A balanced gut microbiome is essential for optimal digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination. It also supports a healthy inflammatory response and keeps our immune system strong. Translation: Your gut matters.

Many diseases can actually be traced back to an imbalance of the gut — so how do we make sure ours is in good shape?

Start by eating foods that can repair and strengthen your gut lining. Also load up on sources of pre- and probiotics so you have plenty of the good bacteria.

Think of probiotics as healthy gut bacteria, while prebiotics (indigestible fiber) is food for the probiotics. Just like us, probiotics need fuel to do their jobs properly.

Let’s look at how some of these powerful foods can help heal our gut, aid in digestion, and create a healthy ecosystem so we can look and feel our best!

1. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut (“sour white cabbage” in German) is fermented cabbage that provides the body with lots of good bacteria. The high fiber content of cabbage combats bloating and indigestion by keeping your digestive system running smoothly.

Pro Tip: Look for fresh sauerkraut rather than canned.

2. Asparagus

Asparagus works as a prebiotic: it contains high levels of the indigestible fiber inulin, which feeds healthy bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. Asparagus also has high levels of B vitamins and inflammation-fighting antioxidants.

Pro Tip: Try eating it raw with other crudités and dip for maximum prebiotic effects.

3. Pineapple

Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which works as a digestive aid, helping to break down protein from large food molecules into smaller peptides.

Studies have suggested that bromelain counters pain and inflammation throughout the body (especially the sinus tissues) and reduces secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines that can damage the gut lining.

Pro Tip: I love eating pineapple whole and adding it to smoothies and juices like this Immune-Boosting Green Juice!

Ingredients

  • 5 large kale leaves
  • 5 large romaine leaves
  • handful of parsley
  • 2 cups cubed pineapple
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled
  • 1 lemon, peeled

Directions

  1. Rinse all fruits and veggies.
  2. Cut up pineapple and set aside 2 cups.
  3. Cut up 1/3 cucumber.
  4. Slice off a 2-inch knob of ginger root and peel.
  5. Slice peeled lemon in half.
  6. Add all ingredients to the juicer.

4. Onion

Raw onions are a great source of prebiotics and contain quercetin (a strong antioxidant) that fights damaging free radicals in the body. Onions also contain chromium (which boosts insulin production) and vitamin C (which supports a strong immune system).

Pro Tip: Dice onions and put them in salads, dressings, and sauces, or slice them to place on salads or veggie burgers.

5. Garlic

Raw garlic is another excellent prebiotic food with high levels of inulin, which fuels the good bacteria in the gut.

Garlic is loaded with tons of nutrients, including manganese, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, selenium, and many active compounds, like allicin. Allicin is a powerful disease-fighting substance created after garlic is crushed or chopped.

Pro Tip: Add raw garlic to guacamole, hummus, sauces, and dressings like this Creamy Tahini Dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • black pepper and chili flakes (optional)
  • fresh salad greens

Directions

  1. Combine the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high until smooth.
  2. Pour over greens and enjoy!

6. Bone broth

Bone broth helps heal the lining of the gut, which in turn supports immune system function and a healthy inflammatory response.

Bone broth contains a variety of minerals and healing compounds such as gelatin, collagen, and the amino acids proline, glutamine, and arginine, that help to seal the gut lining, reduce permeability, fight inflammation, and boost the immune system.

Pro Tip: Cook up a big batch of this delicious Immunity Bone Broth Veggie Soup and pack it for lunch or sip throughout the day.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-inch ginger root, peeled and minced
  • 1/2-inch turmeric root, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli, including stems
  • one 32-oz. container of organic chicken bone broth (or vegetable broth, if vegan)
  • 1 cup of filtered water
  • 2 Japanese yams, peeled and cubed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • sea salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • fresh curly kale, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large stockpot, sauté onion in EVOO for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
  2. Add celery, carrots, and broccoli and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add bone broth and 1 cup of filtered water to the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil and then add yams and the rest of the seasonings.
  5. Lower heat to a low temperature and cook for 40 minutes with the lid on.
  6. Turn off the heat and add chopped kale. Cover for a few minutes to allow the kale to wilt.
  7. Squeeze lemon juice into the soup. Season with additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  8. Ladle into bowl and serve with chopped fresh parsley.

7. Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar helps us break down and digest food by stimulating digestive juices and increasing stomach acid production.

It also has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, reducing growth of the bacteria we don’t want living in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and helping to rid the body of excess yeast.

These important roles support a healthy microbiome and immune system.

Pro Tip: Try adding apple cider vinegar to salad dressings or veggies before roasting, as in this Roasted Brussels Sprouts recipe.

Ingredients

  • 10 Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • sea salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  2. Toss Brussels sprouts in EVOO, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and spices.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes. Serve immediately!

8. Kimchi

The fermentation process of vegetables used to make kimchi not only enhances its flavor, but also produces the live and active probiotic cultures that promote gut integrity.

This Korean side dish delivers large amounts of fiber and powerful antioxidants, and it naturally detoxifies the body.

Pro Tip: Integrate this delicacy into your next lunch or dinner bowl. Rice plus veggies plus kimchi equals one delicious dinner!

9. Ginger

Ginger helps to calm and relax the stomach, relieve nausea, and alleviate gut ailments. Not only does it provide a natural source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese, ginger also aids in digestion and helps prevent bloating.

Pro Tip: Adding peeled ginger to teas and smoothies gives them an extra flavorful kick.

10. Dandelion greens

Dandelion greens are one of the most detoxifying foods to eat, and they’re chock full of nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and prebiotic benefits that can help keep us strong and healthy.

Packed with vitamins A and K, calcium, and iron, these leafy greens are one of my favorite additions to powerful detoxifying, inflammation-fighting green juices.

The takeaway

Start incorporating some of these foods into your daily regimen. A healthy body and mind starts with a strong gut!


Nathalie is a registered dietitian and functional medicine nutritionist with a BA in Psychology from Cornell University and a MS in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. She’s the founder of Nutrition by Nathalie LLC, a private nutrition practice in New York City focusing on health and wellness using an integrative approach, and All Good Eats, a social media health and wellness brand. When she isn’t working with her clients or on media projects, you can find her traveling with her husband and their mini-Aussie, Brady.

Additional research, writing, and editing contributed by Chelsey Fein.