- Oat bran
- Chicory root, the Coffee Substitute
- Green Plantains
- Jerusalem Artichoke
Our microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms that are located inside of our gut. This system plays an important part in the overall health of our gut and body while aiding in the digestive process. When you consume a variety of superfoods each day, you have the potential to grow and maintain beneficial gut bacteria.
Prebiotics are nondigestible, and they help our bodies promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Additionally, prebiotics can come from a whole host of good foods (many of which have a high fiber content) that can benefit our gut microbes. But, gut health supplements, such as Primal Harvest Gut Restore or Total Gut Health by ONNIT, aren't the only way to promote a healthy gut or even restore healthy gut flora – superfoods have the same bearing effect. Not to mention, superfoods come with a full panel of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Let’s take a look at some of the tasty superfoods that you should be working into your diet each day. There are tons of them out there, but I want to focus on the ones that are easy to source at your local grocery store. Don’t be afraid to try some others out if you can get your hands on them.
If you aren't sure where your gut health stands currently, researching the top at-home gut health tests is a great place to start, as tests like these can give you a gut health score and an actionable plan on how to change your diet to start your gut health journey.
The Top 11 Best Superfoods for a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Superfoods are indeed super, because they come with a very high nutritional density in a small number of calories. Your body gets what it needs without you having to consume large quantities of food. In the foods that we’re about to discuss, large concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants exist.
Vitamins and minerals perform hundreds of different roles in the body. If we are deficient in anything, this can lead to other deficiencies as well as disease.
Antioxidants are beneficial because they help to neutralize and reverse the free radicals that are present in our body. If left to their own accord, free radicals can do a lot of damage. This includes the development of heart disease, cancer, disease and much more.
Apples are an affordable and simple superfood that contain a great deal of prebiotic fiber. When this pectin turns into short chain fatty acids, your microbiome and gut become healthier. If you’re not a big fan of apples, try a few different varieties. There are so many colors and flavors of apples out there; you’re bound to find something you like.
Apples don’t have to be eaten plain in order to reap their benefits. You can cook with them, drink a shot of apple cider vinegar or dip them into some peanut butter for a nutritious afternoon snack. Chop them up in salads or on top of your morning bowl of yogurt.
Oats were very common in Northern Europe centuries ago, and we now eat them thanks to their beta-glucan content. This is a prebiotic fiber that ferments when it comes into contact with the bacteria that is in your gut, producing more beneficial bacteria. It also helps to lower your cholesterol levels naturally.
Oats are also a great food to eat if you want to feel fuller longer. Oat soluble fiber dissolves in water, turning into a thick gel that takes a while to pass through your digestive tract. You can eat a bowl of oatmeal in the morning for breakfast, turn them into cookies, add them to stuffing or include them in a smoothie. They have a fantastic shelf life, so it’s easy to keep a container of them around at all times.
The nutritional content of asparagus is impressive. It contains calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E just to name a few. It also contains inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber that is great for your gut. Inulin also promotes the growth of other microbes in your gut such as Akkermansia muciniphila.
Asparagus has a strong flavor, but you can sneak it into your meals if it’s not a favorite of yours. Try cooking it a few different ways. Asparagus can be roasted, steamed or even grilled. Cut it into small pieces and add it to a stir fry or pasta dish.
Oat bran refers to just the outer layer of the oats. It has a high fiber content; it absorbs a lot of water and can with digestion. Oat bran isn’t eaten on its own but can be added to a variety of recipes for a fiber boost. It is pretty flavorless, so you can add it to smoothies, soups, bread, desserts and muffins.
Oat bran contains the same beta-glucan that’s in oats, providing the same benefits to your gut.
Chicory root, the Coffee Substitute
High in fiber, low in calories and low in fat, chicory root has a dense nutrient content that includes calcium, potassium, folate and phosphorus. It contains inulin, which acts as a good source of prebiotic fiber. Chicory root also contains polyphenols that can reduce damage done to the cells in your body while providing your gut with beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium, lactobacillus, and Akkermansia muciniphila.
Chicory root has a very earthy flavor, and it is commonly used for coffee substitutes. It can be roasted and ground, creating a consistency that is similar to instant coffee grounds. It’s naturally caffeine-free, so it’s gentler on your gut. It’s a little challenging to find raw, but you can find it in a variety of products at your grocery store.
