Your gut is known as your second brain. So it comes as no surprise that having a proper gut health diet that supports its function is important.
Today’s world presents us with choices that actively influence our health—and it’s not always for the better, though. Fast, processed, fake, GMOed, pesticide-exposed, overly sugared… These foods are readily available everywhere.
That’s why a gut health diet is about making your choices count and selecting foods known for their digestive benefits. In doing so, it could make a significant difference in how you feel every day.
What Is a Gut Health Diet, and Why Is It Important for Everyday Health?
A gut health diet is all about eating foods that support the bustling community of bacteria in your digestive system. It focuses on “a diverse plant-based, anti-inflammatory diet high in fiber that would maximize the health and benefit of the gut microbiome,” according to Dr. Grant Antoine, a naturopathic physician at Viome.
The thing is, what many of us eat, which is high in fat, sugar, and animal meat, has a negative impact on gut health. Research has highlighted that such a diet can create an unfavorable environment for healthy gut microbes and even alter the bacterial balance within the body, leading to potential health issues. So maintaining a healthy and diverse gut flora is crucial.
Certain foods, like spinach or kale, have been recognized for their direct benefits to gut health. The inclusion of these foods in your diet supports the development of an ideal gut microbiota, contributing to better digestive health.
What’s more, the impact of diet on the gut microbiome is not limited to digestive health alone; it extends to the gut-brain connection. There’s emerging evidence that suggests that diet significantly influences the connection, and eating the right foods can keep both your stomach and brain healthy.
What Are the Benefits of a Gut Health Diet?
A gut health diet brings a wealth of benefits that directly influence your body’s inner workings. Here are a few of them that Dr. Antoine highlights:
- Nurtures a healthy gut microbiome, ensuring a diverse and robust community of beneficial microbes
- Boosts the production of crucial metabolites like butyrate, which strengthens the gut lining
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels, contributing to energy stability and metabolic health
- Supports bone health, playing a role in maintaining density and strength
- Positively impacts overall well-being, from digestive comfort to mental clarity
Embracing a gut health diet is about investing in your body’s ecosystem. And that can lead to profound improvements in both physical and mental health.
Gut Health Diet: Dos and Don’ts
While there are no set rules when following a gut health diet, there are some things that you should keep in mind.
- Include a variety of prebiotic-rich foods, such as onions, garlic, and bananas, to feed beneficial gut bacteria.
- Stay hydrated, as water is essential for fiber to function effectively in your gut.
- Incorporate fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut to introduce beneficial probiotics.
- Enjoy meals rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, to help reduce gut inflammation.
- Pay attention to your body’s signals after eating, and adjust your diet to accommodate any sensitivities.
- Avoid overconsumption of processed foods and sugars, which can disrupt your gut microbiome balance.
- Steer clear of excessive alcohol intake, as it can damage the gut lining and alter the microbiome.
- Be cautious with the use of antibiotics, which can deplete beneficial gut bacteria (always consult a healthcare professional).
- Resist the urge to overuse artificial sweeteners; some types can negatively impact gut bacteria.
- Don’t ignore potential food intolerances, like those to lactose or gluten, which can cause inflammation and discomfort.
Remember, a gut health diet is a personal journey. Listening to your body and making adjustments based on its feedback is key to finding the right balance for your unique needs.
Sample Meal Plan to Kickstart Your Gut Health Journey
What is the best diet for gut health, you ask? While individualized needs vary, you can follow a general guide to a gut health diet plan that includes prebiotic-rich foods and fits into a low-fodmap diet or a dairy-free diet.
Kickstart your morning with these nutrient-dense meals for a gut-healthy breakfast:
- Green Gut Goodness Smoothie: Blend spinach with ripe bananas and almond milk.
- Probiotic Yogurt Parfait: Layer lactose-free Greek yogurt with berries like strawberries or blueberries and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
- Fiber-Filled Oatmeal: Steel-cut oats topped with unripe bananas and a sprinkle of cinnamon make a hearty breakfast.
Balance your midday meals with these energizing and gut-friendly options:
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad: Enjoy a refreshing chickpea salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese, drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette.
- Grilled Chicken with Mixed Greens: Toss together mixed greens and grilled chicken, dressed in a simple vinaigrette made with garlic-infused oil.
- Stir-Fried Bell Peppers and Carrots with Brown Rice: Sauté bell peppers and carrots and serve over brown rice.
Close out the day with these dinners that cater to a gut health diet rich in diversity and prebiotic fibers.
- Baked Lemon-Garlic Salmon with Roasted Veggies: Enjoy salmon baked with a lemon-garlic rub alongside roasted veggies like zucchini and carrots.
- Hearty Vegetable Soup: Savor a homemade soup full of veggies like leeks and asparagus.
- Turkey Patties with Quinoa Salad: Grill up some turkey patties and serve with a side of quinoa salad featuring cucumber, olives, and a lemony dressing.
This meal plan is just a starting point. For a truly tailored approach, Dr. Antoine recommends exploring further with Viome. By doing so, you can receive diet recommendations customized for your unique microbiome to not only restore your gut health but also maintain it.
