What are the best fruits for gut health? One of the most influential factors for having a healthy gut microbiota is our diet. The various micronutrients and fermented foods that we consume directly contribute to the health of our microbiome. However, which fruits should you be consuming in order to have optimal gut health? This article gives you in-depth analysis on some of the most powerful fruits for your gut.
10 Best Fruits for Gut Health
The key to a healthy gut is following a diet that supports a diverse gut microbiome, promotes digestion, and minimises inflammation.
Although you should be consuming the best vegetables for gut health as well, fruits play a crucial role in balancing the microbiome and hosting new strains of healthy bacteria.
Many people believe that fruit should be consumed sparingly due to its high sugar content. However, not all sugar affects the gut the same. Incorporating these fruits into your diet is a tasty and healthy way to keep your gut flora happy and thriving!
As you may know, fibre plays a huge role in supporting gut health. And you know what fruit is incredibly high in fibre? Pears! A single medium-sized pear will pack an incredible 5.5 grams of fibre, beating other similar fruits like apples and quinces.
Introducing pears into your diet is extremely easy. Pears are incredibly versatile, so you can eat them in savoury meals like salads or take advantage of their naturally sweet taste. You can:
- Eat them on their own as a tasty snack.
- Add them to your favourite salads.
- Make some oatmeal with pears and cinnamon.
- Have a baked pear with brown sugar for dessert.
- Make a toast with pear, honey, and pistachios. Use sourdough bread for extra gut points!
Bananas are known to be one of the best foods for improving digestion–and rightfully so! With one medium banana coming in at 3 grams of fibre, you can count on this mushy fruit to keep your gut microbiome happy (and moving!).
On top of containing a significant amount of fibre, bananas also contain plenty of other essential nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate. Best of all? Bananas are one of the most versatile fruits and can be very easily added to your diet! Here are a few ideas:
- Mash a ripe banana into your oatmeal.
- Cut up a banana and add it to whole-wheat cereal.
- Make a loaf of low-sugar banana bread.
- Blend it up in a smoothie for added creaminess.
- Freeze bananas and blend them up with maple syrup to make banana “nice cream.”
With all these yummy ways to eat bananas, what’s not to like about this superfruit?
You know the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But why does it? Well, one of the biggest reasons is–you guessed it–fibre! Apples are very high in fibre content, making them an excellent fruit for gut health.
One medium apple contains 3 grams of fibre, which will help you digest food more easily and even lose weight. Additionally, apples contain many essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, potassium, and more. No wonder consuming one a day will boost your immune system!
Here are some fun ways to add more apples to your diet:
- Slice them up and dip them in peanut butter.
- Make a classic apple pie with plenty of apples.
- Roast your apples to bring out their sweetness.
- Dice them up and make a tasty fruit salad.
- Make your own apple sauce and enjoy it with a spoon or in other recipes!
Blueberries are incredibly powerful little fruits that come with a whole host of health benefits. For starters, blueberries contain a whopping 5 grams of fibre per cup, beating other fruits on this list like apples and bananas. A known prebiotic, blueberries are very effective at fostering a positive environment for the good bacteria in your gut.
If that wasn’t enough, blueberries also reduce inflammation and help regulate glucose. Both of these are extremely helpful for gut health and overall health, so you should seriously consider upping your blueberry intake if you want to support your health!
Some fun ways to introduce blueberries to your diet are:
- Add them to your whole-wheat cereal.
- Bake some tasty blueberry muffins at home. Bonus points if you use sourdough!
- Top greek yoghurt with blueberries for a tasty snack.
- Freeze them in ice cubes and add them to your favourite drinks.
And, of course, you can blend them up in a smoothie. Blueberries are some of the most common ingredients in smoothies, so you should definitely consider making a tasty blueberry smoothie to supercharge your gut. Need some inspiration? Check out our article with the 14 best smoothie recipes for gut health.
Kiwi fruit is an incredibly nutrient-dense food that contains up to 5 grams of fibre. Though the flesh of the kiwi is very nutritious, most people make a painful mistake: discard the skin. Kiwi skin is perfectly edible and much more nutritionally dense than the flesh. If the thought of eating the furry kiwi skin, just think of it like peaches! Their skin is similar and yet most people won’t bat an eyelash when eating a juicy peach!
Another fun fact about kiwis is that they actually contain plenty of serotonin–you know, the “happy hormone.” This is important not only for keeping you happy but also for keeping your gut microbiome happy. New research shows the intricate yet close relationship between the gut and the brain, which is often referred to as the gut-brain axis. So, keeping yourself happy will likely have a positive impact on how balanced your gut microbiome is!
