Registered Dietitians Say This Is the Absolute Worst Food for Gut Health
Plus, how to improve gut health with some supplements.
If you’re trying to improve gut health, the first step is to take inventory of your diet. What you eat can affect the amount of good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome—and when there’s an imbalance, it can lead to a wide range of health issues.
To learn more about how diet affects the gut and the number one food to avoid, we asked the experts to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say.
How your eating habits affect gut health
The foods an individual eats directly affect their gut microbiome, which is responsible for a wide variety of functions, including immunity, digestion, and metabolism, among many other processes. An imbalance of healthy gut microbes can contribute to poor metabolism, poor digestion, and weight gain, among other negative health consequences, explains Mary Wirtz, MS, RDN, CSSD, nutrition consultant at Mom Loves Best.
Related: Trying to improve gut health and nothing is working? Here’s how to start restoring it
“The gut microbiota is a complex ecosystem found in our gut. It is highly variable from one individual to another, but dietary habits may be responsible [for] up to 20-50% of these microbiota variations,” says Dr. Seifeldin Hakim, MD, a gastroenterologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston.
It is important to maintain a balance between good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria to have a healthy gut and avoid overgrowth of bad bacteria. Consuming yogurt helps provide good bacteria and is considered a good source of good bacteria and acts as a probiotic.
In addition to the microbiota, eating spicy foods can lead to hyperacidity and heartburn problems, adds Dr Hakim. Drinking soda can increase acid reflux and cause excessive bloating and burping, which can lead to upper abdominal discomfort. High fiber foods like vegetables and fruits tend to help with constipation and promote bowel movement as well as promote the growth of good bacteria.
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The worst food for your gut
So what is the absolute worst food for gut health? Deep-fried foods like chips and other deep-fried foods – including donuts – are very harmful when it comes to gut health.
“These foods are extremely high in fat, most often contain saturated trans fats, and offer very little in the way of health-promoting, reparable nutritional qualities, such as vitamins and minerals,” says Wirtz. “Saturated trans fats are associated with inflammatory markers and are not beneficial for promoting gut health.”
Related: Eat Your Way to a Healthier Gut—Here’s What You Need to Know About Gut Health and Diet
Foods to eat instead
For a healthy gut microbiome, Wirtz recommends sticking to prebiotic and probiotic foods.
Food sources rich in prebiotics include:
Beans and lentils
Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, barley and brown rice
Fruits including berries, pomegranates, melons, apples, bananas and citrus fruits
Vegetables including lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and leeks.
These foods listed are rich in dietary fiber and are essentially the food in which the “good” gut bacteria thrive.
Food sources rich in probiotics include fermented foods such as:
The above foods all have beneficial microbiota (microorganisms) that improve an individual’s microbiome.
“A whole food-based diet rich in fiber, probiotics, and essential nutrients is optimal for the gut. In particular, high-fiber foods like chickpeas and lentils contain a type of fiber called prebiotics that help stimulate of the growth of healthy microorganisms in the gut,” says Beata Rydyger, BSc, RHN, a registered nutritionist based in Los Angeles.
Legumes in general are also rich in B vitamins, which play a crucial role in shaping the diversity of the microbiome.
Next: The One Food Experts Swear By For Better Gut Health