The One Dinner Gastroenterologists Want You to Eat More Often for Better Gut Health

It's time to start cooking more tempeh.
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The digestive tract is a crucial system in the body, but it doesn't always cooperate like it should. Many people deal with gut health issues like bloating, constipation and indigestion on a regular basis.


In fact, 40 percent of Americans say uncomfortable bowel symptoms have gotten in the way of their routine activities, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.

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A lot of things can affect your gut health, including genetics and stress, but what you put on your plate is important, too. And for many of us, dinner is the biggest meal of the day, making it especially crucial.

"Dinner should ideally be composed of half vegetables, a quarter whole grains and a quarter lean protein," says Sherif Andrawes, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist in Staten Island, New York.

While there are many ways to build a gut-healthy dinner with these ratios, a tempeh bowl atop a bed of grains and veggies is a good place to start. Here's why.


Why Tempeh Bowls Are a Gut-Healthy Dinner

Nutrition is nuanced, so a certain meal plan might not work for everyone. But if your goal is to support healthy gut function and eat more fiber, Dr. Andrawes recommends eating a diversity of gut-friendly foods, such as tempeh, whole grains and veggies — all of which are featured in this dinner idea.

1. It’s Loaded With Antioxidant-Rich Vegetables

There are many reasons to eat more vegetables. They are, of course, good for healthy digestion because they contain dietary fiber, but there's more to it than that. Vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants, Dr. Andrawes says, and antioxidants stabilize free radicals, which can contribute to disease when left unchecked.


The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, such as vegetables and whole grains, per the Mayo Clinic. This dinner is full of the vegetables and whole grains of your choice. Simply make half your plate vegetables and a quarter of your plate whole grains.

There's a lot of freedom with the exact recipe here, but Dr. Andrawes recommends barley, quinoa or brown rice for your grain.



To get a variety of antioxidants at dinnertime, Dr. Andrawes recommends eating a variety of vegetables throughout the week. "The more colorful, the better," he adds.

On one night, go for broccoli, red bell pepper and zucchini. On another night, try sweet potato, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.

2. It’s Rich in Dietary Fiber to Promote Regularity and Reduce the Risk of Colorectal Cancer

When it comes to digestion, fiber is the gold standard nutrient.


"High-fiber foods provide the entire intestinal biome with the energy it requires to flourish," Dr. Andrawes explains.

People who adopt high-fiber diets also have lowered risks of colorectal cancer, according to an October 2015 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

There are two types of dietary fiber — soluble and insoluble — and this dinner gives you an opportunity to get both kinds.


Certain grains, such as quinoa and brown rice, are good sources of insoluble fiber, which helps promote regularity. Various vegetables and legumes, such as sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, provide soluble fiber, which are beneficial for healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

So, how much fiber do you need per day? Adults need somewhere between 25 and 38 grams, depending on how many calories you eat, per the Mayo Clinic, which notes that quinoa, barley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are all good sources of fiber.


A cup of cooked quinoa provides more than 5 grams of fiber, per the USDA. A cup of cooked broccoli gets you another 5 grams, notes the USDA, getting you more than 10 grams of fiber in one sitting (not including the fiber found in tempeh).


3. It’s a Good Source of Gut-Supportive Probiotics

One of Dr. Andrawes' top tips is to incorporate fermented foods — like tempeh — for an added gut-health boost.

These foods have probiotics, which are often referred to as "good" bacteria because they encourage a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

"The diversity of the microorganisms that reside in our intestine have been linked to immune function and overall health," Dr. Andrawes explains. "Consuming a well-balanced diet with foods naturally rich in fiber and probiotics is ideal for supporting gut health."

There are a few foods to help achieve this. It can be as simple as adding a fermented tea (aka kombucha) to your meal, or you can cook with fermented ingredients like apple cider vinegar, miso paste, kimchi or sauerkraut.

In the case of this dinner, tempeh is a fermented food. Fermented soy products like tempeh have been shown to possess various health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, fermented soy may have an anti-cancer effect on colon cancer, according to an August 2022 review in Microorganisms.

4. It’s Low in Sugar and Saturated Fat

"The typical American diet is high in saturated fat and added sugars," Dr. Andrawes says. This eating pattern has been linked to obesity and other diseases, including colorectal cancer, per the Mayo Clinic.

Fatty cuts of meat like sausage, certain dairy products and cheese are all sources of saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can have negative health effects on your heart, such as high cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Saturated fat can also slow down your digestive tract and throw off the balance of healthy gut bacteria, notes the Cleveland Clinic.


While the Standard American Diet consists of processed meats, soft drinks and sugary desserts, this dinner is a wholesome departure from it. If your typical dinners include a lot of beef, pork, lard and butter, Dr. Andrawes' dinner idea could also be a more heart- and gut-healthy swap. While those foods can be part of a healthy meal plan when enjoyed in moderation, they shouldn't make up the bulk of your diet.

The Bottom Line

When you're not sure what you should be making for dinner, it can be helpful to know what doctors recommended. As a gastroenterologist, Dr. Andrawes' recommendations focus on supporting healthy digestion.

He recommends getting plenty of fiber by making sure half your plate is made up of vegetables. But don't forget the whole grains and lean protein.

Tempeh is a good protein source to choose because it's free from saturated fat, full of fermented probiotics and provides dietary fiber.

All in all, a tempeh bowl will have your "good" gut bugs saying "bon appétit!"




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.