Top 10 Foods for Good Gut Health 

by JJ Virgin on October 12, 2023

Your gut is the center of your world. Far from just digesting food, this organ controls your mood, energy, metabolism, immunity, and so much more. When your gut falls out of balance, everything—your brain, immune system, liver, and really, every organ—feels the repercussions. 

“When I say it all starts in your gut, I mean almost everything!” says my friend Vincent Pedre, MD.  

“Headaches, migraines, allergies, autoimmunity, weight gain, acne, skin rashes, yeast infections, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, immune challenges, even the way you sense pain—they all relate to the condition and health of your gut.”1 

Underlying this dysfunction are the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that your gut contains. A healthy gut maintains the correct amount but also a diverse range of organisms. Researchers have linked a diverse gut environment with a better metabolism, stronger immune system, blood-sugar balance, and a reduced risk of diseases like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.  

When those bacteria fall out of balance, trouble starts. We call these imbalances or disruptions dysbiosis. Left unchecked, dysbiosis can lead to problems like leaky gut, when the tight junctions in your intestinal wall become loose from constant assaults.  

Those assaults come from things like constant stress, antibiotics and other medications, and a poor diet. I’m not just talking about things like high-sugar-impact foods, either. Even “healthy” foods like whole-wheat bread and low-fat yogurt can create food intolerance, which can pave the way for dysbiosis and other gut issues.  

When this happens, your gut becomes inflamed, symptoms like moodiness and fatigue appear (plus other unexpected symptoms), and you’re more prone to food intolerance

The Best Foods to Heal Your Gut 

Odds are, if you’ve got gut issues, you ate your way into them, which means you can eat your way out of them.  

What you eat plays a crucial role in shaping your gut microbiome and maintaining a diverse range of bacteria. Healing your gut usually takes time, patience, and the right protocol. But it all starts with your fork, and these 10 gut-healthy foods are top-shelf choices for healing your gut quickly. 

1. Flax Seeds 

Flax seeds provide important gut-healing benefits.  

They contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance in your gut, supports blood-sugar balance and feeds your good gut bacteria. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and passes through your gut mostly intact, giving your stool bulk for regular bowel movements. Both types are important. 

Fiber moves through your gut mostly undigested until it reaches the large intestine. There, it serves as a valuable food source called prebiotics, which feed your good gut bacteria and keeps those bacteria in balance.2 

These bacteria ferment fiber, breaking it down into compounds called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs foster a diverse range of gut bacteria, supporting overall gut health, digestion, immune function, and a healthy metabolism.3 

One SCFA, called butyrate, is the primary energy source for cells lining the colon. SCFAs also help: 

  • Reduce inflammation in your gut and beyond  
  • Regulate your immune system 
  • Support nutrient absorption by improving your gut lining 

Flax seeds also contain an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Animal studies show that ALA can help optimize gut bacteria, support a strong intestinal wall barrier to prevent problems like leaky gut, and help manage inflammation.4 

By reducing inflammation in the gut, flax seed can help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. And inflammation that begins in your gut can eventually become systemic inflammation, impacting your entire body. 

Flax seeds are rich in magnesium as well. Research shows that deficiencies in this mineral can disrupt gut bacteria, adversely impact your gut-brain axis, and contribute to depression.5 

My suggestion: Buy flax seeds whole and grind them fresh to toss into loaded smoothies and other recipes. The fragile omega-3s can go rancid easily, so keep them refrigerated. 

Try this recipe: This Snickerdoodle Shake has the same warm cinnamon spice as your favorite cookie, without the added sugar and other problem ingredients. Instead, it combines coconut milk and flax with my All-In-One Shake for a cool, creamy flavor. 

2. Wild-Caught Seafood 

Nothing quite hits the dinner-satisfaction spot like a fresh piece of wild-caught seafood, packed with the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  

Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, which research shows can: 

  • Improve gut bacterial balance 
  • Increase the production of anti-inflammatory compounds (including SCFAs) 
  • Maintain the intestinal wall integrity 
  • Support the gut-brain axis6 

Seafood is also an excellent source of high-quality protein, which supplies the critical amino acids your body needs. Remember that protein is vital for tissue repair and maintenance throughout the body, including your gut lining.  

