The 50 Best Foods (and Recipes) for Gut Health

Updated: Mar. 17, 2022

Find out how to have less bloating, stomach distress, and constipation with these foods and recipes that will boost your gut health.

Getting into balance

About 100 trillion bacteria live inside your gut. Some are good and some are bad. It’s important to have the right balance of bacteria in what’s known as your gut biome or microbiota. Having a healthy gut can impact many conditions from digestion to heart disease to cancer. Here’s a look at dozens of foods that can effect the inner workings of your gut health.

Asparagus spears
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Asparagus contains prebiotic fibers “that serve as fuel for the good bacteria in your digestive tract,” says Mike Roussell, PhD, cofounder of Neuro Coffee. Prebiotics, which are found in other high-fiber foods, are “distinctly different from probiotics, which are the bacteria themselves,” Roussell says. Prebiotics act as the food source for probiotics. In short, probiotics need healthy things to eat when they’re in your stomach—and prebiotics act as that trusted food source. Getting a healthy dose of prebiotics in your daily diet can help make your probiotics  healthier and happier and boost your gut health. (Check out these 13 probiotic-filled foods to work into your diet.)

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Any richly colored fruits or vegetables, like blueberries, pomegranates, and beets, are rich sources of anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. “Anthocyanins contain several health benefits—especially around the health of your blood vessels—but they are also poorly absorbed in your digestive tract, meaning that you don’t take up all the anthocyanins that you eat,” Roussell says. “That is actually fine because the bacteria in your gut love anthocyanins. The good bacteria in your gut consume the leftovers, which helps them grow and flourish, making your digestive tract a healthier place.” (Check out these food rules for better gut health.)

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Gut expert Inna Lukyanovsky, PharmD, a functional medicine practitioner, says that this delicious and popular fruit is a boon for bacteria in your gut. She says that in addition to having healing properties, avocado promotes butyrate—a healthy fatty acid—in the digestive system, and that helps calm inflammation. Research published in Inflammatory Bowel Disease suggests that butyrate is particularly beneficial to gut health. Another study indicates that it might ease gut-related health conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Read about the only Crohn’s disease diet these experts recommend.

sauerkraut in bowl
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This tart hot dog topper deserves a more revered space on your plate, Roussell says. A fermented cabbage condiment, sauerkraut “contains good bacteria that you can use to improve your digestive health,” he says. The fermentation process introduces plenty of healthy probiotics. As long as the sauerkraut is fresh and not pasteurized, the bacteria live on. But don’t rest on your laurels if you eat a few probiotic-rich foods each week, Roussell advises. “It is important to remember that there is a large turnover of bacteria in your digestive tract, so you constantly need to be providing your body with an influx of healthy bacteria,” he says. “This is why, for the long-term health of your gut, it is important to find food that you enjoy eating and will eat on a daily basis.” (Learn how probiotics in food could help ward off the flu.)

Red onions


Like asparagus, onions are a great source of prebiotics, Roussell says. Leeks, the onion’s cousin, also get the thumbs-up for gut health. Onions break down very slowly, and the lingering fiber gives the bacteria in your stomach something to snack on while it grows and multiplies. Your gut could be the key to understanding a lot about your health. (Find out which onion also has cancer-fighting benefits.)

broccoli and cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower

Cruciferous vegetables are beloved for their low-carb count, versatile uses, and high-fiber total. However, Lukyanovsky suggests that there’s another reason to love them: They may boost your gut health and and help your digestive tract stay healthy and keep things running on the regular. Research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shows that these veggies’ anti-inflammatory effects help prevent gut irritation and help your body clear out unwanted substances, too. Plus, the fiber, which breaks down very slowly in your stomach, provides prebiotics for the good bacteria to eat. Here are 9 ways to get 9 servings of fruits and vegetables.

raw almonds


Almonds may very well be the perfect snack. They pack a great deal of fiber in a tiny bite. Plus, one study found, almonds and almond skins promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and slow the growth of the unhealthy variety. Don’t ignore these signs that your gut health needs a boost.

