Today’s post (and lunch!) is inspired by the results from the American Gut project – the largest study of it’s kind to look at how diet and lifestyle affects the human microbiome (interested? you can read more here).
The researchers found that found that people regularly eating 30+ different types of plant foods per week had a more diverse microbiome than those eating 10 or fewer different plant foods a week. (For the record, a diverse microbiome seems positive, as different bacteria have different effects on our risk of disease).
What’s interesting is that it was the number of different plant foods in the particpant’s diets which had the greatest influence on the diversity of their gut bacteria VS. whether they identified as a vegetarian or a meat eater.
So eating plants is good, but eating a big VARIETY of plant foods is better, as it seems to encourage the growth of different species of helpful bacteria.
This also means that you don’t have to be veggie to get the benefits of a plant based diet for your gut– what is important for both veggies and meat eaters is to get lots of variety.
Now eating 30+ types of plant foods a week sounds like a massive ask – although I’ve knocked through about 11 so far today (oats, blueberries, seeds and walnuts at breakfast, a banana as a snack and spinach, lentils, tomatoes, carrots, hummus in my lunch) so it seems pretty doable – although each item only counts once in the week, even if you eat it lots. I’m going test this over the next few days with this little calendar to see how many I get to. Not sure what counts as a plant food? Check this handy list for starters.
The point isn’t to get fixated on 30 types though – the point is to keep your diet diverse, mix up what you eat and try to eat a different fruits, veggies, wholegrains, seeds, nuts and pulses rather than eating the same ones each day. If you’re currently on 10 types and you jump to 15, then that’s a high five and thumbs up from your gut.