5 Great Foods for Gut Health
A local coach dishes on how to keep that tummy in tip-top shape
Pick a pepper, any pepper. Especially if it's pickled.
Everyone knows they should be eating right, but what about the gut processing all that food? According to Jodi Baretz, holistic health coach at The Center for Health and Healing in Mount Kisco, “A healthy micro biome, or bacteria in the gut, is critical for digestive health and [preventing] inflammation in the body, allergies, asthma, and a host of other diseases.”
The millions of gut bacteria populating our intestines are aided by both probiotic and prebiotic foods. “Probiotics are live microorganisms that are found in a variety of foods and dietary supplements, and include the strains lactobacilli and bifidobacteria,” explains Baretz. “Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides, which can also promote the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut.”
Here, Baretz rounds out her top five picks for the best foods to get that tummy in tip-top shape.
1. Active-Culture Yogurt
“Yogurt is beneficial for gut health, but beware of added sugars and artificial flavors,” warns Baretz. “Sometimes a supplement can be better than yogurt because the cultures aren’t always 'live' by the time you eat it. For those who don’t eat dairy, coconut milk yogurt can be good as well.”
“Kefir is a fermented dairy product and is generally easier to digest than regular dairy,” says Baretz. “I prefer goats milk kefir, again without the added sugars and flavors. It’s great in a smoothie, but a bit tart. It’s also rich in antioxidants.”
3. Kombucha Tea
“This is a form of fermented black or green tea that has been used for centuries. Fizzy and often served chilled, it’s also believed to help increase energy, and may even help you lose weight,” notes Baretz. “Beware, if you are sensitive to alcohol like me, it may even give you a slight buzz."
4. Fermented Vegetables (Kimchi and Sauerkraut)
“In addition to providing beneficial bacteria, kimchi—a traditional Korean dish—is also a great source of calcium, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, B1, and B2,” says Baretz. “It can be a bit spicy, but super good for you. Sauerkraut not only contains healthy bacteria, but is also great on hotdogs (organic, nitrate free of course)!”
5. Pickled Fruits and Vegetables
“Pickled fruits and veggies pickled in brine, not vinegar, are good for gut health,” notes Baretz. “Pickles included.”
Baretz adds that great prebiotic foods include raw leeks, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, dandelion greens, as well as raw or cooked. “These powerhouse foods have many other benefits as well,” says Baretz. “So enjoy them freely!”