bowl of cottage cheese

Cottage cheese with live cultures

Because of the intense focus on gut health, many food manufacturers have started adding beneficial bacteria to products so that you can boost your bacteria bounty. Some manufacturers are letting natural bacteria live, when they once killed them off with high heat. A snack of cottage cheese can provide a hefty dose of probiotics to your stomach. Just be sure to read the label to see if it lists live cultures. You might spot common bacteria like L. acidophilus and B. bifidum. (Be sure to note these probiotic-rich foods (that aren’t yogurt) that are also good for your diet.)

pile of sweet potatoes
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Sweet potatoes

The high-fiber content of sweet potatoes and purple sweet potatoes creates a feast for probiotics in your stomach. Indeed, like asparagus and onions, these prebiotic-rich root vegetables break down and move slowly through your gut. That gives the good bacteria, the probiotics, in your gut a healthy snack while they do their bad-bacteria-busting duty. Purple sweet potatoes are also a good source of anthocyanins, the antioxidants that help healthy bacteria flourish. Learn more about the health properties of sweet potatoes.

roasted potato salad
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

Creamy Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Salad Recipe

Many traditional potato salads are filled with high-calorie mayonnaise. This dairy-free version from nutritionist Kimberly Snyder manages to be creamy and flavorful without the dairy. Plus, roasting the sweet potatoes instead of boiling them turns them extra sweet and toothsome instead of mealy and grainy. Bonus: This recipe also has a healthy dose of green onions, which provides a bit of prebiotics, too. (Here’s why you should never store potatoes in the fridge.)

Pouring olive oil onto frying pan on stove

Olive oil

Lukyanovsky recommends that her patients incorporate olive oil into their diet because it “supports liver detoxification,” she says. Research also suggests that this common source of healthy fat is great for your gut health because it reduces inflammation. The primary fatty acid in olive oil, monounsaturated fatty acids, helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal tract. This makes the process of breaking down and absorbing nutrients from your food easier. It also gives your gut bacteria a healthier place to call home. Find out if you really need to take a probiotic after taking antibiotics.

Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes

Jerusalem artichokes

“The best foods for gut health contain a little-known sugar called inulin,” says Steven Gundry, MD, a heart surgeon based in Palm Springs, California. “It turns out that inulin is an oligosaccharide that we cannot digest, but friendly bacteria that promote health need it to grow and thrive.” Dr. Gundry says it’s important to give those probiotics the foods they like to eat if you want to ensure that you have long-term great health. Other good sources of inulin include asparagus, jicama, chicory, leeks, onions, and garlic.

flaxseed in bowls
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Fresh ground flaxseeds

Dr. Gundry also recommends working fresh ground flaxseeds or psyllium husks into your regular diet plan. Both are good sources of healthy fats, and both “contain other soluble fibers that feed friendly bacteria,” he says. Don’t bother with whole flaxseeds. They pass right through your digestive system intact. If you want the benefit for gut health, you’ll have to grind them yourself or look for the preground variety at the store. Don’t ignore these 13 signs that your microbiome could be in trouble.

Kimchi Korean cabbage dish


Kimchi is a Korean cabbage dish fermented in a spicy-sweet brine, where it turns soft and chewy. During the fermentation process, the kimchi soaks up plenty of good gut bugs. You can make your own kimchi or buy some at the store. Just be sure you’re picking up fresh kimchi, not a pasteurized product. Pasteurization heats up the cabbage and kills the bacteria you want for gut health. “The cabbage family—including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, arugula, bok choy, Napa cabbage, sauerkraut, and kimchi—all contain gut-bug-friendly compounds that actually tell immune cells lining the gut to calm down and chill out,” Dr. Gundry says. “It makes any meal less inflammatory.” Learn more about the health benefits of cabbage.

summer kimchi recipe
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Summer Kimchi Recipe

Homemade kimchi is surprisingly easy to make. But before you do, try a few varieties of this condiment to find a flavor profile you like. It helps to know what you’re going for when you’re making your brine and picking your herbs and spices. This summer kimchi recipe calls for ginger and red chili paste, but you can mix up the flavors with lemongrass, red pepper flakes, or any other ingredients that tickle your tongue.

salad with dandelion greens

Dandelion greens

“There’s something about happy yellow dandelions that coaxes out smiles on even the grumpiest days,” says Jamie Morea, a microbiome expert and founder of Hyperbiotics. Their cheery disposition aside, dandelion greens are one of the best foods for your gut health. That’s because research indicates they’re a good source of prebiotics, the food other good bacteria eat. One study even discovered that dandelion greens are particularly effective fighters against some bad bacteria, including the ones that can lead to staph infections and foodborne illnesses. (Learn the 13 best foods to eat when you’re feeling bloated.)

