Atlas makes health easy with at-home
DNA and gut microbiome testing
Buy test

Butyrate Foods: Butyrate Benefits And What Foods Contain Butyrate

Butyrate Foods: Butyrate Benefits And What Foods Contain Butyrate

Here’s the lowdown on butyrate, why you need it, and a butyrate foods list to support your digestive and overall health.

Butyrate comes from the Latin butyrum, meaning butter. Why butter? Well, butter is the most common butyrate food source. However, it’s also not the best way to increase butyrate in your body, so don’t just go slathering your toast in butter, because it won’t work.

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid made by the health-promoting bacteria in your gut, and it has some mighty powerful effects on the human gut and wider health. So rather than eating foods that contain butyrate, we’re going to explain what foods you need to eat to help your butyrate producing bacteria thrive.


Table of contents

If you want to increase the butyrate production of your gut microbes, you need dietary fibre (not butter). In this article, we’re going to recap what the gut microbiome is, what butyrate is, and the butyrate foods you need to eat to make more of it. Oh, and we’ll look at its wide range of benefits, too.


What is the gut microbiome?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid by Atlas Biomed.
Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that's important for gut health

As much as you may treat it like it is, your body is not just your own. Within you (and even on you, think skin) are trillions of microorganisms who call your body their home. Many areas of your body have bacterial, viral, and fungal inhabitants, but the gut microbiome is the largest and most important.

The gut microbiome consists of all the microbes and their genes in the colon. There’s approximately 1,000 different bacterial species living in your intestine. Many of them are essential for your health, while a few can contribute to the development of disease.

In other words, the gut microbiome has a major impact on human health. It carries out essential functions including producing magic metabolites, like short-chain fatty acids and vitamins, which strengthen the gut barrier and promote a healthy immune system.

FACT☝Discover what butyrate foods you need for your beneficial bacteria with the Atlas Microbiome Test.

What is butyrate?

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced by your gut microbes when they break down dietary fibre. This metabolite has many important functions within the human body, particularly for digestive health, as well as supporting brain health and protecting against disease.

FACT☝Hydrocortisone butyrate is a corticosteroid that is used to treat skin irritation. It should never be ingested.

Butyrate benefits for health

Butter is a butyrate rich food, but that's not how you increase butyrate
by Megumi Nachev for Unsplash.
Butter is a butyrate rich food, but that's not how you increase butyrate

Despite being the least abundant short-chain fatty acid (the others are acetate and propionate), butyrate has numerous health benefits. And, these advantages aren’t just for your gut because butyrate can:

  • help stabilise blood sugar levels
  • protect your brain from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • protect against cancer
  • prevent obesity

One of the major benefits of butyrate for the gut is that it is the main source of fuel for the cells lining the colon, called colonocytes. Without it, these cells simply wouldn’t survive and the intestinal environment within which gut microbes thrive, wouldn’t exist.

That’s because colonocytes, when functioning effectively, keep the gut oxygen-free, providing the perfect environment for your gut microbes to flourish. Butyrate also regulates the natural movement of food through the gut and boosts blood flow to the colon. Basically, your gut needs butyrate!

The short-chain fatty acid has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, too, preventing colorectal cancer. And, it has a pretty nifty way of doing it. Most cancers produce an enzyme called histone deacetylase, but butyrate inhibits its production and causes cancer cells to basically kill themselves in a process called apoptosis.

It could even be beneficial for tackling obesity and type II diabetes. That’s because butyrate increases the release of gut hormones involved in the regulation of blood sugar levels. So, increasing the production of butyrate in the colon means blood sugar levels are better managed and the risk of obesity is reduced.

If that wasn’t enough, butyrate is also a brain booster, because it has protective benefits for your noggin and central nervous system. For example, it is associated with many of the pathways linked to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even strokes.

What does all this mean for health? Well, because butyrate is produced when your gut microbes transform the dietary fibre you eat into these beautifully beneficial compounds, such as butyrate, your diet could be key to preventing chronic disease.

