One of the least understood keys to our health may be the gut microbiome, that complicated mix of bacteria that lives in your digestive system. Researchers know now that it can impact a lot of illnesses, including mental health disorders, thanks to its connection to the brain and other organs. Luckily, there’s an easy way to influence your gut health: your diet. What we eat every day directly impacts and shapes our gut health, and there are certain foods that help boost its functioning. Research around probiotics is always changing, but right now science says it’s a good idea to maintain your microbiome with food, and eating these foods can improve your gut health.
“Your gut bacteria are extremely important for many aspects of health,” notes Healthline. “The best way to maintain a healthy microbiota is to eat a range of fresh, whole foods, mainly from plant sources like fruits, veggies, legumes, beans and whole grains.”
When it comes to a healthy gut, diversity in the microbiome is important; a 2018 study found that people who ate around 30 different plant types per week had more diverse biomes than people who ate around ten. Diversity means more species of bacteria and fungi happily living and making your gut work. And remember that scientists are still figuring out precisely what a “healthy gut” is in different people. If you eat a certain “gut-boosting” food and don’t feel well or react badly, listen to what your gut’s telling you and quit eating them for a while.
Here are seven foods that can improve your gut’s health and feed that microbiome all kinds of tasty treats.
A study in 2018 found that walnuts can improve your gut health. “When you consume walnuts, it increases microbes that produce butyrate, a beneficial metabolite for colonic health. So the interaction of walnuts with the microbiome is helping to produce some of those health effects,” lead author Dr. Hannah Holscher said in a press release. Other kinds of nuts are also part of a healthy gut, but walnuts in particular seem to show benefits.
Cranberries can’t actually help out with your UTIs, but they appear to be great for your gut, according to research published in 2017. It turns out that a particular kind of gut bacterium “utilizes cranberry xyloglucans as a sole energy and carbon source,” explains the study. Xyloglucans are a type of substance found in cell walls, and it turns out that the variety in cranberries is very tasty for a healthy variety of gut bacteria.