Chia seeds with a spoon

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are very filling, thanks to fiber—11 grams in just two tablespoons. “Aztec warriors believed that just a single spoonful could sustain them for an entire 24 hours,” Morea says. “They’re a wonderful addition to your prebiotic snack lineup because they have the capacity to hold lots of water to help maintain hydration.” This soluble fiber, while keeping you full, also helps keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly so you maintain regular bowel movements. “Soluble fiber absorbs water in the stomach and intestine and forms a gel that slows digestion. This causes you to feel full and may help with weight loss,” says Alexandra Guillaume, MD, director of gastrointestinal motility and an assistant professor of medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

bowl of chia pudding
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

Chia Seed Delight Recipe

Chia puddings are a fun way to eat these seeds because moisture turns the petite pieces into gelatin-like lumps. Mixing them with plant-based milk makes them less slimy and adds a delicate creaminess, as in this Chia Seed Delight from Snyder. For a bit of sweetness and a greater dose of good bacteria, you can add fiber-rich fruits like blueberries and raspberries. (Find out how to pick the best probiotic for weight loss.)

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Kefir is a cultured, fermented dairy beverage that is best described as a drinkable yogurt. It’s thick and tangy and a great way to get healthy bacteria into your diet. “Foods with probiotics can help rebalance the bacteria in our gut, especially after a gastrointestinal illness or a course of antibiotics,” says practicing geriatrician Kumar Dharmarajan, MD, chief scientific officer at Clover Health. “For most people with lactose intolerance, kefir and yogurt are easier on the stomach than milk, too.”

frozen berries
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Frozen mixed berries

This convenient product doesn’t have any direct bacterial benefit, but it’s what it does for your overall gut health that counts. “I often recommend frozen mixed berries because they’re a great source of fiber, which helps promote regular digestion, a key for overall gut health,” says Jessica Cording, RD, a registered dietitian and integrative nutrition health coach. “Also, because they’re frozen at peak freshness, all those awesome health-promoting antioxidants are locked in.” (Find out why a healthy gut microbiome isn’t just good for your digestion but may also help you live longer.)

Kombucha tea, the brew is ready to be placed in storage with the bacteria culture in place to ferment the brew.
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“This fermented black or green tea drink has recently become widely popular, and for good reason,” says Allison Childress, PhD, RDN, CSSD, LD, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Texas Tech University. “It is a functional probiotic drink that contains bacteria and yeast essential for gut health.” If you’re new to the fizzy brew, you can find bottles—often starting at $4 or $5 each—in your grocery store’s fresh-food section. The bubbly nature of kombucha can introduce gas to your stomach if you chug it, so start slow. (Don’t miss out on trying tepache, kombucha’s cousin that’s also packed with gut health benefits.)

Pile of fresh green cucumbers or pickles

Fermented fresh pickles

Like sauerkraut and kimchi, pickles can be fermented in a salty brine that introduces plenty of good-for-your-gut bacteria. (Note that pickles made with vinegar won’t have probiotics, so check the label.) “The fermentation process of pickles and other pickled foods increases the amounts of probiotics they contain,” Childress says. “This makes them not only easier to digest but beneficial to gut health.” Here are the reasons you should be drinking pickle juice.

Manuka honey

Manuka honey

This unique type of honey, which is made by bees pollinating the Manuka bush, native to New Zealand, is revered for its antibacterial properties. In particular, research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggests that this type of honey may help treat gastric ulcers. It’s also been shown to be effective at stopping the growth of Clostridium difficile, a bacterial infection that causes severe inflammation of the bowel. (Make sure you avoid the worst foods for your stomach.)



