The ideas and suggestions written below are provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or care. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider before beginning any physical fitness or health and nutrition-related activity.
The human digestive tract (also known as your “gut”) plays an important role in your overall health. One way to keep your gut happy and healthy is to take a closer look at the bacteria that live there - ensuring that the beneficial (or “good”) bacteria outnumber any harmful ones. The balance of this unique gut ecosystem (known as our “microbiome”) can be supported by the foods you eat, specifically probiotics and prebiotics.
You’ve likely heard of probiotics—the good bacteria (actual living microorganisms!) that help with digestion.1 Prebiotics are just as important. Prebiotics (plant fibers) feed these beneficial bacteria so that they can flourish and do their job.2 Together probiotics and prebiotics work in harmony to support your digestive health.
Best Foods to Support Gut Health
Give the good bacteria in your gut the food they need. Prebiotics are undigestible fibers found in some plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seeds. Prebiotics can also be extracted from the roots of some of these plants - like inulin, which comes from the roots of chicory and agave plants and can be added to foods, giving them a prebiotic boost. Here’s a breakdown of where you can find prebiotics and how to include more of them in your daily diet.
1. Fruits, including apples and bananas2:
Add a piece of one of these prebiotic fruits at breakfast, lunch, or snack time. Slice them over yogurt or cereal, layer them into overnight oats, or mix them into chia pudding.
2. Vegetables, including Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks, and onions3,4:
You may not have used Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) before, but they have a wonderful, sweet flavor and can be sliced raw into salads or cooked and mashed, like potatoes. Asparagus can be roasted or sauteed and enjoyed as a side or in stir fries. And leeks and onions can be sauteed and added to soup.
3. Whole grains and seeds4,5:
The fiber in whole grains (like oats and wheat), and seeds (like chia and flaxseed) also have prebiotic fiber. Enjoy a bowl of oats for breakfast or use oat flour in baked goods. Sprinkle chia and flaxseed over cereal or blend them into smoothies.
If you’ve had a LUNA bar before, you know that crave-worthy textures and flavors can exist in nutritious snacks. And the new LUNA bar with 2.5g prebiotics is no exception. With sweet, tart, and fruity flavors (Wild Cherry and Tangerine Zest) and prebiotic fiber that helps promote digestive health‡, LUNA bar with 2.5g prebiotics is a tasty treat you can feel good about eating anytime you need a quick snack!
Probiotics are a collection of good bacteria that live both outside and inside our bodies and can be created when certain foods, like vegetables and milk, are fermented. Here’s how to get more of these little gut helpers into your day:
1. Fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir:
You may already eat yogurt for breakfast, but it’s also a wonderful afternoon snack and plain varieties can even be used in savory recipes. Kefir is like liquid yogurt, so it’s perfect in smoothies (like the recipe below) and can even be used in baking to replace milk, water, or buttermilk.
Makes 1 serving
- 1 cup chopped kale, packed
- 1 cup plain kefir
- 1 tablespoon creamy almond butter
- 1 frozen banana, sliced
- 1 kiwi, peeled
In a blender, combine all ingredients until creamy and smooth. Serve in a tall glass.
2. Fermented vegetables, including kimchi and sauerkraut:
Many people love the spicy flavor of kimchi and the tangy-sour taste of sauerkraut, but if you’re not quite sure how to use them, they can seem intimidating. Try adding a forkful of kimchi to your salad or in a quinoa bowl for a gut-friendly boost. Or use sauerkraut to top a sandwich or a veggie burger for added flavor!
This popular beverage is made by fermenting tea, which creates the presence of probiotic bacteria. In addition to drinking it as a beverage, you can also use it in place of vinegar or lemon juice to make salad dressings and marinades.
Prebiotic Fiber and Your Gut
At this point, you might be wondering just how much prebiotic fiber you need to support gut health. Research shows that 5g of prebiotic fiber daily increases the beneficial bacteria in your gut.7
Most Americans don’t get enough fiber.8 The 2020-2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 25-34g of fiber daily, depending on calorie intake.9
Here’s how to get enough dietary fiber, including foods with prebiotic fiber, into a single day.10
Prebiotic Meal Plan
- 1 cup whole grain, high fiber cereal
- 1 cup blueberries
- Medium apple
- Ultimate Power Bite
- Asparagus & Kale Quiche
- LUNA® with 2.5g prebiotics
‡ Studies show that 5g or more of prebiotic fiber increases beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Cleveland Clinic: Probiotics. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14598-probiotics.
- WebMD: What are Prebiotics? Available at: https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/prebiotics-overview.
- Davani-Davari et al. Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods, 2019 Mar; 8(3); 92.
- UMass Medical School; Center for Applied Nutrition. Prebiotics: what, where, and how to get them. Available at: https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/ibd/ask-Nutritionist/prebiotics-what-where-and-how-to-get-them/.
- Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417-1435.
- Largeman-Roth, F. (2020). Smoothies & Juices. Hearst Home. Available at: https://www.franceslargemanroth.com/essential_grid/smoothies-and-juices/.
- How Much Prebiotics are Needed for a Benefit? https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-prebiotic#1.
- Quaglani and Felt-Gunderson. Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Jan-Feb; 11(1): 80-85.
- 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Available at: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015.
- USDA Food Data Central. Available at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. fdc.nal.usda.gov.