12 Foods to Improve Your Gut Health Overnight

Simple changes to your diet can quickly impact your gut health—here's how.

Grilled Artichokes
Photo: Photographer / Jen Causey, Food Stylist / Emily Nabors Hall

Gut health isn't just about keeping tummy troubles away. While improving your gut health can reduce gastrointestinal issues, it is also key in supporting and regulating body functions and keeping your systems running healthily.

Simply put, your gut, also known as your gastrointestinal tract, breaks down food to provide essential nutrients throughout the body. Your GI tract is also essential in fighting off infectious agents and is linked to a healthy immune system, endocrine system and cardiovascular system.

The health of your gut also impacts the health of your brain. A healthy gut supports a healthy mood and promotes mental wellness. In fact, research has shown that gut bacteria may be associated with your risk of depression.

It should be no surprise that the foods you consume daily play a big role in keeping your gut healthy. To better understand the foods that can immediately impact your gut health, we share expert advice from Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., RD, a registered dietitian and culinary expert.

When looking for foods that significantly impact your gut health, Williams recommends focusing on minimally processed whole foods, particularly fermented foods and fiber-rich foods like vegetables and fruit. These gut-healthy foods typically fall into two groups: probiotics and prebiotics. Let's dive in!

Pictured Recipe: Grilled Artichokes

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria in fermented foods. A 2021 study published in Cell found that adding probiotic foods to your daily diet is one of the best ways to boost your overall gut health. "Sauerkraut, cottage cheese and yogurt with live cultures, kimchi and kombucha are all whole-food sources of probiotics," says Williams.

However, Williams notes that there is a disconnect between perception and reality regarding probiotics. "Probiotics are the good, live bacteria that live in the gut. People tend to think that probiotics are the over-the-counter supplements your doctor may recommend to counteract the negative effects of an antibiotic. But probiotics are those good gut bacteria."

When purchasing these foods at your local market or grocery, the key is to make sure you buy them from the refrigerated section. Heat kills many types of bacteria—both bad and good—so most probiotic foods are refrigerated. You'll also want to read the ingredients labels to ensure that you choose a brand that includes live active cultures.

When asked about supplements, Williams explains that while they may not harm, the research is inconclusive about their effectiveness. "Because there are thousands, even millions of strains of probiotic bacteria, it's impossible to cover all strains with one supplement; in fact, most only include a few strains," explains Williams. "And for a supplement to be truly beneficial, you'd need to know exactly which strains you need in order for it to be effective." In short, whole-food sources are still your best option.

6 Probiotic Foods to Eat

Williams recommends eating probiotic foods daily or even multiple times a day. Including these powerful probiotic foods in your diet can help to improve your gut health quickly.

Greek Yogurt

Plain nonfat Greek yogurt is a powerhouse for gut-healthy probiotics and protein that support the immune system.

Try pairing probiotic-rich yogurt with prebiotic-filled oats and fruit for a delicious, gut-health power meal. Read the ingredient label to ensure that the yogurt you choose isn't also full of added sugar.


A staple in Korean cuisine, kimchi is a spicy, fermented cabbage dish filled with probiotics to promote a healthy gut.

In addition to its gut health properties, kimchi is made with cruciferous vegetables that contain nutrients with powerful antioxidant properties that may help prevent some types of cancer.


Kefir is a dairy-based drink that often contains more probiotics and protein than regular yogurt. A 2021 review article published in Frontiers in Nutrition indicates that consuming kefir may help improve your gut microbiome by reducing inflammation and gut permeability. Additionally, research, such as a 2021 study in PharmaNutrition, suggests that kefir may help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. As with yogurt, check the ingredients label to limit added sugar.

Our 3-Ingredient Overnight Berry Muesli is the perfect breakfast for your busy mornings.


Kombucha is a fermented, fizzy tea drink that may contain fruit juice, spices or other flavors. It's loaded with probiotics and may be one of the easiest ways to boost probiotic intake each day since there are so many flavors to pour and sip.

A 2021 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition showed that consuming kombucha can help protect against comorbidities associated with obesity, such as high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.


