Maintaining a healthy gut isn’t as easy as popping a magic pill. “If you’re going to use probiotics, then drink, smoke and eat badly, that’s not going to cut it,” says Georgianna Donadio, PhD, nutritionist and founder of the National Institute of Whole Health. “The entire system must be in sync; the flora is just the tip of the iceberg.” To take a big-picture approach to your gut, consider these steps:
• Eat several small meals during the day instead of pigging out at dinner. “Cramming in all your food at the end of the day stresses the gut by giving it too much food at once,” says Leslie Bonci, a registered dietitian and director of the Sports Nutrition Center at the University of Pittsburgh. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to keep the food moving.
• Prioritize whole foods. That means stocking up on vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. If the food on your plate looks like food in the wild (e.g., grapes, not grape roll-ups), you’re off to a good start.
• Eat probiotic foods. Shoot for at least one daily serving of a food with probiotic or “live” cultures. Try yogurt, kefir (a fermented dairy drink), miso or tempeh. Look for the phrase “contains live cultures” or “active cultures” on the label.
• Bulk up on fiber. The more fiber you have in your diet, the more diversity you’ll have in your ecosystem. Aim for 25 to 38 grams of fiber a day, says Bonci. “Most people are still shy of their fiber intake.”
Next: 3 More Ways to Help Your Gut