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Harvard: The Microbiome

A healthy microbiome is essential for overall health as it helps digest food, produce essential vitamins, and regulate the immune system. A diverse and balanced gut microbiome is linked to a reduced risk of various diseases, including digestive disorders, autoimmune diseases, and even mental health conditions. Therefore, maintaining a healthy microbiome through diet and lifestyle habits is crucial for promoting optimal health and well-being.

10 Key Takeaways

  1. Probiotic-rich foods: Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso contain live bacteria that can populate the gut with beneficial microbes.

  2. Prebiotic-rich foods: Foods like onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, asparagus, and oats contain prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in the gut.

  3. Fermented foods: Foods like kombucha, pickles, and tempeh contain live bacteria that can improve gut health.

  4. Resistant starch: Foods like cooked and cooled potatoes, green bananas, and legumes contain resistant starch, which can promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

  5. Fiber-rich foods: Foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are high in fiber, which can help support the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

  6. Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation in the gut and promote the growth of good bacteria.

  7. Bone broth: Bone broth is high in collagen and gelatin, which can help repair the gut lining and improve gut health.

  8. Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar can improve digestion and promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.

  9. Probiotic supplements: Probiotic supplements contain live bacteria that can populate the gut with beneficial microbes.

  10. Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzymes can help break down food and improve digestion, which can improve gut health.


  1. Antibiotics: While antibiotics can be important for fighting bacterial infections, they can also disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut by killing both good and bad bacteria.

  2. Processed and high-fat diets: A diet high in processed foods and saturated fats can reduce the diversity of gut bacteria and promote the growth of harmful bacteria.

  3. Stress: Chronic stress can affect the gut microbiome by altering the balance of bacteria and increasing inflammation in the gut, which can negatively impact gut health.


  1. The Human Microbiome Project Consortium. Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature. 2012;486(7402):207-214. doi:10.1038/nature11234.

  2. Sonnenburg ED, Sonnenburg JL. The ancestral and industrialized gut microbiota and implications for human health. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2019;17(6):383-390. doi:10.1038/s41579-019-0198-4.

  3. Lynch SV, Pedersen O. The Human Intestinal Microbiome in Health and Disease. N Engl J Med. 2016;375(24):2369-2379. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1600266.


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