Here are some fun ways to add more kiwis to your diet:
- Slice them up and make a colourful fruit salad.
- Blend them up into your favourite green smoothie.
- Make a tropical kiwi salsa with mango, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice.
- Make a kiwi parfait with greek yoghurt.
Peaches are another sweet and tasty fruit that can easily be confused for a cheat treat. However, even the juiciest and sweetest peaches can be extremely healthy. With 2 grams of fibre for one medium peach, you will be getting a nice helping of fibre to keep your gut microbiota well-fed.
On top of fibre, peaches also support a stronger immune system, help reduce inflammation and even lower cholesterol. Peaches are also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
Peaches are very fun and easy to include in your diet. Here are some great options:
- Slice peaches and serve with greek yoghurt.
- Have peaches and cottage cheese for breakfast.
- Munch on their own as a tasty and portable snack.
- Add to arugula to make the perfect summer salad.
Grapefruit is considered by many to be the holy grail of dieting, but it can be a fantastic addition to your diet even if you’re not trying to lose weight. A single medium-sized grapefruit comes in at 4 grams of fibre per serving, which makes it a very high-fibre fruit.
Grapefruits are also packed with nutrients, containing significant amounts of:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Consuming grapefruit regularly could greatly improve your digestive health, support a healthy gut, and increase your immune system.
Here are some of the best ways to eat grapefruit:
- Slice it in half and scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon!
- Make a summer grapefruit salad with spinach and feta cheese.
- Mix it up with other colourful and gut-friendly fruits like kiwi and blueberries in a fruit salad.
- Blend up the flesh of a grapefruit in your favorite smoothie.
Although grapefruit juice can also be extremely tasty and nutritious, you should always eat the flesh of the grapefruit if you’re looking to maximise your gut benefits. That’s where all the fibre is!
Pomegranates are funny-looking fruits that can be an incredibly helpful addition to your diet. A medium-sized pomegranate contains 3 grams of fibre, making it an excellent fruit to keep your digestive system moving.
On top of having a significant amount of fibre, pomegranates are especially beneficial to your gut as they are packed with prebiotic polyphenols. These compounds have been shown to boost the production of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium microorganisms in your gut flora.
There are countless tasty ways to easily incorporate pomegranates into your diet:
- Toss the seeds into your salad.
- Top your hummus with extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate seeds.
- Roast cauliflower with turmeric and top with pomegranates and cilantro.
- Make a greek yoghurt parfait with pomegranate seeds.
Although probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of fibre, raspberries pack an incredible punch with 8 grams of fibre per cup. In fact, raspberries top the fruit list in a Mayo Clinic report on high-fibre foods! If you’re looking to maximize your fibre consumption quickly, there is no better way to do so than with raspberries.
On top of being incredibly fibre-rich, raspberries also contain omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and manganese, which helps regulate blood sugar and keep your bones strong. Plus, they are some of the tastiest berries out there with a naturally-sweet flavour. What’s not to like about raspberries?
Here are some of the best ways to eat raspberries:
- On their own as a snack. Just give them a wash and enjoy!
- Add as a garnish for your sparkling water.
- Make raspberry popsicles for the summer.
- With yoghurt, cereal, or oatmeal.
- As a raspberry puree to top your grilled fish or shrimp.
Grapes are incredibly healthful snacks in all of their colours and variations. No matter your preference, you can trust that these little fruits will be packed with fibre and other healthful nutrients. A cup of seedless grapes contains 1.4 grams of fibre.
And, if you prefer to drink your grapes rather than eat them, you’ll be pleased to know that moderate consumption of red wine can be beneficial for your gut health! A 2019 study from Kings College London found that individuals who drank red wine regularly had a more diverse gut microbiota than those who did not drink red wine. However, make sure not to overdo it, as alcohol can be detrimental to gut health!
Beyond red wine, here are some excellent ways to easily increase your grape consumption:
- Put them in a freezer and have frozen grapes as a snack.
- Cut them in half and top your favourite chicken, tuna or pasta salad.
- Make a veggie “charcuterie” board with grapes, figs, and nuts.
- Make fruit kabobs with grapes, strawberries, and pineapple.
5 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science
There are around 40 trillion bacteria in your body, most of which are found in your gut.
Collectively, they are known as your gut microbiome, and they’re incredibly important for overall health. However, certain types of bacteria in your intestines can also contribute to many diseases.
Many factors, including the foods you eat, can impact the type of bacteria found in your digestive tract.
Here are 5 science-based ways to improve your gut bacteria.