FACT☝Ethyl butyrate and methyl butyrate are fruity flavouring and scent agents.

Foods with butyrate

So, now that you know the health kicks butyrate could give you, we bet your itching to find out how you can increase butyrate in the gut. As we mentioned before, you don’t need to eat foods high in butyrate, you just need to eat foods that feed your gut bacteria. They’re called prebiotics.

Prebiotic foods are rich in dietary fibers. So what you’re looking for are fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and pulses. Your body can’t digest these fibers, so they travel to your gut where they feed the good bacteria that make butyrate.

A specific classification of bacteria, called Firmicutes, are especially renowned for being butyrate producing bacteria. You may have heard of some of them such as Faecalibacterium, Roseburia, and Eubacterium if you’ve taken an Atlas Biomed Microbiome Test.

Boosting butyrate production isn’t as simple as eating butyrate rich foods. The short-chain fatty acid can be absorbed in the stomach and small intestine, so if you eat butyrate, it wouldn’t travel to your colon where it supports your gut lining and keeps it intact. So, what foods have butyrate boosting powers?

Foods to increase butyrate

almond apple barley
Chickpea (bengal gram) garlic kiwifruit
maize oat and wheat bran soy

Remember, don’t believe the hype about eating more butter or investing in a butyrate supplement like sodium butyrate. Instead, research shows that consuming prebiotics is an effective and safe way to increase the abundance of butyrate-producing bacteria. as well as other beneficial species. What’s more, improving your gut microbiome with food and increasing butyrate production supports good digestive health.

TIP☝A diet rich in plant foods will help your gut butyrate levels while increasing your daily intake of fiber and providing you with healthful antioxidants.

Diets and foods that reduce butyrate

Butyrate foods that nourish your microbiome include chickpeas by Toa Heftiba for Unsplash.
Butyrate foods that nourish your microbiome include chickpeas

Butyrate can be increased by eating the right foods, but following the wrong type of diet can have the opposite effect. Fad diets are everywhere, and although many claim to have some benefits, they can also be detrimental to your gut microbiome and its ability to make butyrate.

For example, a low-carb, high-fat (or high-protein) diet can lower butyrate production because it deprives gut bacteria of their favourite food source: prebiotic dietary fibers. That’s right, fiber is a carb and it’s good for you.

The long and short of it is, (the correct) carbs are not your enemy, and you can increase the abundance of butyrate producers and, in turn, the metabolite itself by upping your intake of veg, fruit, and wholegrains (hint: the table above).

TIP☝If you significantly lower your intake of good carbs, like fruit, veg, legumes, and whole grains, you run the risk of depleting the populations of butyrate producing bacteria.

Summary

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced by your gut bacteria when they ferment (break down) dietary fibre which the human body is incapable of digesting. In return, butyrate has several health benefits which support your gut, brain, and even reduce the risk of disease.

There’s speculation online about boosting your butyrate levels with various butyrate food sources like butter or butyrate supplements. Instead of googling “butyrate amazon” or “what foods contain butyrate”, the best way to ensure you have plenty of this metabolite is to eat a diet high in fibre and rich in prebiotics.

And remember that eating the wrong type of food can reduce the butyrate-producing bacterial species and butyrate levels. Typically, high protein, high fat, and low carb diets have negative effects. So, before following one, think hard about whether it’s worth it.

Leanne Edermaniger
Leanne Edermaniger Science writer who enjoys laughing which is scientifically proven to help you live longer.
Buy test
Take care
of your health from home
with Atlas tests
Buy test

Featured topics

Microbiome
83 articles
Nutrition
64 articles
Lifestyle
59 articles
Digestive Health
38 articles
Health
37 articles
Guide
28 articles
DNA
26 articles
News
22 articles
Food
17 articles
Beat The Bloat
11 articles
Disease Protection
11 articles
Sports
10 articles
Probiotics
10 articles
Science Bites
8 articles
Love and sex
3 articles
Quiz
2 articles