Cells that line your gut need a constant supply of amino acids to repair damage and maintain a healthy gut barrier. Optimal protein can also impact the composition and diversity of your gut bacteria, reduce inflammation, and support immune function. (Your gut houses about 70-80% of your immune system.7

Wild-caught seafood also provides hard-to-get nutrients like selenium and astaxanthin, which help reduce inflammation and stop free-radical damage in your gut and beyond.  

My suggestion: When you’re shopping for seafood, choose wild-caught varieties that are low in mercury and other contaminants. Be mindful of sustainability practices to protect marine ecosystems. My go-to choice for wild-caught seafood that ticks all the boxes is Vital Choice. They’ve also got amazing pasture-raised pork, grass-fed beef, oils and vinegars, and much more.  

Try this recipe: Blackened Salmon packs on the flavor with paprika, cumin, and coriander.  

3. Apples  

One reason an apple a day might keep the doctor away is its ability to heal your gut. Apples are an excellent source of dietary fiber, particularly a soluble fiber called pectin. This fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding your good gut bacteria. As those gut bacteria ferment pectin, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) to support a healthy gut.8 

Apples also contain a host of antioxidants, including quercetin, which can help reduce the damaging free radicals that can wreak havoc in your body.9 Their vitamin C can increase the balance of good and bad bacteria, reduce bad bacteria, and improve overall gut health as well.10 

My suggestion: To maximize the gut-health benefits of apples, eat them with the skin on. That’s where most of the fiber and many of the beneficial compounds exist. 

Try this recipe: You’ll want to make my light, crunchy Baked Apples with Cinnamon Oatmeal Crumble a staple for amazing health and happy taste buds year-round!

4. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) 

Extra-virgin olive oil, derived from the first pressing of olives, is a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Research shows that one type, called oleic acid, can heal your gut by supporting growth and activity of beneficial bacteria, including lactobacilli. 11 

The polyphenolic compounds in EVOO, especially oleuropein, can also reduce inflammation and promote diversity among your gut bacteria.12  

What’s more, healthy fats like EVOO can improve absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D, which research shows can support a healthy balance of gut bacteria.13 

My suggestion: My favorite, super-simple salad dressing: mix apple cider vinegar with EVOO, a touch of honey, and some Dijon mustard. 

Try this recipe: Garlic Hummus With Lentil Chips nixes the nasty inflammatory oils in store-bought hummus for extra-virgin olive oil and garlic. 

5. Avocado   

Avocado is an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, including fiber that acts as a prebiotic. Research shows that eating avocado daily can improve gut health, including increasing SCFAs and supporting more bacteria capable of fermenting fiber.14 

Avocado is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid. Gut-healing nutrients like vitamin E, along with antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin, help neutralize the damaging free radicals that contribute to chronic inflammation and more. 15 

My suggestion: Avocado is so darn versatile. Add it to salads, blend it into smoothies, or make a delicious guacamole. 

Try this recipe: Avocado Fudge Brownies are a rich, fudgy, healthy alternative to regular brownies. They’re free of gluten, egg, dairy and sugar, but full of gut-healing ingredients like coconut oil and avocado.  

6. Almonds  

Research shows that the prebiotic benefits of eating almonds (and almond skins) can support healthy gut bacteria.16 They also come with anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fat (the same heart- and gut-healthy fat in EVOO and avocado). 

Almonds also provide hard-to-get nutrients including vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. Flavonoids including quercetin and kaempferol further protect the gut from free-radical damage.  

My suggestion: Like other nuts, almonds are notoriously easy to overeat! An ounce gives you those gut-healing benefits. If a handful becomes two or three, portion them out. 

Try this recipe: Smoked Paprika and Cayenne Roasted Almonds provide a bold kick for this nut’s satisfying crunch. 

7. Blueberries  

These tiny berries are one of the best foods to heal your gut. Blueberries provide probiotic-supporting soluble and insoluble fiber. Eating them can also support the integrity of your gut barrier, preventing harmful substances from leaking into your bloodstream and reducing your risk of leaky gut. 

The plethora of antioxidants in blueberries, such as anthocyanins and flavonoids, further provide a prebiotic effect that boosts healthy bacteria. Their anti-inflammatory benefits can also help alleviate symptoms of gut inflammation.17 

My suggestion: Fresh organic blueberries are a summertime favorite, but frozen varieties work well year-round. 

