The Best Diet for Gut Health

plant-based diet benefits Aug 08, 2022
Plant-based pancakes with berries

Good for Your Gut, Good for You!

If you are looking to get the BEST gut health, then the answer is this – eat a fiber-rich, whole food, plant-based diet! Whole plant-based foods are densely packed with health-promoting nutrients that are naturally designed to nourish our bodies from the inside out. These foods ensure the optimal health of our gastrointestinal (GI) system or gut.

What’s so special about our gut? Many people don't realize that our GI system is actually the largest immune organ in our body. There are over 1000 microbial species represented in the gut and it is the home to trillions of microbes known collectively as the gut microbiota! 

So when you move to plant-based eating, focusing on fiber-rich whole plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans, lentils, chickpeas, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, you begin to feed the beneficial microbes in your gut the food that they LOVE and function BEST on. Over time then, levels of these beneficial microbes get built up in your gastrointestinal system, creating a cascade of positive effects on the rest of your body.

How Plant-Based Eating Builds a Happy Gut

Listed below are just 5 eye-opening benefits (out of many) that a high-fiber, whole food, plant-based diet brings to your GI system. This way of eating:

  • Promotes a more stable and diverse gut microbiota
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Builds up levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut
  • Enhances short chain fatty acid production
  • Increases the acidity of the colon preventing growth of pathogenic bacteria

A good example of how beneficial bacteria can help our bodies is Bifidobacterium which not only produces the important short-chain fatty acid butyrate, but it also helps protect the gut barrier by providing defense against pathogens and diseases.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) – like acetate, propionate and butyrate – are derived mainly from fermented fiber and other carbohydrates and play very important roles in our bodies. For instance, SCFAs have been found to boost blood-brain barrier integrity and to be protective against certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and immune diseases.

You also need to have a good gut microbiota to help maintain adequate vitamin levels in the body, especially since certain vitamins like vitamin K, folate and riboflavin are produced by microbes in the gut. I hope you can see that a healthy gut is really key to maintaining good overall health!

How To Successfully Add in Fiber-Rich Plant-Based Foods

If you’ve always had a relatively low-fiber diet at baseline - without many fruits, vegetables, beans or whole grains – then it may be prudent to start slower on the fiber front and gradually build up the amount and variety of whole plant-based foods eaten in the coming weeks. Although not everyone who transitions completely to a full plant-based diet overnight experiences GI issues like gas and bloating during the initial transition period, those who have been on a Standard American Diet (or other similar eating patterns) may experience this. For those that do experience GI discomfort, this is likely because their digestive systems are still adapting to regularly processing a large amount of beneficial nutrient-packed and fiber-rich whole foods. So, at the beginning, it may not be a good idea to immediately eat daily large raw salads, and to pile on large portions of food like cooked barley, lentils and chickpeas onto your plate every single meal.

Try this instead: take a more cautious approach the first week or two and see how your gut handles the transition. Some start with eating cooked vegetables first, while working on trying and building a variety of different beans and whole grains into their meals, while others do the opposite – working on smoothies and raw salads first then building in more legumes and whole grains over time. There are also many ways to incorporate legumes like beans more smoothly into your diet while minimizing GI issues. For more information on this, see the article How To Add More Beans to Your Meals…but With Less Gas.

So choose to start integrating whole plant-based foods into your meals, so you can begin building up your gastrointestinal system in the best way possible, and reap both short and long-term benefits. I want to support you as you begin your plant-based diet transition and journey ahead!



Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, et al. The Effects of Vegetarian and Vegan Diets on Gut Microbiota. Front Nutr. 2019;6:47. Published 2019 Apr 17. Accessed July 29, 2022.

Chassaing B, Kumar M, Baker MT, Singh V, Vijay-Kumar M. Mammalian gut immunity. Biomed J. 2014 Sep-Oct;37(5):246-58. Accessed July 29, 2022.

Rinninella E, Cintoni M, Raoul P, Lopetuso LR, Scaldaferri F, Pulcini G, Miggiano GAD, Gasbarrini A, Mele MC. Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition. Nutrients. 2019 Oct 7;11(10):2393. Accessed July 29, 2022.