Which vegetables are best for keeping your gut healthy?

Eating a wide variety of vegetables is good for your overall health. Veggies like mushrooms, baby spinach, bean sprouts, lettuce, and peas can be good for boosting your gut health, specifically. 

These vegetables are great for your gut because of their fiber or water contents, or because they contain plant compounds called polyphenols. Sometimes it's a mixture of all three.

Gut health isn’t just important for digesting food. A healthy gut also supports your energy levels, tissue growth, and tissue repair.

And the community of microbes that live in your gut — called your gut microbiome — could help control inflammation and maintain your blood's levels of sugar and fat.

At ZOE, we run the largest nutrition science study in the world. Our research has found that some vegetables are more closely associated with “good” gut bacteria than others.

Here are 10 of the best vegetables for gut health:

  • mushrooms

  • cucumber

  • baby spinach

  • watercress

  • leeks

  • bean sprouts

  • lettuce

  • green peas

  • zucchini

  • cauliflower

1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the part of fungi where spores are produced, allowing the fungi to reproduce. Many types of mushroom are edible, delicious, and great for your gut health.

Although they’re not technically vegetables, mushrooms provide the same benefits as lots of vegetables, which is why they’re on our list.

Mushrooms contain many compounds that act as prebiotics for your gut microbiome, according to a 2017 review

Prebiotics are nutrients that help your “good” bacteria grow. They often come in the form of fiber.

Our gut bacteria ferment fiber, which produces compounds called short-chain fatty acids. These provide energy for the cells lining your gut. They also repair your gut barrier and further support the “good” bacteria living there.  

Mushrooms are hugely versatile. You can fry, roast, or barbecue them, depending on the texture you want.

They go well with almost any herb or spice, and they add an earthy, umami depth to sauces and soups.

If you want to know more about what gives mushrooms a lot of their nutritional power, try the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on fiber.

2. Cucumbers

Cucumbers are technically a type of berry. Most people treat them as a vegetable, though, which is why they’re on this list.

Cucumbers provide many plant compounds for the bacteria in your gut to consume. Some of these compounds are polyphenols, a group of chemicals that may help stimulate the growth of “good” gut bacteria. 

These plant compounds could also have antioxidant effects and inhibit the growth of “bad” bacteria, according to a 2022 review.

Also, more than 96% of a cucumber is water. And staying hydrated is a good way to keep your poops soft and prevent constipation.

Beyond classic salads, cucumbers can go well with dips and soups.

3. Baby spinach

Baby spinach is a leafy green that farmers remove from the vine earlier than mature spinach. 

It’s packed with nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, minerals like iron and calcium, and polyphenols.

Baby spinach isn’t just a salad base — you can work it into sauces and soups, layer it in lasagnas, or add it to a stir-fry for an easy blast of plant power.

Frozen spinach is a good option, and you’ll typically get a lot for your money. And as manufacturers freeze vegetables shortly after they’re picked, they retain lots of nutrients that otherwise become lost over time. 

4. Watercress

This peppery, leafy green grows in natural mineral water. It provides vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and E, plus crucial minerals, such as iron and phosphorus.

The plant is also a boon for gut health — it contains many different polyphenols called flavonoids, according to a 2021 study.

Watercress can add a zing to soups, sandwiches, and sauces, with no prep required. It can also provide a high note to pestos and dips.

5. Leeks

Leeks are in the same family as onions, though they’re slightly sweeter. They provide a fiber called inulin, which is a naturally occurring prebiotic.

Inulin might also help you absorb more minerals from food and relieve constipation, according to a 2023 review.

The whole vegetable can play a role in cooking, and leeks are a mainstay in soups and stews. They’re fine to eat raw, but you can also roast or sauté them.

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6. Bean sprouts

Bean sprouts are the edible young sprouts of the mung bean. They feature in Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Thai cuisines.

These sprouts are an excellent source of fiber — just one 115-gram cup of cooked bean sprouts provides 3.8 g of fiber. That’s over 10% of your recommended daily fiber intake, regardless of your age or sex.