Nuts of all stripes are good for gut health, but pistachios stand out from the crowd. These nuts are filled with protein and dietary fiber, which helps keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly. In addition, one study showed that pistachios were more effective than almonds at boosting the number of “potentially beneficial butyrate-producing bacteria. Increasing the consumption of almonds or pistachios appears to be an effective means of modifying gut microbiota composition.” Here’s the scoop on the 5 healthiest nuts you can eat.

tempeh satay on skewers
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Tempeh is a fermented soybean food. Vegetarians often use it to substitute for meat in recipes, but even meat eaters might benefit from a bit of tempeh in their diet. That’s because this food is a good source of prebiotics, the type of fiber that healthy bacteria like to eat. Soy-based tempeh may be a better option that bean-based tempeh, as one study found that the soy variety was better at encouraging the growth of good bacteria.

tempeh lettuce wraps
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

Tempeh Gyro Lettuce Wraps Recipe

If you’re unsure how to cook with tempeh, start with a recipe that’s easy to make. Snyder’s Tempeh Gyro Lettuce Wraps are wonderful for introductory purposes. For a bigger bacteria boost, replace the butter lettuce leaves with heartier greens, which have more fiber. Swiss chard, even kale, would be a good alternative. Check out these ingredient swaps for healthier recipes.

lentils, seeds, beans and rices


These high-protein superfoodscalled pulsesalso deliver a hefty dose of fiber, a great way to encourage the growth of good bacteria in your microbiome. One study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences showed that lentils, above all other pulses, are best for gut health. “When comparing to pulses, lentils have the highest starch content and insoluble dietary fiber content and high quantities of prebiotic carbohydrates that maintain the gut microbiota,” the researchers wrote. Plus, lentils are a good source of polyphenols, antioxidants that help fight a number of diseases, from diabetes to cancer.

lentil soup
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

Tomato Basil Veggie Lentil Soup Recipe

When cooked, lentils turn toothsome, chewy, and even a bit creamy. When they’re in a soup or stew, they can take on a downright luscious texture. They’re the perfect filling addition to your basic tomato-basil soup. This soup is filled with several ingredients that are guaranteed to promote your gut health, from broccoli and spinach to onion and lentils. Here are 10 more recipes for lentils.

Button mushrooms
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Fungi are your friends—or, at least, they’re your stomach’s friends. Mushrooms are a good source of polysaccharides, a type of sugar or carbohydrate that your belly bacteria feed on for growth and development. One study shows that mushrooms spur the growth of good bacteria. They also protect your intestines against infection and inflammation. Learn more about the nutritional value of mushrooms.

mushroom and green bean bowl recipe
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King Mushroom Green Bean Bowl Recipe

With this King Mushroom Green Bean Bowl recipe, you’re getting several foods that are good for your gut: avocado, kale, mushrooms, and green beans. They supply prebiotics and heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory fats that can prevent irritation in your gut. The quinoa is also a good source of prebiotic fiber, but if you use sprouted quinoa, you’ll boost your dose of good gut nutrients. Learn the top healthy-eating tips from 17 nutritionists.

shredded mozzarella cheese
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Semisoft cheeses

Not all probiotics can outlast the fermentation and culturing process that cheese undergoes. However, research suggests that the probiotics in cheeses like gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar do survive and make it through the gastrointestinal tract, where they serve up a dose of gut-healthy bacteria. Here’s why eating cheese every day is good for you.

rolled oats in a bowl
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Oatmeal is an old-fashioned food that never seems to fall out of favor in the nutrition community. That’s because this high-fiber food boasts many health benefits. Oats are a good source of prebiotics. They also deliver plenty of insoluble fiber that can keep your gastrointestinal system working. Need breakfast ideas? Check out these tasty oatmeal toppings.

mix of chocolate bar pieces
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As if you needed permission to partake of this sweet treat: Research suggests that chocolate may have a positive impact on your gut microbiota. Foods with higher levels of cacao may help prevent the growth of bad bacteria and act as a prebiotic for existing good bacteria. Of course, too much sugar could be bad for your gut, so look for low-sugar varieties of high-dose chocolate. The darker, the better. Read more about the health benefits of chocolate.

