Will eating a Plant Based Diet improve my Gut Microbiome?

Are you confused about whether you should be avoiding certain food groups , following a plant-based diet to improve your gut microbiome, eating less red meat or following some other dietary exclusive plan to optimise your health?

All of us are keen to understand what constitutes “healthy eating” but being constantly bombarded with food marketing messages and often “shock” headlines quoted somewhat misleadingly from one-off studies, it can be hard to navigate through this and truly have an understanding of how to eat well and enjoy your food.

To help your understanding of how our bodies work and guide you in your decision making around food choices, a key message is that we need to see food not just as “fuel” but rather that there is a link between the food we eat , the microbes in our gut ( our microbiome) and how our body works. Our bodies produce around 20 gut hormones but it is our microbiome which acts like an “inner chemical plant” producing thousands of chemicals which will in turn influence our health and wellbeing as they affect our

  • Digestion
  • Metabolism
  • Brain function &
  • Immune Systems

For example the state or “health” of our gut microbes influences how often and for how long our blood sugar peaks and if this is too frequent or for too long, this causes inflammation which we know is linked with unhealthy outcomes and risk of disease.

Similarly the health of our gut microbes influences how we digest fats and how quickly those fats are cleared by the body and if we are laying down more body fat then this too will lead to inflammation and unhealthy ageing- now sometimes called “inflammaging”.

Ensuring that we have the right microbes which secrete a range of chemicals to support our mental health and wellbeing is also a factor as research now shows that people with depression have a less diverse set of microbes and that the best way we can support our brain is through healthy gut microbes some of which produce serotonin “our happy hormone.”

So how do we eat to support a healthy microbiome?

Whilst there is still lots of debate as to whether to go wholly plant-based, all the science supports eating as diverse and varied a diet as possible to achieve a healthy, diverse microbiome.

Simply translated this can best be achieved by aiming for 30+ different plant foods each week from the following list: Plant foods that are high in polyphenols- these are ones with strong tastes and colours like beetroot, berries, olives, bitter foods like rocket, radishes, artichokes, endive and plant foods with thick skins like avocadoes, kiwis, bananas

  • All other brightly coloured vegetables and fruit
  • Green tea – if you find this too bitter on its own, drink with lemon or teaspoon honey
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Legumes which include chickpeas, lentils and butterbeans
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Wholegrains from quinoa, rice, oats, buckwheat
  • All herbs and spices.

Aiming for 30 different plant foods weekly and making plants the base of your diet will ensure that you are eating a diverse diet, improve your gut microbiome and help you to support your overall health and wellbeing “from the inside out”.

This might mean eating more vegetable based meals each week, cutting down on eggs, fish and meat, being a ‘flexitarian’ or excluding some or all animal based products completely according to your own preferences but the key thing is what our gut microbes need more of is plants!

In my next newsletter I will provide tips on how to incorporate more plant foods into your meals and achieve that magic 30+ different plant foods in a week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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