The Best Foods for Gut Health

Dietitian and gut health expert Kirsten Jackson runs down the best foods for gut health and why you should add them to your diet.

best foods for gut health

The food we consume has a direct impact on how healthy our gut is. And in turn, a healthy gut means that the rest of your body will be optimized for both physical and mental health. However, much of the online messaging around gut health optimization is confusing, with conflicting messages and elaborate meal plans.

In this article, we’ll show you how to help your gut health by including these 7 gut health-boosting foods in your diet.

The best foods for gut health


Whether it’s a bowl of overnight oats in the morning or a slice of flapjack after lunch, oats are one of the best foods for your gut health.

Oats contain beta-glucan which the body isn’t able to digest. Instead, your gut microbes help by processing the beta-glucan. Several studies have shown that beta-glucan can help to improve multiple types of good gut bacteria and reduce several disease-causing bacteria strains. Microbes like bacteria make up part of your gut lining and having an optimized amount makes it more difficult for disease-causing microbes to come and live there or going across your gut border into your body and making you sick.

The other major benefit of consuming oats for your gut is that they contain around 7.5g of fiber per portion. This specific type of fiber is highly soluble which means that it draws in water to help you form stools and avoid constipation.

Olive Oil

Olive oil comes from pressing olives (which you’ll now find grown worldwide). Olive oil is good for your gut for a number of reasons but mainly because of the high concentration of polyphenols – a naturally occurring chemical found in some foods. There are over 8,000 different types of polyphenols and olive oil contains phenolic acids.

Polyphenols are antioxidants which means that they can protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in the gut. Polyphenols are also a form of prebiotic so are another way to feed your microbes. Research has shown that consuming olive oil can improve your levels of good gut bacteria, whilst reducing your levels of bad bacteria.

When purchasing olive oil, try to go for the extra virgin olive oil as this is less processed and contains higher levels of polyphenols. You can usually tell as the extra virgin olive oil will be darker in color.


Garlic is a common ingredient in many different cuisines across the world and was historically used by many civilizations for medicinal purposes.

Although modern science has shown that garlic is not useful as a medicine, it still contains many health benefits, especially when it comes to gut health.

In a 12 week study, participants were given garlic supplements and the gut microbiota diversity and richness was shown to significantly improve. This is likely due to the high fructan content found within garlic which is a prebiotic and therefore feeds the gut microbes.

Another study has suggested that the use of garlic supplementation may help reduce the risk of death from gastric cancers.


Berries such as strawberries, blueberries and blackberries should be an essential part of your diet when looking after your gut health. Berries tick all the boxes: high in fiber, high in polyphenols, and versatile.

Berries are also high in vitamin C with 100g providing you with around 10%of your daily requirements. Vitamin C is most well known for its benefits on your immune system but one interesting study has shown that vitamin C may also increase levels of a good gut bacteria known as bifidobacterium.

For people with digestive problems, berries may be particularly useful as they generally contain lower levels of fructose so are easier to digest than other fruits.


Kiwi fruits are high in both fiber and polyphenols which we have already discussed as being beneficial for the gut.

However, kiwis also seem to have a specific superpower for helping constipation. Eating 2 kiwis per day has been shown to help improve constipation in the general public as well as those with constipation-dominant IBS. This is especially useful for those with IBS as many high-fiber foods contain typical triggers and so it is difficult to treat constipation without causing other issues. Kiwi fruits do not contain any typical digestive triggers and are considered low FODMAP.

Kiwi’s superpower in tackling constipation seems to come from its ability to draw in water to your bowel. Seeing as 75% of your poo is made up of water, this is a vital component in forming those lovely soft stools rather than the hard, dry type.

Most people love the taste of kiwi fruits but I bet you hadn’t realized the skin of the fruit is also edible - just like an apple. It’s a shame that we only seem to eat the flesh of the fruit and some research has suggested a specific benefit to our gut microbiota levels (Lactobacillus spp. and Bifidobacterium spp) which comes from eating the skin. If you can’t stomach the idea of eating kiwi skin, you could try blending it into a smoothie bowl.


Salmon is considered an oily fish which means that it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is typically associated with having better heart health, however, more recent research has shown that omega-3 is also beneficial for your gut. Omega-3 has been shown to increase the levels of bacteria in your gut which produce compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs play a variety of roles in the body such as helping the immune system to function and producing vital vitamins.

There are other potential gut health benefits from consuming omega-3 but most of the research has been carried out in animals or test tubes so we sadly can’t draw many conclusions for humans just yet.

If you follow a vegan diet then you can get your omega-3 from plant sources such as flaxseed, walnuts and some fortified foods. You may even choose to take a supplement as a top-up.


Lentils pack a punch when it comes to helping your gut health. At 8g of fiber per 100g, including lentils in your diet regularly will help you achieve the required 30g of fiber per day and help your body form healthy stools. Lentils are also high in prebiotics which will feed your good gut bacteria, keeping the ‘bad’ bacteria at bay.

Lentils are also high in something called flavonoids, which have multiple benefits for the gut such as being a prebiotic and improving the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. However, they may also have some antibacterial properties with research showing a potential ability to kill off harmful bacteria in the gut.

Some people find it difficult to digest lentils due to their high FODMAP intake. However, you improve this by leaching out the FODMAPs using water: simply boil your lentils in water to cook before adding to a dish (and throwing away the water), or opt for canned lentils.


By including these food suggestions in your diet you will be able to help your gut health through improvements in the microbiota, inflammation and by avoiding digestive symptoms. Hopefully, we have shown you that a good gut health diet does not need to be complicated or expensive. When it comes to gut health, simple changes can make a huge difference.

Words: Kirsten Jackson

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