A diet rich in bananas, chickpeas and peanuts improves gut bacteria in malnourished children, helping kick-start their growth, research suggests.
These foods were found to be particularly good at boosting healthy microbes, in a US study of children in Bangladesh.
The growth of bones, brains and bodies is then more likely.
The World Health Organization said about 150 million children under five around the world were malnourished.
As well as being weak and small, many malnourished children end up with incomplete or “immature” communities of bacteria in the gut, compared with healthy children of the same age.
Boosting good bacteria
This is what scientists from Washington University, in St Louis, believed could be the cause of poor growth – but not all foods are equally good at fixing the problem.