In particular, bean sprouts are a good source of insoluble fiber. This type doesn’t dissolve in water, so it can help food move through your gut and prevent constipation.

Bean sprouts also provide polyphenols that can fuel your “good” gut bacteria.

You can simply wash some sprouts and sling them into a stir fry or curry for extra crunch and gut health benefits.

7. Lettuce

Lettuce provides helpful polyphenols and carotenoids. Different varieties have different textures, colors, and nutrient contents.

Lettuce also has a high water content, of around 94–95%, and hydration is central to healthy poops.

Salads aside, you can add lettuce to soups and burritos. Or, you can use lettuce leaves to replace the bread in wraps or burgers.

8. Green peas

Mature peas are closer to being beans than vegetables. But the green peas in your freezer may fall under the banner of starchy vegetables. 

They come to fruition in pods. You can eat the pods of some varieties, like snow peas, but not others, like garden peas, which come without the pods when you buy a bag.

Green peas are a superb source of fiber, with 1 cup providing 8.6 g

Around 6 g of this fiber is insoluble, which helps food move through your gut and reduces the risk of constipation. The remaining 2.6 g is soluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in your gut. It slows digestion, bulks up and softens your poop, and traps cholesterol in your gut, keeping it from entering your bloodstream.

You can sauté green peas on the stove with some butter and a little salt for a side that works with any protein or carb.

9. Zucchini

Zucchini, also known as courgette, looks like a cucumber, and its skin, flesh, and seeds are all edible.

This type of summer squash is 94% water and provides some soluble and insoluble fiber. As a result, zucchini helps us stay hydrated and offers up both types of gut-supporting fiber.

Fry, roast, or sauté zucchini and add it to sauces, salads, and stir fries. You can also turn zucchini into noodles as a low-carb, fiber-loaded pasta substitute.

10. Cauliflower

With cauliflower, the “head” that you eat is actually a partially developed flower. White cauliflower is the most common type, but you can also try orange, purple, and green varieties.

Fresh cauliflower consists of 92–94% water. Its fiber content is also nothing to sniff at, as 1 cup (107 g) provides 2.14 g of fiber. 

Cauliflower’s main strength is its versatility. Its mild flavor lends it to steaming, baking, or frying.

It goes well in salads, soups, and curries, but you can also use cauliflower to make a low-carb pizza base. You might also “rice” it, or use it to make plant-based chicken wings.

Editor’s summary

The best vegetables for a healthy gut are high in fiber or water, or they contain beneficial plant compounds, like polyphenols. Some vegetables have a mix of these strengths.

Tips for eating more vegetables

Research suggests that eating 30 different plants every week can boost your gut health and the diversity of your gut microbiome. 

In turn, this could lead to a stronger, more efficient gut and help you live a longer, healthier life. 

To get a wider variety of vegetables in your diet, try:

  • stirring greens into curries, soups, and sauces

  • swapping out chips and candy for veggie snacks, like carrot or cucumber sticks

  • switching out grains, like rice and pasta, for zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice (though grains also count toward your 30-plant goal)

  • dedicating 1 day a week to meat-free eating, like Meatless Monday or Tofu Tuesday

Other tips for a healthy gut

Beyond the world of veggies, here are other strategies for improving your gut health:


Many vegetables can play an important role in keeping your gut healthy. 

Some are rich in fiber, some have a high water content, and some contain gut bacteria-nourishing plant compounds, like polyphenols.

Eating a wide variety of vegetables and other plants can help support a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. This can, in turn, support your general health and well-being.

At ZOE, we run the largest nutrition science study in the world. Our research has shown that certain “good” bacteria in your gut are associated with positive health outcomes, while “bad” bacteria are associated with poor health outcomes.

Our at-home test reveals which of these bacteria live in your gut, plus how your blood sugar and blood fat levels respond to different foods. This information can help you discover what to eat to support your gut health.

Find out more and take our free quiz.


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