What Is Butyrate and Is It Found in Any Foods?

Butyrate, found in whole milk, is linked to supporting gut health.
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If you're looking for food sources of butyrate, your Google search may be coming up short. While you may have heard that butyrate is good for your gut health, not many foods supply your body with butyrate — your intestines actually create it all by themselves.

Incorporating some more high-fiber foods can help increase your body's butyrate production levels, among other benefits. So, next time you're at the grocery store, take a peek at the fiber content of your foods.

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What Is Butyrate?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that's produced in the small intestines, according to a January 2018 review published in ​​Advances in Nutrition​​. It goes by a few different names: butyrate acid or butanoic acid.

The good gut bacteria in your intestines produce butyrate when they ferment dietary fiber, a form of carbohydrate your body can't digest.

Foods to Get More Butyrate

Butyrate is a fatty acid your own body produces and there are foods that can spur its production. Foods high in fiber typically promote the production of butyrate, as your intestines ferment and digest the food.

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Each day, you should aim to get between 21 and 38 grams of fiber (the recommended range differs between sex), according to the Mayo Clinic. While many processed foods are fortified with fiber, you'll want to prioritize healthy whole-food fiber sources.

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Whole Grains

As whole grains contain all parts of the original grain (the bran, germ and endosperm), they are higher in nutrients than refined grains, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Whole grains are excellent sources of fiber, which can help produce butyrate.

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They're also beneficial for heart health and may help improve cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease, according to the AHA. Additionally, whole grains are great sources of iron and magnesium.

Some examples of whole grains, per the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Popcorn
  • Bulgar

Fruits and Vegetables

While most fruits and vegetables will add some fiber to your diet, some pack in more than others. Some fruits high in fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

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  • Raspberries: 8 grams of fiber per cup
  • Pears: 5.5 grams of fiber per medium pear
  • Apples: 4.5 grams of fiber per medium apple

Vegetables that are high in fiber include the following, per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Green peas: 9 grams per cup
  • Broccoli: 5 grams per cup
  • Turnip greens: 5 grams per cup

Leafy greens are another low-calorie option that can add some volume and fiber to any meal.

Full-Fat Dairy

High-fat dairy is a good source of butyrate — that includes the following foods, per a September 2018 study in Food Control and a June 2016 review in Neuroscience Letters:

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter

Although full-fat dairy is considered butyrate-producing food, it is important to limit eating or drinking it because it's high in saturated fat and cholesterol. The AHA recommends getting no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total daily calories from saturated fat.

Butyrate Benefits

1. It Supports Gut Health

Butyrate is known for having beneficial effects on your overall gut health, according to the January 2018 review in ​Advances in Nutrition​. The fatty acid helps maintain intestinal homeostasis and helps your body create energy.

It's possible that the presence of more butyrate in the gut can be helpful for people with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, per that same review.

Butyrate also helps strengthen the barrier in your intestines and can promote immune health.

2. It's Linked to Less Inflammation

Low levels of the fatty acid are linked to an increased risk of both colorectal cancer and inflammatory gut diseases, per an August 2018 report in Nutrients, suggesting that butyrate might help fend off inflammation.

3. It May Improve Sleep

In a study done with mice, administering butyrate increased their non-rapid-eye movement sleep, according to results published in Scientific Reports in May 2019. More research is needed to understand if these same sleep-enhancing benefits of butyrate apply to humans.

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