Legumes in general have been shown to benefit gut health due to protein and carbs they contain. Beans, in particular, offer a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, according to Gorin. “Fiber is great for stimulating digestion, as well as feeding gut bacteria.” White and kidney beans, for example, are often used in a variety of dishes such as salads, stews, soups, and grain bowls.
Whole grains such as oatmeal supply fiber — both soluble and insoluble fiber, according to Gorin. A high-fiber diet will help you bulk up the weight and size of your stool, which can make it easier to pass, she added.
Those considering adding oatmeal to their diet should consider doing it gradually so as to slowly increase the fiber intake to decrease the risk of bloating and gas, according to Gorin. “And make sure to drink plenty of water.”
“Fermented foods, such as Greek yogurt and kefir, can be helpful for gut health,” Gorin said. She suggests adding a probiotic-containing Greek yogurt to any salad dressing with crudités, or blend kefir into a berry smoothie.
When it comes to gut health and probiotics, you want to look for a few specific things when purchasing supplements. “One is that you want to make sure the probiotic you’re buying has some research behind it to show a benefit in the area — in this case, gut health — that you’re looking for,” Gorin said. Some strains have been shown to have benefits for people with irritable bowel syndrome, according to Gorin. Other strains help keep gut health strong while a person is taking antibiotics. “Also look to see that the probiotic lists the genus, species, and strain.”
Dark chocolate helps gut health not because of something in the sweet treat, but because of how good bacteria living in our gut interact with antioxidants and fiber in cocoa. It contains polyphenols, which are compounds with antioxidant properties, that help the production of healthy microbes in the colon.
“However, the amount of cocoa tested to produce these results was a rather large amount, which means the harmful effects of all the sugar and fats would likely outweigh any real gut health benefits,” Fitzgerald said. It can still be enjoyed in moderation. “Look for higher percentages of cocoa as that means it contains less sugar.”