, you may have an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. Coconut oil can help restore a healthy balance in moderation.

15. Collagen

A spoon with collagen powder
Collagen powder | Yulia Lisitsa/Getty Images

As we age, we produce less collagen, an essential protein that keeps our body’s structure together. By adding collagen to your diet, you can heal inflammation in the gut. It can also reduce the signs of aging and increase the elasticity of your skin. By helping your digestive system work like it did when you were younger, you boost immune system, too.