There are hundreds of species of bacteria in your intestines, each of which plays a specific role in health and requires different nutrients for growth.
Generally speaking, a diverse microbiome is considered a healthy one. This is because the more species of bacteria you have, the more health benefits they may be able to contribute to
A diet consisting of different food types can lead to a more diverse microbiome
Unfortunately, the traditional Western diet is not very diverse and is rich in fat and sugar. In fact, an estimated 75% of the world’s food is produced from only 12 plant and 5 animal species
However, diets in certain rural regions are often more diverse and richer in different plant sources.
For this reason, a few studies have shown that gut microbiome diversity is much greater in people from rural regions of Africa and South America than in people from urban areas in Europe or the United States.
Eating a diverse diet rich in whole foods can lead to a diverse microbiome, which is beneficial for your health.
Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiome.
They are high in fiber, which your body can’t digest. However, certain bacteria in your gut can digest fiber, which stimulates their growth.
Beans and legumes also contain very high amounts of fiber.
Some high fiber foods that are good for your gut bacteria include:
- green peas
- whole grains
One study found that following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables prevented the growth of some disease-causing bacteria
Apples, artichokes, blueberries, almonds, and pistachios have also all been shown to increase Bifidobacteria in humans
Bifidobacteria are considered beneficial bacteria, as they can help prevent intestinal inflammation and enhance gut health
Many fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. Fiber promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, including specific types such as Bifidobacteria.
Fermented foods have undergone fermentation, a process in which the sugars they contain are broken down by yeast or bacteria.
Some examples of fermented foods are:
Many of these foods are rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that can benefit your health.
Research shows that people who eat a lot of yogurt appear to have more lactobacilli in their intestines. These people also have less Enterobacteriaceae, which is a type of bacteria associated with inflammation and a number of chronic conditions
Similarly, a number of studies have shown that yogurt consumption can improve intestinal bacteria and decrease symptoms of lactose intolerance
What’s more, yogurt may also enhance the function and composition of the microbiome
However, many yogurts, especially flavored yogurts, contain high amounts of sugar. Therefore, it’s best to opt for plain, unsweetened yogurt or a flavored yogurt with minimal added sugar that is made only of milk and bacteria mixtures, also sometimes called “starter cultures.”
Additionally, to reap the gut health benefits, make sure the label reads “contains live active cultures.”
Furthermore, fermented soybean milk may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, while decreasing quantities of some other harmful strains of bacteria. Kimchi may also benefit the gut flora
Fermented foods like plain yogurt can benefit the microbiome by enhancing its function and reducing the abundance of disease-causing bacteria in the intestines.
Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
They are mainly fiber or complex carbs that human cells cannot digest. Instead, certain species of bacteria in the gut break them down and use them for fuel.
Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain prebiotics, but they can also be found on their own.
Resistant starch can also be a prebiotic. This type of starch is not absorbed in the small intestine and passes into the large intestine, where the microbiota break it down.
Many studies have shown that prebiotics can promote the growth of several types of beneficial bacteria, including Bifidobacteria
Certain prebiotics have also been shown to reduce insulin, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels in people with obesity, which could be beneficial for the prevention of conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes
Prebiotics promote the growth of several types of beneficial bacteria, including Bifidobacteria. Some studies suggest that prebiotics could also reduce risk factors for certain health conditions by decreasing levels of insulin, triglycerides, and cholesterol.
A baby’s microbiome begins to properly develop at birth. However, studies suggest that babies may be exposed to some bacteria even before birth
During the first 2 years of life, an infant’s microbiome is continuously developing and is rich in beneficial Bifidobacteria, which can digest the sugars found in breast milk
Many studies have shown that infants who are fed formula have an altered microbiome with fewer Bifidobacteria than infants who are breastfed
What’s more, breastfeeding is also associated with lower rates of allergies, obesity, and other health conditions that may be due to differences in the gut microbiota
Breastfeeding helps an infant develop a healthy microbiome, which may help protect against certain health conditions later in life.
Best Foods For Gut Health
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An ever-growing amount of research points to the enormous role your gut plays in your health and well-being. In addition to assisting with digestion, the good bacteria in your gut help keep you healthy by producing vitamins, supporting the immune system and fending off harmful bacteria. In fact, more than 70% of your immune system resides in your gut.
Most people can enhance their gut health naturally through diet. Here are the types of food that boast the biggest gut health benefits.
High-Fiber Foods Like Beans, Oats and Fruits
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods, and it’s categorized as soluble or insoluble.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that’s consumed by gut bacteria, says Alicia Romano, a specialized clinical dietitian at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber passes through your digestive tract largely intact and helps provide bulk to your stool. “This makes food pass more quickly through the GI tract, thus promoting regular bowel movements,” Romano says.
