If You Want to Improve Your Gut Health, You’ll Want to Stock Up On This One Food

As the saying goes, you are what you eat.

We’ve all heard the expression, “you are what you eat” and this certainly applies to your gut. Your gut is the gateway to your overall health, which is why it’s important to have a nutritious and balanced diet.

The first step is knowing what to eat and what to avoid. To learn more, we spoke to health experts to find out the best foods for a healthy gut and what foods to avoid.

How Food Affects Gut Health

When you eat anything, your gut bacteria recognize it and use it as information. The bacteria will “tell” the immune system, hormones, and brain how to use information from food, Dr. Amy Shah, MDdouble board certified medical doctor and author I’m So Hungry: Why We Crave What We Crave—And What To Do About Itexplain

Together they figure out what to do with the food and how best to absorb the nutrients. Food is literally information, and that information is created and distributed by gut bacteria.

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Related: Eat Your Way to a Healthier Gut—Here’s What You Need to Know About Gut Health and Diet

“Not only is your gut important for digestion, but the good bacteria in your gut are linked to immunity—with 70% of your immune system being in your gut,” says Carissa Galloway, RDN, Premier Protein nutrition consultant and personal trainer. “Since your gut is where food is digested, what you eat lays the foundation for the health of your digestive system and can give your body a boost, or set it back, depending on what you eat. A good foundation for gut health includes a fiber-rich diet with prebiotics and probiotics.”

Best Foods for Better Gut Health

Foods that contain fiber are best because fiber is one of the most important nutrients for the gut.

“My absolute favorites are leafy greens like spinach, onions because of their special type of fiber (prebiotic fiber) and broccoli, because they contain other gut-healthy compounds called glucosinolates,” says Dr Shah. “This compound breaks down into a compound called indolocarbazole, which helps regulate the microbial makeup of the gut.”

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Foods to Avoid that Harm the Gut

Ultra-processed foods

If you read the ingredients on a package and it has additives you can’t find in the kitchen—Doritos is a good example—it’s considered ultra-processed. Ultra-processed foods are linked to poor gut health, explains Dr. Shah.

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Sugary drinks like soda and juice

Juice can sound healthy, most processed juices have zero fiber and are very high in sugar. Since fiber is important for good gut bacteria, when you drink a lot of soda, you’re filling yourself up with fiber-free foods, lots of additives and sugar, Dr. Shah stated. This feeds the wrong bacteria.

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Processed, fried meat

There is some evidence that fried meat, especially processed red meat, can trigger the growth of bacteria in the gut that leads to clogged arteries.

It is better to stick to lean protein sources, such as fish, or plant proteins such as beans or tofu, explained Dr. Shah. There is some recent debate that maybe this recommendation is more limited to processed red meat, isn’t it all red meat, but the evidence is still unclear.

Galloway agrees that limiting red meat intake is important for maintaining good gut health. “There are chemical compounds in red meat, such as l-carnitine, that can change the makeup of your gut biome. If you’re a red meat eater, then aim for no more than one to two servings per week,” he said.

Next: Trying To Improve Your Gut Health And Nothing’s Working? Here’s How to Start Recovering It

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