Next picnic, skip the pre-made macaroni salad and whip up a few gut-healthy summer side dishes packed with probiotics to support your natural microbiome. For sensitive stomachs, opt for something that's gentler on digestion (definitely not a mayo-based potato salad).
Here are a few gut-healthy summer side dishes to feed a crowd.
Gut-healthy summer side dishes
1. Summer soup for gut health
This cucumber-based soup is particularly soothing on the stomach as it's made with herbs that calm and strengthen your gut's microbiome. Plus, it might elevate your mood since "the majority of serotonin is actually produced in the gut, not in the brain," says herbalist and recipe developer Rachelle Robinett.
All you need are some cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, and olive oil. Topped with mint and fresh basil, and this chilly soup will keep you cool on even the hottest summer nights.
2. Watermelon feta and fresh mint salad
Mint isn't only a refreshing herb—it's also great for digestion. "Mint is high in vitamin A," says Sally Schmiko, the recipe's creator and author of the blog, The Tahini Goddess. "Peppermint is used for its cooling and soothing properties, which is also why it’s in many supplements for IBS and gut health."
This easy Mediterranean salad calls for juicy watermelon, sliced feta, and fresh mint. Top it off with some Silan date syrup to complement the saltiness of the feta, and toss on some hemp seeds for an extra crunch. Serve it as a side salad, or take inspiration from Schmiko and pack it with you on your next day-trip: "I grew up in Israel and ate a lot of watermelon with feta growing up, in particular as a snack for the beach."
Get the recipe: Watermelon feta and fresh mint salad
3. Yeoulmu kimchi
Kimchi is a classic fermented food for gut health, and this yeolmu kimchi recipe is no different. Developed by Mina Park, chef and co-owner of Baroo in Los Angeles, this tasty snack calls for a young radish that's a staple in Korean culture.“This is a very refreshing dish that is actually traditionally made in the summertime, but these days, you can find yeolmu throughout the year in Korea," Park says.
Note: It does take about a week to ferment. So if you're throwing a dinner party, or know you want a gut-healthy snack to keep on-hand, make it ahead of time.
4. Roasted veggie mac-and-cheese
Serve up this vegetarian-friendly mac-and-cheese by Gimme Some Oven at your next picnic or BBQ. Made with sweet potatoes, fresh bell pepper, broccoli, and summer squash, it's an easy side-dish to cook when you're looking to put a twist on traditional mac-and-cheese. Just sprinkle with some shredded cheddar and vegetarian-friendly parmesan cheese, and enjoy.
Get the recipe: Roasted veggie mac-and-cheese
5. Pondicherry lentil salad
This recipe is from Padma Lakshmi's cookbook, Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day. Not only is it good for your gut—it's also high in a plant-based protein, making it a nutritional superstar.
Lakshmi's lentil salad uses a black beluga lentil base that's mixed with Fuji apple, two types of peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar. Toss in some shredded coconut, fresh ginger, and parsley, and enjoy divine flavors other salads just can't compete with.
6. Homemade sauerkraut
Fan of the fermented foods? Try whipping up some homemade sauerkraut, like this recipe by the Minimalist Baker that's tangy, crunchy and filled with probiotics to support your microbiome.
Unlike other sauerkrauts that only call for cabbage, this recipe adds beets for some extra fiber and vitamin C, as well as carrots, fresh ginger, and zesty turmeric. Serve it as a summery side dish or use it as a topping on your favorite sandwiches.
Get the recipe: Homemade sauerkraut
7. Pineapple bowl smoothie
This refreshing smoothie bowl can be served as a sweet side dish or as the whole main course. In addition to pineapple, it's made with Greek yogurt, cashews, vanilla, coconut, and citrus—all foods that are either high in fiber or prebiotic fiber, which serves as fuel for probiotics. Combined with some protein from the cashews and chia seeds, and you have a meal as nutritious as it is delicious.
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