15 Plant-Based Foods To Improve Your Gut Health

15 Plant-Based Foods To Improve Your Gut Health

When was the last time you thought about how your gut affects your health and well-being? 

It is often called the forgotten "organ," as this comprehensive, crucial system is just as important as any other main organ. However, it is one we tend to neglect and don't even think about.

We fill it with all sorts of funny things, obliviously expecting it to do its thing. In the meantime, it is working overtime to digest our food, ensure proper nutrition absorption, and help us function daily. That's a tall order! It surely could use a little bit more help.

Well, there is something we can do for a happier, healthier, and more effective gut. Helping our gut with the dynamic duo of gut health: prebiotics and probiotics.

These incredible compounds are like the superhero team of the microbiome world, working together to create a harmonious and diverse community of gut bacteria. 

Continue reading to learn what the gut is, the difference between pre- and probiotics, and a list of 15 plant-based foods to help you cultivate a thriving gut garden. 

The Dynamic Duo of Prebiotics and Probiotics

What Is The Gut Exactly?

Your gut consists of the digestive tract and gut microbiome, which consist of trillions of microorganisms, each with its own role in maintaining your overall health.

This community of microbes resides in your digestive tract and influences everything from your immune system to your mood. Think of it as a bustling city within you, and just like any city, it needs a healthy balance to function at its best.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are the friendly neighbors in your gut community. They are living microorganisms found in certain foods that help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut. They also help prevent chronic diseases, boost immunity, and keep your heart healthy. Foods like tangy kombucha, sauerkraut, and miso teem with these friendly little microbes, like a party for your gut!

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are the fuel that keeps your probiotics happy and well-fed. They are non-digestible compounds found in foods that your gut microbes thrive on. Garlic, onions, bananas, and whole grains like oats and barley are just a few examples of prebiotic-packed foods that your gut microbes can't get enough of.

probiotic foods for more healthy gut bacteria

probiotic foods for more healthy gut bacteria

1. Kefir (Water-Based)

A Probiotic-Rich Drink That's a Gut-Friendly Delight

Kefir, a fermented drink made from kefir grains, is like a probiotic party in a glass. But did you know that kefir also has a water-based version that's equally delightful for your gut? This tangy beverage teems with probiotics, those friendly microorganisms that work wonders for your digestive health. 

2. Kombucha

Fizzy, Tangy, and Full of Probiotic Goodness

Raise your glass to kombucha, the fizzy, tangy, and oh-so-delicious drink that's become a favorite among health enthusiasts. This fermented tea is a probiotic powerhouse, containing live cultures contributing to a balanced and harmonious gut ecosystem.

3. Miso

An Umami-Packed Source of Probiotics for Your Taste Buds and Gut

If you're a fan of umami, then miso is your flavor-packed ally. This traditional Japanese seasoning is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. The result? A delicious paste that's not only a taste sensation but also a probiotic delight. Miso is home to various beneficial bacteria that support gut health, making it a flavorful addition to your culinary repertoire.

4. Peas

The green probiotic machine

With their slightly sweet flavor and satisfying crunch, green peas add a burst of color and nutrition to your meals. But what makes them extra special is the potent probiotic named Leuconostoc mesenteroides they contain that your gut microbes can't get enough of. Add fresh or frozen peas to salads, wraps, or sandwiches for a delicious crunch and probiotic goodness.

5. Sauerkraut

Tangy, Fermented, and a Probiotic Party in Your Mouth

This fermented cabbage dish is created by the magic of lactic acid bacteria, which not only give it its distinct flavor but also infuse it with gut-loving probiotics. With every forkful of sauerkraut, you're inviting these friendly bacteria into your gut, promoting balance and harmony among your gut microbes. Make your own sauerkraut, as most store-bought versions have been pasteurized, killing all the bad and good bacteria.

6. Tempeh

Your Plant-Based Protein Source with a Side of Probiotic Magic

Looking for a plant-based protein source that also offers a dose of probiotics? Look no further than tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans and then pressed into a cake, this nutritional powerhouse delivers protein, fiber, and a variety of beneficial bacteria to your gut. 

