• By Clancy Harrison
  • In 2018
  • February 27, 2018

4 Foods (You Already Eat) that Promote Gut Health

By Beth Stark RD, LDN

Gut health is so hot right now. Is this a dietitian’s dream or what? In all seriousness, interest in this topic is certainly at an all-time high thanks to emerging research that links a healthy gut to everything from improvement of digestive conditions (obviously) and immunity to obesity and even depression. Of course a well-nourished gut is also essential to general well-being, and ahem, regularity. Yes, I said it.

If you’re curious about gut-healthy foods and wonder how you can eat more of them, check out my top four picks here. Chances are you already have them in your fridge or pantry. That’s right…nourishing your gut isn’t just about downing shots of difficult to pronounce kombucha (kawm-boo-chah) or kefir (kuh-FEAR)— it can be accomplished by simply incorporating a few basic foods and plenty of water into your eating routine. Read on to learn more.

Oats: Nothing difficult to pronounce here…just good old-fashioned oats. A long-time gut-healthy food, oats are a source of prebiotic fiber that those live probiotics use to promote their growth. Think of prebiotics as ‘probiotic boosters.’ Including both types in your diet ensures that you are covering all bases when it comes to being good to your gut.

Yogurt: Before there was kefir, a smooth, drinkable, probiotic-rich yogurt-like beverage, there was yogurt. The culturing process of adding lactic acid-producing cultures to milk results in the naturally-occurring probiotics that exist in yogurt.Since heat processing can destroy these active probiotic cultures, it’s best to look for ‘live’ or ‘active’ cultures on the label to know you’re getting the real deal. Also, seek out the brands that have the lowest amount of added sugar. Remember that yogurt contains naturally-occurring milk sugar (lactose) so you won’t find a zero sugar yogurt out there. Add a few berries to your yogurt for an added boost of prebiotic fiber.

Bananas: With a carbohydrate and natural sugar content higher than other fruits, bananas seem to have gotten a bad reputation over recent years…until now! Like oats, bananas supply the prebiotic type of fiber that nourishes the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut. The beauty of bananas is that they pair oh, so perfectly with yogurt and oats to make up the dynamic prebiotic-probiotic duo mentioned earlier.

Aged cheese: While not all cheeses are a source of probiotics, those that have been aged, including Parmesan, Swiss, cheddar and Gouda, are. Does this mean you should eat pounds of cheese in the name of gut health? No. In fact overdoing it may have the opposite affect and cause gut distress. When using cheese, swap these varieties in for the added bonus of probiotics.

As seen with many health and wellness trends, once consumers get on the bandwagon as they have this past year with gut ‘healthy’ products like kombucha, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut, food manufacturers respond with new product innovation to satisfy the demand. While there are definitely some good newbies hitting shelves, there are also as many gimmicky products that don’t contain the type and amounts of probiotics that have been studied. That said, my takeaway for you is that it’s ok to stick with what you know like oats, yogurt, bananas and aged cheese in lieu of trendy (and expensive) probiotic drinks, cereals, snack bars, dried fruit and others that appear too good to be true.

Beth Stark, RDN, LDN is the Manager of Lifestyle Initiatives at Weis Markets, a family-owned and -operated supermarket chain with 204 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.