Hot miso soup with salmon in black bowl


While miso may be high in sodium, a little bit goes a long way for big flavor and healthy gut benefits. This fermented soybean paste—which comes in several colors, each with a unique flavor—contains probiotics that treat your body to a dose of good bacteria. You can use miso in soups, the traditional dish for this salty spread. It’s also great in unheated applications (heating sometimes kills the good bacteria), such as mixing it into mayonnaise for a quick sandwich spread or stirring it into Greek yogurt for a tangy dip. Check out these other immunity-boosting foods that you need to fight off colds and flu.

ginger miso salad
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

Ginger Miso Golden Beet & Fennel Salad Recipe

If the golden color doesn’t make your heart flutter, the incredible gut-health benefits of this ginger miso golden beet and fennel salad just might. Miso provides a punch of probiotics and salty tang. Both beets and fennel are good sources of prebiotics and slow-digesting carbohydrates, the preferred food source for probiotics already living in your gut. Plus, because beets don’t wilt like lettuce, you can prepare this side ahead of time and eat it all week. Read more about the benefits of ginger.

pile of red apples
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An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it will also help make your gut healthier. One study in the journal Nutrients demonstrated that apples have an anti-inflammatory benefit on the gastrointestinal system. Plus, the fiber-rich fruit provides existing bacteria with a sweet snack. Another bonus: In the same study, researchers found that the same prebiotic action may also be related to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In other words, there’s a chance that your gut bacteria may have a direct impact on your heart health. Making eating an apple part of your routine might help keep you regular, and it may also protect your ticker. Read more apple benefits you may not know about.

green smoothie pouring into glass
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

The Glowing Green Smoothie Recipe

Juice is a great way to get loads of vitamins and minerals from your favorite vegetables and fruit, but smoothies have an added benefit: You get to eat all the healthy fiber, too. In this Glowing Green Smoothie recipe, you can load up on gut-pleasing bacteria by using fiber-rich fruits like apples, pears, and bananas to form the sweet base of this smoothie. Greens, including spinach and romaine lettuce, round out the drink and the good-bacteria ingredients. (Check out the best way to store probiotic supplements.)

greek yogurt in a bowl


It may be the first food you think of when you’re talking about probiotics and gut health—and for good reason. Yogurt, a fermented dairy product, is a rich source of billions of probiotics and good-for-you bacteria. Eating yogurt regularly can boost the populations of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria bacteria, research published in Microorganisms shows. Both of these bacteria help keep you regular and protect your stomach and intestines from bad-bacteria damage. Almost every type of live-culture yogurt has the probiotic benefit. Just be sure to read the label, and avoid any with lots of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which can actually destroy the good bacteria. Check out these unusual uses for yogurt (besides eating it).



Garlic might keep vampires away, and it does a decent job keeping bad bacteria at bay, too. Garlic, like onions, is a rich source of prebiotic fiber. This pungent ingredient breaks down slowly, giving the bacteria in your gut a healthy meal of good fiber. (Check out these 13 surprising garlic benefits that will improve your life.)

Greek bean dip
Taste of Home

Healthy Greek Bean Dip Recipe

Serve up a dose of both pre- and probiotics with this Greek Bean Dip. Beans and garlic are rich sources of prebiotics, and a scoop of Greek yogurt adds the probiotics. You can help grow the microflora of your family and friends without them being any wiser to your good gut intentions. Learn more about the health pros and cons of beans.

bowl and spoon of barley


This hearty whole grain is a wonderful source of insoluble fiber, which helps keep your digestive tract flowing smoothly. “Insoluble fiber passes through the small intestine without breaking down,” Dr. Guillaume says. “It’s important for intestinal health because it adds bulk and draws water to the stool, aiding its passage through the large intestine. Good sources include whole grains, wheat and corn bran, popcorn, seeds, nuts, broccoli, cabbage, root vegetables, onions, green leafy vegetables, and fruit and vegetable skins.” Plus, when barley breaks down and ferments in your intestines, it produces butyric acid, the preferred fuel for your intestines’ cells. (Don’t ignore these 8 clear signs that you’re on a bad diet.)