Plantains look very similar to bananas, but they lack the sweetness that you’re used to in the yellow variety of this superfood. You won’t eat plantains raw. They need to be cooked due to their high starch content. This starch helps to feed the butyrate bacteria in your microbiome and turns into short chain fatty acids to reduce inflammation and promote healing in your gut lining.
Throw some green plantains into a frying pan with a little bit of olive oil. Add some cinnamon for a healthy dessert option. They also taste great in soups and stews.
Flaxseed comes from the flax plant, and it has a variety of uses. These seeds are edible, but the hull on them is a bit tough. It’s recommended that you soak whole flax seeds prior to consumption. This also helps with absorption. You can save some time by purchasing your flaxseed already ground up. When you consume them regularly, you boost the health of your gut by increasing the amount of mucus that is produced there. Flaxseed can also reduce inflammation in your gut.
Flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. When you consume insoluble fiber, this can help to keep your gut healthy, prevent constipation and keep you on track with regular bowel movements.
Use your flaxseed in smoothies, on yogurt, in cookies, sprinkle them on top of cereal or bake them into breads and rolls.
Jerusalem artichokes have a very high inulin content, so you’ll need to be careful with adding them to your diet. Start with small amounts, working your way up from there. Jerusalem artichokes help with the development of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, fructo oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides.
Steam, roast, boil or bake your artichokes. They can be thrown into salads, pasta and eaten alone as a side dish.
Your gut microbiome will thrive by adding leeks to your diet. They’re similar to onions, but leeks have a higher fiber content. In fact, they are made up of as much as 16 percent inulin and have a large number of polyphenols.
Their taste isn’t overwhelming, but you do need to know how to cook them properly in order to really enjoy them. They go well with potatoes, so combine these two ingredients in soups and sheet pan suppers.
Rye is often used as a substitute for wheat. It has a higher prebiotic fiber (beta-glucan) content, and far lower levels of gluten. It also contains fructan and arabinoxylan which can increase the microbe Bifidobacterium. Swap out your traditional bread for rye bread and see if it makes any difference in how your gut feels after a couple of weeks.
Onions can be thrown into so many different recipes. Chop them up and add them to soups, pastas, stir fry's, in hamburgers and into things like tomato salsa. They’re a great food for optimal gut health. Onions contain prebiotics (inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides) that benefit your microbiome and immune system.
What You Need to Know About Superfoods
People think of the term ‘Superfoods’ and they immediately conjure up images of colorful fruits and vegetables. While all that produce is definitely good for you and should be considered superfoods, there are plenty of other foods that can be very beneficial to your gut and body as a whole. As we’ve learned, superfoods can also be grains, seeds, etc.
Switching your diet over to one that focuses more on superfoods doesn’t have to be expensive. The foods that we’ve talked about here are quite affordable and easy to find. They make a huge difference in your gut and microbiome thanks to their prebiotic properties.
Tips for Success from the RD
If you’re concerned with how you can add more superfoods to your diet, I have some helpful tips for you. You don’t have to completely change up what you eat all at once. Making a few healthier choices over the course of the day can make a big difference.
Instead of grabbing for that bag of chips when you’re hungry in the afternoon or evening, make the conscious effort to choose a superfood as your snack. It’s as simple as munching on an apple or making a quick smoothie that you add flaxseed or oats to.
When in Doubt, Choose Something Green
Green vegetables and fruits tend to have a very dense nutrient composition as well as high fiber content. Whether you’re making a snack or a side dish for dinner, try to work some green into the menu.
Jump on the Smoothie Bandwagon
Smoothies aren’t just for people who want something to add protein to as a pre or post workout. Smoothies are an excellent way to work in a lot of different nutrients and fiber into your diet. Start with a banana or some avocado as your base. Add in a variety of fruits and vegetables, working in as many different colors as you can. You can add some additional superfoods like oats and flaxseed to really improve your gut health.
Keep It Simple
A lot of what we talked about in this article has to do with different superfoods that pack a big nutritional punch. You don’t have to be overly elaborate with what you’re consuming. You can drink a shot of apple cider vinegar each day, add one teaspoon of chicory root into your meal or incorporate an additional vegetable into a recipe. The more you learn and the more you get used to these superfoods, you’ll feel more adventurous and comfortable with the process.
Start Out Slow
Whenever you’re adding superfoods to your diet and they have high levels of fiber in them, it’s best to start out slowly. If you introduce too much fiber to your diet and your gut isn’t used to it, you can experience quite a bit of bloating and gas. Keep yourself comfortable by adding a little bit at a time until you feel like you’ve adjusted.