Demystifying Other Frequently Asked Questions About the Gut Health Diet
The conversation around gut health and its importance is only now gaining traction. So it’s only common that there are plenty of questions surrounding the topic.
Turning to Dr. Antoine and his expertise, here are answers to demystify the more frequently asked questions.
Can a keto diet be considered to help improve gut health?
The allure of the keto diet is undeniable, but its relationship with gut health is complex.
While the diet’s low-carb, high-fat approach might seem like the best diet for gut health and weight loss, it’s not ideal, according to Dr. Antoine. He adds, “This is because ketogenic diets minimize plant foods and fibers that can be troublesome for individuals with sensitive guts.”
What’s an elimination diet? And how long should I follow it for my gut health?
An elimination diet is a dietary approach that involves temporarily removing certain foods or food groups from your diet. According to Dr. Antoine, it typically lasts for four to six weeks, depending on “the level of restriction imposed at the onset of the elimination diet and the number of foods that will be reintroduced.”
The goal is to pinpoint specific foods that might be triggering allergies, sensitivities, or digestive issues, like irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut. And from there, you eliminate the foods that cause these reactions or symptoms.
After a period of elimination, individual foods are gradually reintroduced, one at a time, to assess their impact on your health. This process helps identify the best foods for gut health, allowing you to develop a more personalized and symptom-free diet.
What are some gut-friendly recipes?
It’s time to whip up something to incorporate into a diet to improve gut health. Here are three recipes from Viome that you can try. And the best part is, each recipe will take you no longer than 20 minutes to make.
1. Superfood Soup
Whether you opt for a vegan, vegetarian, or meaty version, this recipe welcomes your favorite superfoods and veggies, making it a delightful family-friendly meal.
2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
½ cup mushrooms
2 tsp no-salt herb seasoning, to taste
12 oz hot (or mild) Italian sausage, casing removed (chicken or vegan/vegetarian)
1 14-oz can chickpeas (or cooked from dried equivalent)
2 quarts broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 vegan bouillons, to taste
1 bay leaf
½ bunch kale, chopped
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, and garlic. Cook for several minutes until the onions are translucent.
- Add carrots, celery, mushrooms, and seasoning, and cook for 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, cook sausages in a skillet over medium heat, crumbling as they cook. Once the sausage is fully cooked, discard any excess liquid and set it aside.
Add cooked sausage, chickpeas, broth, bouillon, and bay leaf to the large pot. Increase the heat to high.
- Once the liquid is about to boil, turn down the heat to low. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked to your desired consistency, about half an hour. Taste and adjust the flavor if needed by adding more seasoning or bouillon.
- Remove the bay leaf and add the kale just before serving.
2. Herbed Sheet Pan Salmon Dinner
A hassle-free, delectable meal with tender salmon and well-seasoned vegetables comes together—all cooked on a single pan with minimal cleanup.
1 lemon, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ tsp salt, divided
½ tsp black pepper, divided
½ lb green beans, ends trimmed
¾ lb fingerling potatoes (or other baby potatoes), cut in half lengthwise
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, core removed, sliced
4 salmon fillets (4 oz.)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Thinly slice half the lemon and juice the other half.
- Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper to a medium bowl.
- Toss green beans in the bowl, then lay them out on one side of a large sheet pan.
- Then toss the potatoes in the same bowl with the dill and the remaining marinade.
- Add to the other side of the sheet pan, leaving some space in between.
- Place the fennel in between the potatoes and green beans on the sheet pan.
- Rub the remaining tablespoon of oil, ¼ tsp salt and pepper on the salmon, and lay the fish on top of the fennel.
- Place the lemon slices on top of the fish.
- Cook for 20–30 minutes until the fish is cooked to medium and the potatoes are golden brown.
- Serve while the fish and vegetables are hot.
3. Classic Pink Lemonade with Ashwagandha
A twist on the timeless charm of pink lemonade, this revitalizing beverage is refreshing and can be a great addition to a gut health cleanse diet.
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup honey
4 cups cold water
1 tsp ashwagandha powder
½ cup frozen raspberries
- Combine the lemon juice, honey, and cold water in a pitcher.
- Stir well until the honey is completely dissolved.
- Add the ashwagandha powder and stir well.
- Add the frozen raspberries, and stir again.
- Serve chilled over ice.
Great Change Starts With You
When you learn to eat well, you’ll find that you look, feel, and be well. And you can start that journey at Mindvalley.
Joining the Mindvalley Viome Certified Nutrition Coach program will open you up to a world of knowledge beyond what you learn in school (or on the internet).
With Naveen Jain, the founder of Viome, and his team to guide you, you’ll discover how the body works, the essentials of a well-rounded diet, and boost your immune system for prevention rather than cure. And as a certified coach, you’ll have the opportunity to help others on their path to optimal health.
After all, the mission of Viome is to make disease optional. And as Dr. Antoine says, “We need to educate and provide the tools so that individuals can make meaningful choices that impact their health for the long term.”
And that starts with you. Welcome in.
Images generated on Midjourney.