Gut Health Foods: Probiotic, Prebiotic and Enzyme Rich Foods You Should be Eating

In today’s world, food is all about convenience, whether this is meal kits, TV dinners, premade sandwiches, or something that can be instantly tossed in the oven. Most of us are probably eating foods that are not necessarily unhealthy but don’t provide the microbes that our guts need to function their best. Remember, all the food and every nutrient you take in needs to be processed through your gut before your body can use it. 

Neglecting your gut health could cause multiple problems such as acid reflux, digestive issues, stomach pain, constipation, and indigestion. It’s not a pretty sight, and any of these could be the result of a few dietary mistakes or gaps. So, what’s a good solution for optimizing your gut health? A good place to start is incorporating gut health foods. 


What Traits Make Foods Good For Gut Health?


The gut is a critical player in how the body works as a central storehouse for the body’s bacteria and a gateway by which all of our food must pass. Certain bacteria, as a result, are even linked to mood, immune function, and of course digestive health, and even skin health meaning gut health is heavily tied to our overall quality of life. 

The key factor that makes foods healthy for our gut is the presence of healthy strains of live bacteria, fibers that feed those bacteria, or the ability to help produce digestive enzymes. 


What are Probiotics?

Chances you’ve seen ads discussing the probiotic quality of yogurt. As you might expect, yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. But what is a probiotic? Probiotics are live bacteria. These live bacteria can be found in supplements, but they’re naturally found in many foods as well. 

The reason these live bacteria are so important is that they allow your gut to produce nutrients in your colon cells improving your digestive function and metabolic health. Put simply, they’ll increase the amount of nutrients your body can absorb from the food you eat. 


[Related: How Much Antioxidants Per Day: Superfoods and Supplements to Hit Your Optimal Intake]


What are Prebiotics?

While this sounds similar to “probiotics," there are some differences between the two. Prebiotics as the name suggests are essential for probiotics. They’re a form of dietary fiber that feed the “friendly” bacteria in your gut and thus essential for your gut health to thrive. 


Probiotic Foods

Probiotics are often found in supplement form but your primary focus should be consuming a varied diet full of probiotic-rich foods. You might not know where to start so here is an excellent list of gut-healthy foods filled with probiotics.



Live yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics, with a typical serving providing 90 billion to 500 billion CFU per serving. But what does  “CFU” stand for? It means colony-forming units, which is basically how many bacteria within that can divide and form their colonies.  

We suggest looking for sugar-free and full-fat yogurt without syrups or other ingredients. You can always add your own toppings, such as fruit or honey. All yogurts are rich in beneficial bacterial strains but it’s worth looking for a seal saying “live and active cultures.” This means the yogurt hasn’t been heat treated and will contain more live bacterial cultures. 


Kefir is a fermented yogurt drink often substituted for regular milk. It’s made by adding kefir grains, which are grain-like colonies of yeast and lactic acid bacteria to milk prior to fermentation. The resulting drink has some of the same bitter, “cultured” taste of yogurt but is a little thinner in texture. The process leaves it extremely rich in healthy bacteria making it another excellent gut health food. It also contains many digestive enzymes, including lipase, proteases, and lactase.

It’s perfect for adding to your smoothies, when cooking, or even a salad dressing. Better yet, if you’re lactose intolerant, you can consume kefir without worry because the bacteria in it pre-digest the lactose content. 


Another fermented item on the list that is fabulous for gut health is kimchi. This Korean specialty is a major favorite of ours. The traditional and most popular variety is cabbage kimchi. Depending on your location, you may also find radish, celery or carrot kimchi. Like kefir and yogurt, it’s packed with probiotic bacteria, but it also provides fiber and vitamins. We dare to say it’s a gut health superfood. In fact, a study of 100 participants found that the ones who ate the most kimchi experienced the greatest reduction in cholesterol levels. (participants were young and healthy at the time of the study) 

It’s mostly seen as a side dish but other popular ways to enjoy kimchi include on hot dogs, on tacos, or chopping and adding to your stir fry. 

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Love it or hate it, sauerkraut is an excellent gut health food packed with probiotics. Like kimchi, it’s fermented cabbage but with a different presentation and flavor. It’s mainly associated with Germany but exists all across Europe. 

A note about Kimchi and Sauerkraut is that they’re a bit high in sodium for those who are watching their intake. 


This is a fermented tea that’s been consumed for thousands of years. It’s made by adding specific strains of bacteria, yeast, and sugar to black or green tea, then allowing it to ferment for a week or more. Like tea, it’s bursting with antioxidants but with the additional gut health benefit of probiotic bacteria. 


