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Gut Bacteria

Optimize Gut Health with a Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet can improve health and prevent disease by feeding the good bacteria in your digestive tract.

Trillions of bacteria live in your digestive tract and play an important role in health. Of the thousands of species of gut microbes that live in your gut, however, some are healthy for your body—while others are not. 

A healthful plant-based diet improves the health and diversity of your gut microbes, preventing and treating conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases.

Tips for a healthy gut

Fill Up on Fiber.

High-fiber foods feed the healthy bacteria that improve immune function, reduce inflammation and chronic disease, and even help regulate mood. 

Pick Prebiotic-Rich Foods.

Prebiotics feed healthy bacteria. Good sources of prebiotics include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, whole wheat, spinach, beans, bananas, oats, and soybeans.

Try Probiotic Foods.

Probiotics are live bacteria or yeasts found in fermented foods that, when consumed, take up residence in the gut and improve health. Healthy sources include sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and water kefir.

Avoid Animal Products.

Red meat, high-fat dairy products, and fried foods all reduce the growth of healthy bacteria and enhance the growth of “bad” bacteria linked to chronic disease. 

Limit Fats.

Avoid fried foods, sauté with cooking spray or broth instead of oil, and use low-fat salad dressings, especially if you have diabetes or prediabetes. Most plant foods are naturally low in fat.

Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics.

Overuse of antibiotics can kill off healthy bacteria. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that 80 percent of antibiotics are actually used in animal agriculture.

Practice a Healthy Lifestyle.

Exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress can all have a positive impact on your gut microbes.

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Boost Healthy Gut Bacteria with Plant-Based Foods

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Join Dr. Barnard and Physicians Committee experts in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11-12, and get all the tools you’ll need to kickstart your plant-based diet.