The “Superfood” Conundrum: How Someone’s Superfood May Not Be So Super for You


If you follow health trends, you might notice the word “superfood” gets tossed around quite a bit. It seems like every month a new food is deemed super – like quinoa, broccoli, spinach, and blueberries. It’s not hard to see why: these foods are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals - and often times powerful natural anti-inflammatories. But one of the most common mistakes we make is assuming one superfood is a super food for all and frankly, our gut microbiome has its own opinion on that.

Yes, it comes back around to your good ol’ gut microbiome and the current state it’s in. Our gut microbes wear a lot of different hats when it comes to keeping their ecosystem stable. Some work hard to protect the gut from invaders and others remain busy regulating their environment, but all of them have to eat eventually. Based on your own typical dietary habits, your gut microbes have become quite adjusted to a certain lifestyle. The diversity, balance, and activity of your microbes all rely heavily on the foods you consume, and they differ even more from one person to the next.

And there’s isn’t a way to predict how, just yet. Fortunately, with Viome’s metatranscriptomics technology and our innovative and proprietary AI technology, we can not only analyze who’s active in your gut, but also what on Earth they’re doing - and then giving you your own individual nutritional guide.

Why is that important? Well, it has a little to do with sorting out if you’d really benefit from all those trendy superfoods, not to mention determining the ones you might want to consider avoiding.

The Science Behind Your Viome Recommendations

After you have sent in your kit and we’ve done our analysis, you’ll get a whole set of personalized nutrition recommendations. Viome’s robust AI recommendation engine has worked hard to look at your unique gut profile and examine what’s happening.

You’ll find your recommendations fit into four different categories: Superfood, Enjoy, Minimize, and Avoid. These recommendations are essential to improving your gut health and maximizing the benefits you can obtain from your microscopic companions. Although some recommendations may not surprise you (like limiting sweets and particularly fatty foods), you might find some of those trendy superfoods on your “Avoid” list. Shocking! But why?

The truth is many of these foods do contain extremely beneficial nutrients that can help your body rebuild, repair, fight infection, and keep normal operations running smoothly. However, some also contain hard-to-digest components. Whatever our body doesn’t break down, gets left out for our gut microbes, and sometimes they don’t end up being all that helpful. Depending on your gut ecosystem, your dietary habits may have repressed beneficial activities of some microbes or promoted harmful activities of others. Although many of those superfoods contain healthy nutrients, they may also contain metabolites – or digestible components – that promote negative microbial activity based on the current state of your gut microbiome.

One person’s broccoli is another person’s uh-oh, broccoli!

Broccoli may just be one of the most well-known “superfoods” of our day. These little trees are a favorite for many due to their healthy portion of Vitamin C, calcium, and antioxidant glucosinolate. Antioxidants help boost our immune system and reduce the damage of normal wear and tear in our bodies – but if your gut microbiome contains a lot of sulfide gas activity, your gut microbes might be converting that broccoli into a full-on bloat and gas attack. Many cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain glucosinolates, so you may find that Broccoli or Cauliflower has been removed from the general public’s “Superfood” list and placed on your Viome’s personal “Minimize” list to help reduce instances of uncomfortable sulfide gas production.

Broccoli isn’t the only contender. There are many superfoods that sometimes just don’t do a super job of getting digested in your gut – or worse – getting digested in the wrong kind of ways.

In fact, we’ve seen several commonly known superfoods and healthy foods placed on users’ Avoid list. But it is important to note that these foods are also found on many users’ Superfoods list. It all depends on what your microbes are up to.

For fun, let’s take a look at a recent list of 10 common foods considered by most to be healthy that made it to the Avoid list for many of our users within the last six months†:

  • Tomatoes

  • Bell Pepper

  • Turmeric

  • Watermelon

  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Brussels Sprouts

  • Mustard Greens

  • Grapefruit

  • Asparagus

Although learning watermelon, turmeric, broccoli, or any other generally healthy foods are on your Avoid list might come as a surprise, removing them from your diet can limit harmful effects from your gut microbes.

That’s what makes Viome’s personalized recommendations so important. You don’t know what kind of hand you were dealt, or what your next hand will be. But with Viome, following your own specific recommendations is kind of like keeping an ace up your sleeve with each new hand. You’ll learn what superfoods you should jump on, which to avoid, and how to incorporate tons of other healthy options into your diet. By following your recommendations, you can start to make real changes to your gut health, and through frequent testing, watch the evolution of your gut microbiome unfold.

And don’t be surprised when, after you send in your retest you’re dealt a whole NEW list of Superfoods, including some foods that were once on your “Minimize” or even “Avoid” lists. It simply means you’re doing it. You’re taking control of your health and getting your microbes to work for you.

† Information updated December 2023.