Both types of fiber help with gut health by assisting with digestion and preventing constipation. Eating high-fiber foods also helps protect you from gaining excess weight and developing chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some kinds of cancer, according to a review of studies in The Lancet.
Good sources of fiber include:
- Beans, dried peas and lentils
- Bran (oat and wheat)
- Dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins
- Foods made with whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, whole-grain cereal and whole-grain pasta
- Whole grains, such as barley, quinoa, bulgur and brown rice
- Fresh fruits, especially apples with skin, pears with skin, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries
- Vegetables, especially artichokes, broccoli, green peas, winter squash, and white potatoes and sweet potatoes with skin
Probiotic Foods Like Kimchi, Kombucha and Kefir
Probiotic foods contain living microorganisms like the health-promoting microbes found in your gut. Eating probiotic foods can help boost your body’s population of beneficial bacteria.
Common bacteria groups found in probiotic foods include Lactobacillus (often abbreviated as “L.” on food labels) and Bifidobacterium (abbreviated as “B.” on food labels). Probiotic foods are made by adding microbes to food and/or allowing a process known as fermentation to take place.
Examples of probiotic foods include:
- Fermented soy foods, such as tempeh, miso and natto
- Kefir (fermented milk)
- Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
- Kombucha (a fermented tea drink)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Yogurt, both dairy and non-dairy
When choosing probiotic foods, check labels for live, active cultures, which indicates the bacteria in the foods are still living. For instance, when shopping for probiotic sauerkraut, reach for refrigerated brands with live cultures. Shelf-stable, pasteurized sauerkraut in a can or a jar—the type of sauerkraut your mother may have bought as a hotdog condiment—is unlikely to contain living microbes. Living microbes are beneficial because they join the community of living microbes already in your gut.
Probiotics are also available in over-the-counter dietary supplements. However, there’s mixed evidence of their benefits, and the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) does not recommend the use of probiotic supplements for most digestive conditions. If you do choose to take probiotic supplements, the AGA suggests that you do so with a doctor’s guidance.
Prebiotic Foods Like Asparagus, Bananas and Garlic
It’s not enough to eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods—you also have to eat foods that help keep these health-promoting microorganisms alive.
That’s where certain types of soluble fiber called prebiotics come in. Think of them as nutrient-dense food for your healthy gut microbes; when you eat prebiotic foods, you effectively feed the good bacteria that keeps your gut in balance.
Prebiotic foods contain compounds, such as fructooligosaccharides, inulin and galactooligosaccharides, which are types of soluble dietary fiber. “Prebiotics act as fuel for specific bacteria in the gut, thus having the ability to promote the creation of more good bacteria,” says Romano.
Good prebiotic foods include:
- Jerusalem artichokes
Synbiotic Foods Like Yogurt Paired With Blueberries
Synbiotic foods combine prebiotics and probiotics into a single, uber-healthy gut microbe-supporting meal. These foods provide the pros of prebiotics and probiotics at once, supporting existing gut bacteria and delivering additional living cultures to your gut.
Some examples of synbiotic foods include:
- A banana smoothie made with kefir or yogurt
- Stir-fry made with tempeh, asparagus, garlic and leeks
- Yogurt with blueberries
To make these foods even better for your gut, add high-fiber ingredients, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits or legumes.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods Like Fatty Fish, Flax Seeds and Walnuts
Inflammation occurs when your body releases white blood cells and other compounds to protect you from infection. This reaction benefits you when you actually have an infection, but sometimes your body goes into a type of inflammatory overdrive even when no infection exists, dispersing inflammatory chemicals such as cytokines when you don’t need them. This process can contribute to or worsen gastrointestinal conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Anti-inflammatory foods contain nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, that can help cool down inflammation. “These play a role in the natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory pathways of the body, which may also promote the health of the gut,” Romano says.
Helpful anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies
- Flax seeds
- Fruits, such as berries and grapes
- Vegetables, such as broccoli, peppers and tomatoes
A Varied Diet Improves Gut Health Naturally
Filling your daily diet with a range of foods is an excellent way to boost your gut microbiome—and your health as a whole. “An abundance of nutrients from a variety of foods is key to positively impacting your gut,” says Romano. “The more varied the diet as a whole, the more access the gut has to an array of beneficial nutrients.”
And don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water not only enables fiber to do its job properly in your gut, but also helps keep your digestive system—and the rest of your body—running smoothly. “Adequate fluid intake is essential for the health of all organ systems, as well as the health of our gut,” says Romano.