Miso is a paste made from soybeans that have been fermented with salt and a koji starter. Because of its versatility and nutritional benefits (miso is rich in healthy bacteria, digestive enzymes and vitamins) it’s used in soups, marinades, salad dressings and even cookies. 

Even though it’s generally healthy, it contains a rather high sodium content of 43% of your RDI per serving. 


Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics aren’t discussed that often so many don’t have an idea at the top of their head of what a prebiotic food would be. Not to worry, here is a helpful list of gut-healthy, prebiotic foods that you can find at any grocery store. 



Oat four, oat milk, oatmeal; what can’t you do with oats? In addition to their versatility, oats contain 2-20 grams of beta-glucan per 100 grams. This means that it promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut making it an excellent gut health food. 

Plus, oats are bursting with other benefits; they’re rich in manganese, magnesium and phosphorus,  they have antioxidants, and whole grains can promote thyroid health, and lower blood sugar levels. 


[Related: Packable Snack Recipe: Energy Balls Featuring Oats and Chocolate Chips]



Heavy on nutrition and light on calories, this flavorful herb is popular the world over. You might be surprised to know that garlic was used for its health properties before it was used for its flavor. 

As a prebiotic, garlic promotes the growth of beneficial bifidobacteria in the gut. It also helps prevent disease-promoting bacteria from growing. Additional health benefits of garlic include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and lowering blood sugar levels


For those who find garlic and onions to be offputting, consider leeks. They’re part of the same family as onions (alliums) but have a milder, more subtle flavor. 

Leeks are rich in the prebiotic fiber inulin helping to promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Additionally, inulin may contribute to fat metabolism and help with weight loss


Asparagus is an excellent source of fiber providing 1.8 grams per half cup. Asparagus provides the soluble fiber inulin which feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, and a good amount of insoluble fiber which aids stool formation. 

Asparagus is also rich in Vitamin E making it anti-inflammatory and helpful in the promotion of our immune health. Its B Vitamin and folate content are also thought to help it to promote a healthy mood. 


Bananas are one of the most popular fruits out there. And why wouldn’t they be? they’re easy to peel and come in their own container. On top of their convenience, they’re loaded with potassium, delicious, and filled with the prebiotic soluble fiber inulin. Green bananas aren’t the best eating experience but they have even more prebiotic fiber! 

Soluble fiber isn’t the only digestive benefit of bananas. They also contain amylases and glucosidases, two groups of enzymes that break down complex carbs like starch into smaller and more easily absorbed sugars. 


Enzyme Rich Foods

Some of the foods that are the richest in digestive enzymes are tropical fruits. Here are some of our favorites. 



A plate of papaya slices

You might not be deeply familiar with Papaya but probably recognize its distinct and vibrant appearance. In addition to being tasty for juicing, salads or eating on its own, papayas are rich in the digestive enzyme Papain, a proteolytic enzyme known for its ability to break down complex proteins into simpler amino acids and peptides. If you’ve ever used meat tenderizer before, you already know how effective papain is at breaking down proteins. 



Enzyme-rich pineapples

Its validity as a pizza topping might be questionable but pineapple’s health benefits are real. Pineapple’s primary digestive benefit is the enzyme bromelain, a group of proteolytic enzymes that also help to break down protein. This isn’t a new idea either, historically, pineapple was used by natives of Central and South America to treat digestive disorders and a variety of other ailments. (NIH



Kiwi fruit slices

The Kiwi fruit is a vitamin-packed powerhouse with each one containing more Vitamin C than an orange along with Vitamin E, K, B6 and the digestive enzyme actinidin. Unlike the pineapple, and papaya, there is not currently published evidence on this enzyme’s digestive benefits. 



Maybe you enjoy the taste of mangoes but we bet you didn’t realize they have thousands of years of cultural significance. In both India and Pakistan, it’s recognized as the national fruit and referred to as the “king of fruit” in both countries. 

The fruit contains the enzyme amylase that helps break down carbohydrates, contributing to smoother digestion of starchy foods. Pairing mangoes with other tropical fruits on this list could help to ease the digestion of protein and carbohydrates resulting in better digestive comfort. 


The Bottom Line

Probiotics are the talk of the town when it comes to foods and gut health. However, we should remember that healthy digestion and metabolism also rely on prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and vitamins. Adding the gut-healthy foods on this list to your diet should aid in your digestion but will also promote benefits to heart health, blood sugar health, and immune health. 


For those who have gaps in their diet, we have Acidophilus and Bifidus with 8 billion colony-forming units of healthy gut bacteria and supplemental digestive enzymes. 


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. If you have immediate concerns about your health, please seek the help of your physician. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

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