Beware The Fartichoke Effect

These 5 Foods Will Rescue Your Gut Microbiome

Three might be in your kitchen right now.

Originally Published: 
A young African American family is at home, bonding as they have lunch together in their modern dini...
Dimensions/E+/Getty Images

Throw a stone online and you’ll find someone talking about gut health in a viral TikTok or a medical blog. It’s no wonder why: a healthy gut has been associated not only with better digestive health but with such far-ranging benefits as improved mental health, better sleep, and a more robust immune system. Two major ways to maintain that health — pre- and probiotics — have also garnered a lot of attention in recent years for their ability to help balance the gut microbiome.

And why shouldn’t the gut matter? The gut is often referred to as the “second brain” — a term famously coined by Dr. Michael Gershon, who basically wrote the book on it in the late ‘90s. In fact, several key neurotransmitters are actually produced in the digestive tract, including some 90% of serotonin — essential in regulating mood, sleep, bone health, and more. So eating right to make that gut happy isn’t just about having regular bowel movements, or staying physically healthy. The mind and the gut are connected.

The gut microbiome is composed of millions of bacteria and feeds off what you feed off. Simply put, the healthier your diet, the healthier your gut. While the probiotics abundant in yogurt and fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria themselves, other foods called prebiotics, foster the growth of these living organisms and help maintain beneficial gut bacteria. Recently scientists from San Jose State University identified the five best pre-biotic foods for your gut, some of which are likely in your kitchen right now.

Prebiotics are typically high in fiber, providing bacteria with an easily digestible food source. The team from SJSU examined the nutritional content of 8,690 foods to determine those with the highest prebiotic potential and discovered that onions, garlic, leeks, dandelion greens, and Jerusalem artichokes outrank all other prebiotic foods.

“The findings from our preliminary literature review suggest that onions and related foods contain multiple forms of prebiotics, leading to a larger total prebiotic content,” co-author and SJSU grad student Cassandra Boyd explained in a statement. “Multiple forms of onions and related foods appear in a variety of dishes as both flavoring and main ingredients. These foods are commonly consumed by Americans and thus would be a feasible target for people to increase their prebiotic consumption.”

Dandelion greens — technically a weed — have long been foraged in the U.S. and in recent years, have become more readily available from major retailers like Whole Foods and farmers' markets as the awareness of their health benefits grows. Dandelion greens are best consumed when the leaves are young and tender and can be harvested from any location you are sure has not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals — even your own backyard. Wash the greens thoroughly and eat plain or mix them with other greens for a tasty salad.

Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes or sunflower chokes, may be a little less ubiquitous than dandelion greens but can be foraged in almost every state or found at farmers makets in the fall, when the tubers are harvested. They are in the same family as sunflowers, but the root is where the health benefits lie.

Preparation of these nutrition powerhouses is straightforward — pretty much anything you can do to a potato, you can do to a Jerusalem artichoke — boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew. They can even be eaten raw, though beware of what’s known as the “fartichoke effect,” as they can cause bean-level flatulence.

This article was originally published on