grain bake recipe
Taste of Home

Nutty Barley Bake Recipe

This filling side dish is a wonderful way to make sure you’re getting gut-healthy ingredients on your plate. In addition to fiber-rich barley, this grain bake has onions and almonds, both of which provide a prebiotic snack to the bacteria in your gut.

bowl of granola with yogurt and milk

Nondairy yogurt

If you have difficulties processing lactose (a sugar that’s in milk-based foods), you may feel left out of the probiotic possibilities. Thankfully, many nondairy yogurts—look for ones made with soy, almond, or coconut milk—have the same great probiotic benefits as their dairy kin. What’s more, because your gut won’t be dealing with the lactose it cannot absorb, you’ll have a better chance of reaping the rewards of this fermented food.

Capture Collect/Shutterstock


These tropical fruits are good for more than a hit of potassium. They also contain polysaccharides, or carbohydrates that are slow to break down in the stomach. They’re another prebiotic food, so they help the bacteria in your belly prosper. For a double dose of microbiome-building bacteria, enjoy your bananas with a cup of yogurt or blended with kefir for a smoothie-like sipper.

Homemade cherry ice cream on table
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Vanilla Cherry Nice Cream Recipe

When you’re craving something sweet and chilled, reach for your blender and whip up this fruit-based frozen delight that is a good source of good gut bacteria. In this cream you’ll use frozen bananas, with their prebiotics and fiber, as the base. Add cherries for fiber and a sweet-tart kick, too. Don’t like the cherry-banana combo? Get creative. As long as you leave the frozen bananas in place for the prebiotics, you can add any number of ingredients. Honey would be a good option, as would blueberries or raspberries, which are also great for your gut health. Read up on everything you need to know about probiotics.

Fresh plain homemade yougurt (yogurt, youghurt, kefir, ayran, lassi) in glass with herbs over gray background, copy space. Probiotic cold fermented dairy drink.
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Like kefir and yogurt, traditional buttermilk is also a fermented dairy product. That means it’s brimming with good-for-your-gut bacteria. But look closely at the buttermilk labels: Cultured buttermilk, which is what you’re most likely to find on grocery store shelves, has very few bacteria. It’s often heated or pasteurized to make it shelf-stable. Ask your grocery store or local dairy farmer about getting traditional buttermilk, or the milk that’s left after making fresh butter. (Make sure you aren’t falling for these common myths about dairy.)

Soybean fermented food (natto)


Like tempeh and miso, natto is a type of fermented soybean food. That means it’s rich in probiotics, but research published in Osteoporosis International suggests that this sticky bean food may also improve bone health. Thanks to high levels of vitamin K, natto may protect your bones while it’s also providing gut-protecting bacteria to your belly. Learn these signs your bones are in trouble.

Japanese seaweed wakame


It might not be prized for its appearance, but seaweed is esteemed in healthy-eating circles. That’s because these long ribbons of plant material are good for your gut health. They provide plenty of prebiotics, whether you eat it dried as a snack, in soup, or wrapped around fish for sushi. Seaweed’s rich content of fiber and sugars called polysaccharides gives gut bacteria exactly what they crave.  Check out these 10 other incredible health benefits of probiotic foods.

chickpeas or garbanzo beans


Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are filled with fiber and resistant starch. Both of these nutrients are good for your gut. You can say in addition to improving gut health, chickpeas may also help you manage your weight better and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.

chickpea and tuna wraps
Dani Meyer/Courtesy Kimberly Snyder

Chickpea “Tuna” Nori Wraps Recipe

Here’s another double hitter: This sushi-like wrap features both prebiotic-rich nori (seaweed) and fiber-rich chickpeas. For a snack or a meal, this chickpea wrap is a great way to boost your bacteria variety and help keep your microbiome strong. Now check out these 21 health secrets your gut is trying to tell you.