Try this recipe: Triple Chocolate Blueberry Overnight Oats incorporate gut-healing coconut milk, coconut yogurt, blueberries, and cacao powder into a satisfying breakfast to start your morning. 

8. Fermented Foods  

Fermentation is a natural process where microorganisms, such as bacteria or yeast, break down sugars and other compounds in food. This process creates gut-supporting probiotics, which can colonize your gut and help restore or maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. 

Those probiotics can even help produce certain vitamins, such as B vitamins and vitamin K. They can support your immune system, reduce inflammation, and support your gut-brain axis to positively impact mental health and mood. 

Coconut yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are some popular options for fermented foods.  

When you’re buying fermented foods, choose unpasteurized options whenever possible. Pasteurization can kill beneficial bacteria, reducing the probiotic content.  

My suggestion: Fermented foods can be an acquired taste. If you’re new to them, go slowly and see how your body responds. Too much at once can create digestive issues. 

Try this recipe: I love adding unsweetened coconut yogurt to these Blueberry-Vanilla Oatmeal Protein Muffins.  

9. Green Tea  

This popular beverage is rich in polyphenolic compounds, particularly antioxidants called catechins, to heal and support your gut. Polyphenols in green tea can also have prebiotic-like effects, supporting the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria. They also strengthen the gut’s barrier function, reducing your risk of issues like leaky gut.  

The most-studied polyphenol in green tea epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which can reduce intestinal permeability and lower inflammation. This green tea effective to manage gut conditions like inflammatory colitis.18 

The calming effect of green tea comes from an amino acid in green tea called L-theanine, which can also help balance gut bacteria and support fat metabolism.19 

My suggestion: I drink 32 oz of green tea daily to get its gut-healing and other benefits. Enjoy it hot or cold. Overall, green tea has far less caffeine than coffee, and the calming L-theanine seems to balance out the little caffeine it contains. If you’re super-sensitive to caffeine, look for decaffeinated green tea. 

Try this recipe: This Metabolism-Boosting Arnold Palmer is a delicious lemonade/ green tea hybrid that quenches your thirst and satisfies your taste buds. Green tea and Glutamine Powder do double duty to heal your gut.  

10. Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil 

Dump the nasty, inflammatory vegetable oils and switch to extra-virgin coconut oil, which is great for cooking at medium heat and it’s also fantastic to heal your gut.  

Coconut oil is rich in a unique kind of fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are easier to metabolize than other fats, and your body prefers to use them for energy rather than store them. Research shows that MCTs can reduce harmful bacteria in your gut while increasing good bacteria.20 

Lauric acid comprises 50% of the fat in coconut. This anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal fatty acid can help balance gut bacteria, support your immune system, and improve overall gut health. 

Along with other medium-chain fatty acids (including capric acid and caprylic acid) lauric acid can help lower inflammation.21 Because it supports your gut’s barrier, lauric acid can help prevent gut issues like leaky gut. 

My suggestion: Coconut oil’s great for sauteing, but it also works well in salad dressings with other gut-healing ingredients like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, herbs, and spice.  

Try this recipe: Can ice cream heal your gut? Yes, when it’s this Coconut Ice Cream, with just five ingredients.

Breaking Free of the Foods That Hurt Your Gut 

A healthy gut helps you lose weight, boosts your metabolism, supports steady energy and focus, and improves your immune system. When you support overall gut health and balance the trillions of microorganisms that your gut houses, everything gets better. 

The good news is that you can start healing your gut, starting at your very next meal. The key involves eliminating the foods that are hurting you and replacing them with gut-healing foods. Incorporating these 10 foods and beverages into your meals is a great place to start.   

Of course, healing requires more than what you eat. I created a framework to help you optimize gut health. When you heal your gut, your metabolism, blood sugar, energy, and—really, everything gets better.  

The Virgin Diet provides the resources you need to help calm inflammation from hidden food sensitivities, lose fat, reclaim your health, and feel energized and better than ever. You’ll learn how to manage long-term inflammation, find the “healthy” foods that are hurting you, heal your gut, and gain the knowledge and tools that stay with you for life.* 


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.