The bacteria living in your gut (yep, they took up residence there and don’t even pay rent) are a major player in your overall health. If this is news to you, it’s time to listen up. The bacteria living inside us, called our icrobiota, collectively, have a strong influence on our metabolism, immunity, how we store and use energy, and even our brain. Some scientists now consider the Microbiota an organ due to its significant role in our health. The quality of our Microbiota is judged mainly by two criteria: the amount of bacteria and the diversity of the species within.s diversity. This is a emerging field of science so we can’t say exactly how much of each species we need yet. To add further mystery, each of us has a unique Microbial community based on where we live, our diets, genetic factors and even if we live with a pet or not! (WHO WOULDN’T HAVE A DOG, THOUGH?!) However it is crystal clear that our diet is one of the biggest influencers.
One way we can increase the amount of beneficial bacteria into our guts is to consume fermented foods. These foods contain live organisms. The most common would be a fermentable dairy product such as Greek yogurt and kefirr. The fermentation produces lactic acid, which is responsible for the tangy taste. Some other great options are kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Oh – and bonus points if you pickle your own vegetables (it’s easier than you think – YouTube it!)
Our Microbiota need to be fed. What do they consume? Non-digestible carbohydrates (NDC). What are those? Fiber! Plant foods contain fiber, which cannot be digested by humans. Leave that to the bacteria. This is where diversity comes into play. Looks like our moms were right eat your veggies, kids! (But she was totally wrong about eating after swimming. That’s a myth.) As a Registered Dietitian, I am constantly trying to find new, tasty ways for my clients to consume more plant foods; not only for their vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, but now to promote gut health through feeding their Microbiota! So what is the takeaway here? Below are a few key suggestions you can take with you on your next trip to the grocery store:
- Aim for 5-8 servings minimum of fruit and veggies per day
- Diversity is key so try to consume something from each color group: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, White and Purple. EAT THE RAINBOW!
- Legumes! For thosee who tolerate them, these contain high amounts of NDC
- Get adventurous and try something fermented like kimchi or kombucha
- When eating fermented dairy, remember plain and unsweetened is best! Add your favorite fruit for added fiber and natural sweetness.
Thank us when your bacteria is as balanced as Simone Biles on a beam.