8 surprising good-for-your-gut superfoods you should be eating

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Microbiome Superfoods_asparagus_radishes_carrots_jicamaBacteria has been a hot topic lately—and not because everyone's trying to banish it with Purell.

A robust microbiome—AKA the bacteria that calls you home—helps to improve digestion, metabolism, and immunity. And in his book, The Microbiome Diet, Raphael Kellman, MD, says its healthy power goes even further.

“[The microbiome is a] whole inner world that lives within your intestines—trillions of tiny microbes that help you extract the nutrients from your food, balance your mood, and Microbiome Diet - cover (2)sharpen your clarity and focus," he says. "When we eat the foods that keep this inner world in balance, we also feel more energized than ever before and develop healthy, glowing skin."

You've probably already heard of putting probiotic foods like fermented kimchee or Kefir—which contain healthy live bacteria—on your plate for that reason. But there are also foods and spices—called prebiotic foods— that nourish the healthy bacteria already living in your body. You need both kinds to keep your microbiome balanced, Dr Kellman says.

With that in mind, here are eight surprising prebiotic superfoods to add to the whole-food, plant-filled diet you're already rocking. Right? —Molly Gallagher

(Photos: from left, clockwise, Ahouseinthehills.com, Craving4more.com, Girlcooksworld.com, Listtoptens.com, The Microbiome Diet)

This article was updated August 30, 2015.

roasted garlic 21. Garlic
“This has a wonderful effect on immunity—it’s not only an incredible prebiotic, but it helps the microbiome proliferate,” Dr. Kellman says. It also helps combat unfriendly gut bacteria. You'd better start carrying around your toothpaste.

(Photo: Veganascent.blogspot.com)


fall-mkt-watermelon-radish2. Radishes
Radishes contain compounds called arabiongalactans (say that five times fast), which good bacteria in the intestinal tract thrive on. “They are a wonderful snack food—filling, nutritious, and nourishing to your microbiome,” writes Dr. Kellman.  Plus, aren't they pretty?

(Photo: Craving4more.com)


Topinambur-gatit3. Jerusalem artichoke
Inulin is a fiber found in lots of fruits and veggies that's also a natural prebiotic—and Jerusalem artichoke is full of it. “Inulin has no calories, but it still leaves you feeling full…and between 14 and 19 percent of the weight of Jerusalem artichoke is inulin,” writes Dr. Kellman.

(Photo: Blog.naturalmarket.ro)


leeks4. Leeks
Good news about this farmers market favorite: “High in both dietary fiber and flavonoids…they have a lot of manganese, which produces digestive enzymes, as well as high quantities of vitamin A, which is key for healing your gut wall,” writes Dr. Kellman.

(Photo: Mamaguru.com)


Jicama Salad5. Jicama
This root vegetable does way more than satisfy your crunch craving. “[It] provides a high content of inulin and has a healthy effect on the production of important compounds that get the microbiome to produce bacteria,” Dr. Kellman says.

(Photo: Girlcooksworld.com)


beluga_lentils_grilled_asparagus_tahini_sarah_yates_56. Asparagus
Asparagus is a microbiome balancer of many hats. It “leaves you feeling full, helps you lose weight, and is rich in inulin, which feeds the microbiome,” Dr. Kellman says. It also contains multiple nutrients that help heal the gut wall and magnesium, which is needed for digestive enzymes.

(Photo: Ahouseinthehills.com)


Carrot-Nutri-Red-Sugarsnax-Purplesnax7. Carrots
Add these colorful root veggies to your lunch salad, and your gut and skin will thank you. Remember those crazy compounds that radishes were full of ? (Read: arabinogalactans) Carrots contain them too (they're a type of fiber), and they're a powerful, natural prebiotic, Dr. Kellman says.

(Photo: Listtoptens.com)


Screen-shot-2012-04-11-at-6.08.07-PM8. Turmeric
This spice rack staple—and trendy nutritional supplement—does wonders for inflammation. “[It's] a natural anti-inflammatory that helps heal the gut, support the microbiome, and promote good brain function,” writes Dr. Kellman.

(Photo: Jennifer Kass)


15 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. August 6th, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Interesting about the tumeric! I would love to find a great recipe incorporating this spice as I think this would greatly help with my GI issues.

  2. August 6th, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Are you kidding me? All of these foods are triggers for people with digestive issues related to FODMAPs, which I’m just now learning has been causing my digestive distress–onions, garlic & leeks especially, but also anything with inulin or chicory. Beware of consuming these if you’re also experiencing intermittent digestive troubles (a euphemism for IBS symptoms).

