Registered Dietitians Say This Is the Absolute Worst Food for Gut Health

Plus, how you can improve your gut health with a few food additions.

If you’re trying to improve your gut health, the first step is to take an inventory of your diet. What you eat can affect the amount of good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome, and when there is an imbalance, it can lead to a wide variety of health problems.

To learn more about how diet affects the gut and the number one food to avoid, we asked experts to review the issue. Here’s what they have to say.

How Do Your Eating Habits Affect Your Gut Health?

The food an individual eats directly affects the gut microbiome, which is responsible for a wide variety of functions such as 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. Mary Wirtz, MS, RDN, CSSD, The nutrition consultant at Mom Loves Best explains.

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“The gut microbiota is a complex ecosystem that resides in our gut. It is highly variable from one individual to the next, but dietary habits may be responsible. [for] up to 20-50% of these microbiota variations,” he says. Seifeldin Hakim, Dr. A gastroenterologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston.

It is important to maintain a balance between good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria in order to have a healthy gut and prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Eating yogurt helps provide good bacteria and is considered a good source of bacteria and acts as a probiotic.

Dr. Judge adds that eating spicy foods outside of the microbiota can lead to problems with hyperacidity and heartburn. Drinking soda can increase acid reflux and cause bloating and excessive belching, which can lead to upper abdominal discomfort. High-fiber foods like vegetables and fruits help with constipation and promote the growth of good bacteria as well as promoting a bowel movement.

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The Worst Food for Your Gut

So what is the absolute worst food for gut health? Deep-fried foods like french fries and other deep-fried foods, including donuts, are very harmful when it comes to gut health.

“These foods are extremely high in fat, often contain trans-saturated fat, and offer very few salvageable nutritional qualities that promote health, such as vitamins and minerals,” says Wirtz. “Trans-saturated fat is linked to inflammatory markers and is not beneficial for promoting gut health.”

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Foods to Eat Instead

For a healthy gut microbiome, Wirtz recommends sticking to prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Prebiotic-rich food sources include:

  • Beans and lentils

  • Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, barley, and brown rice

  • Fruits such as strawberries, pomegranates, melons, apples, bananas and citrus

  • Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and leeks.

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These listed foods are rich in dietary fiber and are essentially foods on which “good” gut bacteria thrive.

Probiotic-rich food sources include fermented foods such as:

  • yogurt

  • Kefir

  • miso

  • tempeh

  • A kind of local Korean food

  • sauerkraut

All of the above foods have beneficial microbiota (microorganisms) that enhance an individual’s microbiome.

“A food-based diet rich in fiber, probiotics and essential nutrients is best suited for the gut. In particular, fiber-rich foods like chickpeas and lentils contain a type of fiber called prebiotics, which helps promote the growth of healthy microorganisms in the gut,” she says. Beata Rydyger, BSc, RHNShe is a registered nutritionist based in Los Angeles.

In general, legumes are also rich in B vitamins, which play a crucial role in shaping the diversity of the microbiome.

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