READ MORE: Tempeh vs. Tofu - Which plant-based protein reigns supreme?

Prebiotic Foods To Feed Your Gut Bacteria

7. Asparagus

Crunchy, Green, and Packed with Prebiotic Goodness

Hidden within these crunchy green spears lies a treasure trove of prebiotic goodness. Asparagus contains inulin and FOS (fructooligosaccharides) prebiotic fibers acting as a delectable buffet for gut microbes. 

8. Bananas

Nature's Portable Prebiotic Snack, Ready to Fuel Your Gut Bugs

Bananas are the ultimate grab-and-go snack perfectly packaged by Mother Nature herself. But did you know that this humble fruit is also a prebiotic powerhouse? Bananas are rich in resistant starch, an indigestible fiber your body can't digest, but your gut bacteria absolutely adore. Green bananas are best.

9. Barley

A Hearty Whole Grain That's a Prebiotic Superstar

When it comes to whole grains, barley takes the crown as a prebiotic superstar. This versatile grain is brimming with beta-glucans, a prebiotic fiber that serves as a delectable feast for gut microbes. Whether you're enjoying it in soups, stews, or as a base for salads, you're not only treating your taste buds but also nurturing the flourishing community of microbes in your gut.

10. Beans & Legumes

Lentils, Chickpeas, and More – The Fiber-Rich Prebiotic Wonders

Lentils, chickpeas, black beans – they are all prebiotic fiber-packed legumes that your gut love. You may avoid these foods because they cause flatulence, but this proves your gut bacteria is hard at work. Enjoy beans and legumes in soup, stew, salad, or tacos.

11. Garlic

Adding Flavor and Prebiotic Power to Your Dishes

Garlic isn't just the aromatic superstar of your culinary creations; it's also a prebiotic powerhouse. As you sauté or roast garlic, you're infusing your dishes with rich flavor and unleashing its prebiotic power. Garlic contains inulin and fructooligosaccharides, both of which are favorite snacks for your gut microbes. So go ahead, and add an extra clove to your recipes!

12. Jerusalem Artichokes

These Tubers Are Like Prebiotic Gold for Your Gut

Their name is quite deceiving, as Jerusalem Artichokes are not artichokes but part of the sunflower family and look like gingerroot. About 80% of the carbohydrates in Jerusalem artichokes consist of inulin, the prebiotic fiber gut microbes feast on.

13. Leeks

With their delicate onion-like taste and unique texture, leeks are a savory addition to your gut-friendly feast. Like their onion and garlic cousins, leeks contain inulin, a prebiotic fiber that your gut microbes absolutely adore and need to thrive and support your overall digestive well-being.

14. Oats

Start Your Day with a Bowl of Prebiotic Comfort

There's something truly comforting about a warm bowl of oats in the morning, and your gut microbes couldn't agree more. Oats are an excellent source of beta-glucans, a soluble fiber that acts as a prebiotic. 

15. Onions

Tears of Joy for Your Gut Microbes – They Love These Prebiotics!

Onions might make you shed a tear while you chop them, but your gut microbes shed tears of joy when you indulge in these prebiotic delights. Onions are rich in fructans, inulin, and fructooligosaccharides which your gut bacteria thrive on. 

raw and unpasteurized is always best

raw and unpasteurized is always best

If you want to reap the most probiotics and prebiotics these foods offer, always try to consume them raw or unpasteurized. Heating breaks down the beneficial fructan fibers found in many vegetables and fruits. So the longer you cook them, the less beneficial they will be to your gut.

The same goes for pasteurized or processed foods like store-bought kefir and kombucha; although convenient, you just won't get the same benefits, and these are often laden with added sugar.

Lastly, don't chuck those stalks, skins, bottoms, and hard parts, these parts often contain the most cellulose fibers.

Whether you're crunching on asparagus or sipping kombucha, a combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods contributes to the thriving ecosystem of your gut, ensuring that your microbial community stays diverse, balanced, and happy. 

By adding these 15 plant-based foods to your diet, you're not only supporting your gut but also boosting your immune system, preventing diseases, and promoting overall well-being.

So, let's raise a fork (or a spoonful of sauerkraut) to a happier, healthier gut!