Good Gut Bacteria

6th September 2021


 Our digestive tract (mainly our colon) contains trillions of friendly and beneficial gut bacteria, known as good gut bacteria. These good gut bacteria positively affect our health in many different ways. However, the balance of these beneficial gut bacteria can be easily disrupted by some dietary and lifestyle factors, which results in negative health effects, poor mood and decreased immune function.


What exactly does our beneficial gut bacteria do for us? 

  • Assists with digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Synthesises B group vitamins (helps give you energy)
  • Supports and stimulates up to 70% of our immune function
  • Enhances bowel function by improving motility, stool formation and helps keep you regular
  • Inhibits the invasion of pathogenic, disease causing bacteria and viruses
  • It is linked to improving and preventing depression & anxiety symptoms
  • Produces over 80% of the happy hormone serotonin
  • Assist in the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s)
  • Helps with weight loss and sustained weight management


What disrupts our good gut bacteria balance?

  • A diet that is low in fibre and polyphenol (antioxidants) rich foods
  • Processed foods, artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, trans fats and pesticides
  • Excessive sugar intake
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Increased physiological or physical stress (increased cortisol levels)
  • Antibiotics and medications

To help maintain beneficial levels of good gut bacteria it is important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet that is high in fibre and polyphenol rich foods, avoid smoking and artificial ingredients, and limit your intake of alcohol, sugar and processed foods.

Our good gut flora includes many different strains of good gut bacteria that are fed and strengthened by different coloured prebiotic fibre and polyphenol rich foods. Therefore, one of the most important things to do is consume a wide variety of different coloured good quality, fibre rich foods. This will ensure you are feeding and strengthen all strains of your good gut bacteria in your digestive tract not just a few of them.


Prebiotic and fibre rich polyphenol foods:
Prebiotics are carbohydrates that ferment in the colon to make short chain fatty acids. These short chain fatty acids feed and fuel your good gut bacteria and also assist in repairing the gut wall. Polyphenols are the coloured pigment of the fibre rich food, these also feed and strengthen your good gut bacteria, as well as help clear free radicals from the body.

Examples of some prebiotic and polyphenol fibre rich foods to include into your diet regularly are:

  • Orange foods – sweet potato, carrots, apricots, orange lentils, pumpkin, orange capsicum
  • Brown foods – mushrooms, brown lentils, almonds, chickpeas, ground flaxseed, chicory root, cacao
  • White foods – garlic, onion, cooked and cooled white potatoes, traditional rolled oats, leeks
  • Green foods – brussel sprouts, asparagus, green leafy veg, celery, artichoke, green tea, green banana
  • Red foods – raspberries, tomato, strawberries, cherries, red kidney beans, beetroot, apples
  • Black foods – black rice, wild rice, black lentils, black beans, blackberries
  • Purple – purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple sweet potato, purple grapes, purple cabbage


Probiotic foods:
Probiotics are good gut bacteria that when ingested increase the amount of healthy gut flora in a person’s digestive tract. They help to rebalance your digestive tract.

Examples of probiotic foods to include in your diet are:

  • Greek yoghurt: chose plain, natural, Greek or coconut yoghurt with NO flavours or added sugar
  • Tempeh: fermented soybeans, similar to tofu but has a nutty taste and much better for you
  • Miso: fermented soup base from rice, barley or soybeans.
  • Kefir: fermented milk drink, similar to drinkable yoghurt, found in health food stores & some supermarkets
  • Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage, can buy in health food stores or make your own - recipe here:
  • Kombucha: A fermented tea drink that can be found in health food stores or brewed at home - instructions here: kitchn-206552
  • Probiotic supplements: Great to use after taking a course of antibiotics, if you are feeling immune compromised, or if you are under high levels of mental or physical stress. Probiotics tablets or powders are available at health food stores or chemists. Good brands to buy are BioCeuticals (found at Chemist warehouse behind the counter), Lifespace probiotics or the Fusion brand of probiotics.


Below I have provided a lentil and mushroom vegetarian shepherd’s pie recipe, that is high in a variety of fibre rich polyphenol foods to help feed and strengthen your good gut bacteria. Give it a try, it is delicious and freezes really well so is great to made in advance or in bulk.

Vegetarian shepherd’s pie


  • 5 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
  • 2 cans brown lentils drained and well rinsed
  • 3/4 cup traditional rolled oats
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp of Pink Salt
  • 1-2 tsp of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil, or grass-fed butter)
  • 450g mix of shiitake and button mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 500ml vegetable stock (or use chicken stock if you’re not a vego)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • Cheddar cheese to grate on top
  • Extra Parsley to serve on top


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c.
  2. Prick each sweet potato several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until very soft, set aside to cool. 
  3. In a medium pot, combine the lentils, rolled oats, bay leaves, salt, pepper and stock. Simmer uncovered for 15-25 minutes, or until rolled oats are well cooked and liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally to keep the oats from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. While the lentils and oats are cooking, chop up the onion, mushrooms, carrot and celery.
  5. Warm the oil or butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  6. Add the diced onions and mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until browned and soft.
  7. Add the chopped carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.
  8. Lower heat to medium and add the lentil and oat mixture, paprika, fresh parsley and a few grinds of black pepper.
  9. Simmer mixture for 2 minutes, taste, and salt/season as needed, then add in crushed garlic.
  10. Evenly spread the lentil mixture into a 9-x-13-inch baking dish.
  11. Drop the oven to 175°C, peel sweet potatoes with your hands and place in a medium bowl. Use a fork to mash them into a smooth paste and season with salt and pepper.
  12. Evenly spread the lentil mixture into baking dish.
  13. Spoon the sweet potato mixture on top and smooth with a spatula.
  14. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until the filling is bubbling at the edges.
  15. Grate cheddar cheese on top and serve with some extra fresh parsley.

Extra notes:

  • Both the filling and the roasted sweet potatoes can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 2 days before assembling and baking.
  • This recipe freezes well. Thaw it overnight in the fridge and bake uncovered at 175°C for 35-45 minutes, or until filling is bubbling.


Bec Stone, Clinical Nutritionist

Bec is available for Clinical Nutrition appointments via Zoom, and also treats in-person out of our Hawthorn studio.