  3. August 6th, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    I have eaten healthy all my life, I was a personal trainer for many years and a ultra long distance runner. At 56 I am in the worst health with a disease that only one in 2 million people suffer from, arthritis in my hands(no family history). It simply is genetics although everyone in my family is healthy and they were eating junk all of their lives. So explain that one.

  4. August 7th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Nobukat215 – I make brown rice with broth instead of water, and add a nice heaping teaspoon of turmeric to it. It’s wonderful medicine.

  5. August 13th, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I have had problems all my life with my digestive system. I have IRS and just got over a bacterial disease C D ff..
    We are all different genetically and what works for one person is not always good the another. My gastroenterologist suggested flax seeds, probiotics, prunes, and lots of fruit with smoothies.

  6. August 17th, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I love turmeric. I add it to a lot of myndishes. A little goes a long way. I also sprinkle a little over my egg whites veggie omelets for an extra dose of flavor and health.

  7. August 20th, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Pair jicama with corn, black beans, green onions, bell pepper and a lime-based vinaigrette for the world’s best chopped salad.

  8. August 21st, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    All of these are good food nothing out of the ordinary. Love fermented & preserve foods. Then growing up being from a tropical country all year round plant & harvest is an ordinary thing to do most often everyday. Very much abundant of all varieties of organic fruits & vegetables. To ferment & preserve was just basic way of life. Older & lately fermented food (sensitivity-don’t know how i got it)triggers my migraine. Its ok had enjoyed it a lot anyway. Getting older has its own mysteries. Tough & rough.

  9. August 21st, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    It would have been a really helpful article, but did not list what was pictured or tell how to use them. I only recognized two of them and the carrots had several varieties shown. What are they called?

  10. August 21st, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I’ve been involved w/Nutrition, fitness & health most of my life. These days I broad-cast on the radio about our Govt.FDA, pharmaceutical companies, as well as the Food industries that produce pkg’d as well as processed foods. We are a sick & diseased country/Nation. Unless we change our opinions of what we eat & the medications we take, our legacy of dying will not change, that is diseased, frail, & w/o hope. We have been brain washed in believing our foods & technological advanced medications are the answer to our physical mental/emotion problems are only intensified by believing our physicians & the Food industries our health can be improved, as well as our ailments eliminated. I say bunk! Nature & our bodies heal, given the right circumstances. MjLee

  11. August 22nd, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Consider adding black pepper when you use turmeric. It boosts the spice’s immunity power exponentially. This is what Dr. Weil recommends.

  12. September 1st, 2014 at 11:16 am

    So what are the foods to which you refer?

  13. August 8th, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how food is our medicine? The gut microbiome is being studied extensively and they are finding that what we eat and what kind of bacteria is in our gut can alter our health, aging and disease risk. nobukat215- check out this immune-boosting tea with turmeric: http://www.femanna.com/immunity-boosting-detox-tea/

  14. August 17th, 2015 at 8:33 am

    I see comments about GI issues and arthritis. What you are describing is autoimmunity. Autoimmunity affects 60% of our population and 90% are undiagnosed. Foods like grains, beans and legumes, all things containing gluten, eggs,sugar and caffeine all play a role in contributing to autoimmunity.I can break down the science but that is too much for this forum. A seemingly healthy food could be having detrimental effects to your gut (without GI symptoms) health where 80% of your immunity lies. A vegetarian who has an autoimmune condition that’s eating supremely “healthy” vegetarian meals that include rice, beans greens, legumes are alarming there immune system to attack. Chronic low dose exposure to gluten and these foods and environmental toxins results in the autoimmune epidemic that we have. Gluten is the trigger behind leaky gut. And leaky gut leads to autoimmune symptoms and eventually full blown autoimmune condition.
    The state of our current medical system is built upon specialists like your rheumatologist, gastroenterologist,your cardiologist, dermatologist you get the picture largely treating symptoms of autoimmunity and do not even know it and are actually complicating the issue by treating symptoms with medication that activate side effects, as opposed to treating the root cause.
    I have an autoimmune condition myself that I have successfully treated using food as medicine and many of these foods are on my food. prescription plan. There ya have it.

  15. September 1st, 2015 at 3:52 am

    i would love to know your food prescription plan.it sounds like it really works.i need a change of diet.xhave a lovely day.marie.

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