Precision Nutrition: 12 Foods for a Diverse Microbiome

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

fermented-foodsIn the age of precision medicine and personalized nutrition, the microbiome steals the spotlight when it comes time to translate what we eat into our overall health. Our gut bugs, who spend most of their time in our gut flora, or digestive tract, may have more influence than our ancestors when it comes time to determine what our future holds, in terms of obesity, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. The good news is the right foods feed good bacteria that export pathogens or toxic intruders away from the body. Over time the right combination of foods – intact whole grains, like brown rice or oats, and fermented varieties, like sauerkraut and kimchi – can create an army of diverse, healthy gut bugs that speed up our metabolism, turn off hunger receptors, support insulin function, and strengthen our immune system. Developing research suggests these tiny gut bugs can even influence our mood. So how do we create a winning team? You don’t need a Ph.D. in epigenetics or have to wait decades for the latest research to emerge. Simply build your diet around four food groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Here are some foods for a diverse microbiome that work together seamlessly to create an environment where disease-fighting microbes thrive: Prebiotics: Prebiotics feed probiotics, or good bacteria that help our bodies run at optimal speed. Oats and whole grains, such as quinoa, rolled oats, and brown rice Asparagus Onions and garlic Bananas Leafy greens Soybeans Probiotics: Probiotics help foster a diverse army of good bacteria that regulate our metabolism, strengthen our immune system, influence our mood, and slash the risk of certain forms of cancer. Water kefir Tempeh Kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage) Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) Miso Soy sauce If you’re not sure how to put these meals together, try a bowl of steel cut oats with fresh berries, bananas, cinnamon, and flax seed for breakfast, a leafy green salad with tempeh, and sauerkraut for lunch, and brown rice asparagus sushi for dinner. Dessert can stay on the menu and may include a brownie made with black beans, dates, and raspberry jam or freshly cut cantaloupe with a sprinkle of lime juice. If this sounds like a diet overhaul, start by incorporating a few of these foods into your diet one day at a time. In just a few days many of your cells will begin to replicate, bringing validation to “New Year, New You.” Photo from here, with thanks.