A staple in German cuisine, sauerkraut is a pickled cabbage dish similar to kimchi. To get the healthy probiotics, avoid sauerkraut that's been pasteurized and is sitting on a grocery shelf at room temperature. Purchase sauerkraut in the refrigerated section and read the labels to ensure it includes active, live cultures for gut-health benefits.


Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from compressing fermented soybeans into a cake-like form. It is both a probiotic (due to the fermentation) and a prebiotic (due to the soybeans), making tempeh one of the most important foods you can include to stimulate probiotic bacteria growth in the gut.

What Are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are types of fiber that are not digested in the small intestine and instead travel to the colon, where they are fermented to provide "food" for gut-healthy probiotics. Williams shares, "The good bacteria, or probiotics, need food to live on. Think of prebiotics as food for the probiotics."

In addition to their gut-health benefits, fiber-rich foods offer a wide range of health benefits: they keep you full longer, help reduce your risk for certain cancers, prevent blood sugar spikes, lower cholesterol and improve your heart health.

The easiest way to get enough prebiotics into your diet is by eating plenty of vegetables and fruit. "Most vegetables and fruit have fiber. So if you are getting your five servings of vegetables and fruits every day, you are probably doing OK with prebiotics," says Williams.

6 Prebiotic Foods to Eat


Artichokes are an excellent source of inulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic. Additionally, artichokes provide other benefits, such as improving bone health, protecting your brain and supporting your blood pressure.

Dragon Fruit

Dragon fruit isn't just a beautiful, brightly colored fruit but also provides health benefits, including gut-related ones. Dragon fruit is rich in fiber and is one of the best fruits to help relieve constipation.

While research in humans is limited, a 2019 study in mice published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy suggested that the type of fiber found in dragon fruit helps bulk the stool and provides a laxative effect without producing diarrhea—all of which may help support a healthy gut.

Try including dragon fruit in a morning smoothie for a beautiful, delicious, gut-healthy treat.


Garlic works overtime for gut health as a prebiotic, providing food for the good bacteria in your gut. It also has antibacterial and antiviral properties that help support your immune system.

There are tons of ways you can add garlic to your diet, from delicious melting potatoes to cozy casseroles.


High in prebiotic fiber, mushrooms also contain several compounds that may have medicinal properties. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods indicates that consuming mushrooms may positively influence your blood sugar and help prevent gastrointestinal diseases and even some types of cancer.


Improving your gut health can begin with one of your favorite breakfasts. Oats are one of the best prebiotic foods to quickly impact your gut's health. Oats provide a balanced source of complex carbohydrates, plant-based protein and fiber, making them an excellent choice for gut health.

Like with probiotic yogurt, you'll want to limit oatmeal high in added sugars. Instead, look for plain instant oatmeal or use old-fashioned or steel-cut oats to make your own oatmeal and add fresh or dried fruit for added sweetness.


Beans are often touted for their nutritional value. They are a plant-based source of protein and provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Because of this nutrient mix, consuming beans, such as soybeans, may be one of the best ways to improve gut health with prebiotics. Further, 2021 research published in Molecules noted that soybeans are one of the well-known sources of prebiotics, positively impacting your gut health.

Other Factors to Impact Your Gut Health

Knowing the foods to limit may be just as important as knowing which foods to include when it comes to your gut health. Ultra-processed foods, artificial foods, added sugar, preservatives and additives can wreak havoc on your gut.

Williams shares that both mental and physical stress are detrimental to your gut health, and that it's important to focus on managing stress in your life. Further, studies, such as a 2021 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, indicate that focusing on a healthy lifestyle by including moderate-intensity exercise and managing stress are also essential in promoting gut health.

The Bottom Line

To truly improve your gut health overnight and positively impact your overall health, focus on eating a diet rich in probiotic and prebiotic foods daily.

"You'll repopulate the gut bacteria with probiotics and then keep the probiotic bacteria healthy with prebiotics," says Williams.

Building consistent, daily practices to include these probiotic and prebiotic foods will make the most significant impact over time.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles