Keep these habits in mind for a healthy gut.
Advertisement
a collage of blossoming flowers inside an illustration of a gut
Credit: Getty Images

Taking care of your gut health can be a tricky thing. When your microbiome—that's the neighborhood of trillions of bacteria living in your gut—is put off-balance, the results can affect your sleep, weight and even digestion, among other things. What you eat can have an influence on your gut health, which is why we're all about eating lots of fiber and probiotics, and your daily habits can also make an impact.

The good news is that Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI, the gastroenterologist who goes by Dr. B, just shared a list of five essential things that he does to protect his gut health each day. His list includes some basic dietary tips we can get behind, plus one great suggestion that will help you get a good night's rest. While not every piece of advice will work for every person, these doc-approved habits are a good place to start.

1. Enjoy your morning cup of joe.

"Coffee actually has prebiotics in it already, but I actually like to put in a soluble fiber supplement and some spices, really take it up to the next level," Bulsiewicz says.

Spices can be a great way to add a little anti-inflammatory kick to your cup of coffee, especially since warm-sweet options like cinnamon and clove are among the very best spices for fighting inflammation. While we don't always recommend supplements, a soluble fiber supplement can be a resource if you have a hard time getting enough from your diet alone. Recent research indicates that eating more soluble fiber could be great for your health, from making antibiotics more effective to reducing your dementia risk. Just keep in mind that you can also get in lots of soluble fiber from whole foods, like oats, legumes and fruit.

2. Eat fermented foods.

Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, the good bacteria that can help your gut balance itself out and even support digestion. There are plenty of ways to work this tip into your diet, from kimchi and sauerkraut to yogurt and kombucha. If you don't think of yourself as a person who enjoys the funky tang of condiments like miso or kraut, you could opt for a serving of kefir or mix your favorite fruit with ice and yogurt for a quick smoothie.

3. Don't count calories—but eat more plants.

"Stop counting calories," Bulsiewicz says. "Start counting plants. Enough with the dietary restrictions—let's live a life of abundance with as many different varieties of plants as possible."

We couldn't agree more with this plant-focused advice. There are so many health benefits to eating a plant-based diet, but an eating pattern made up of predominantly plants with occasional servings of meat or animal products can also be beneficial. That kind of plant-focused diet, which is less stringent than a plant-based one, could be especially good for your heart health. If you need some inspiration, try one of these easy, top-rated vegetarian dinners we can't get enough of.

4. Diversify your plate.

Sometimes the oldest advice is still the best. Eating lots of different kinds of foods—veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and heart protein—from meal to meal is a great way to make sure you're getting the nutrients you need to thrive as well as delicious, varied meals that won't get you stuck in a dinner rut. (That principle is just part of the reason we love the Mediterranean diet so much.) A mix-and-match option like our sheet-pan dinner formula is a simple way to start mixing up your dinner-time routine, and those recipe ideas will ensure that you at least get some protein and veggies on your plate. You could also lean on easy, pile-it-on bowls to get in all those necessary nutrients. Recipes like our Salmon Rice Bowl, Vegetarian Protein Bowl and Cilantro-Lime Shrimp Bowl are customizable and low-effort, so you can eat diverse foods without adding tons of cooking time to your schedule.

5. Wear blue light-blocking glasses before bed.

You might be surprised to see this tip show up on a list focused on healthy eating, but research has shown that your exposure to blue light just before bed can have quite an impact on your health. Blue light stimulates your brain—yup, even when you're sleeping—so donning blue light-blocking glasses can help you wind down at the end of the day and get better sleep. One recent study even indicated that significant blue light exposure just before bed can do a number on your metabolism, which can be especially annoying for those trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight. If you need helpful lenses before bed to read, keep an eye out for blue light-blocking readers, like these from Warby Parker, or even splurge for a blue light filter on your next pair of prescription eyeglasses.