Can Eating 30 Different Plant-Based Foods in 7-Days Really Supercharge your Gut and your Week?
One of the largest International gut microbiota studies recently found that individuals who ate 30 different plant-based foods a week had more diverse populations of microbes living in their intestine (1). And we know that when it comes to gut health – diversity is a good thing! Diversity acts as a protective feature that helps the gut prepare for insult such as antibiotic use, dietary or lifestyle stressors or infection. In fact, people with some chronic health conditions like diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) have been shown to have a microbial profile that lacks diversity (2).
How we feed our microbes is important
There are good and bad microbes in the large intestine. They are highly responsive to our dietary choices and can alter our gut microbiota within a week (3):
• If we restrict our diet or the variety of food we eat, we reduce the diversity of our gut microbes.
• If we feed our microbes processed foods high in refined sugar and fat and low in fibre, we increase the bad populations of bacteria.
• If we feed our microbes a diet high in fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, olive oil, nuts and seeds, moderate amounts of fish, eggs, chicken and legumes and small amounts of red meat, we increase the good bacteria populations.
How do our microbes impact our health?
When our microbes are well fed with lots of plants and fibre they:
produce beneficial metabolites, improving our health and immunity;
produce anti-inflammatory compounds, reducing inflammation in our body and gut;
metabolise neurochemicals, helping to boost our feel-good hormone serotonin.
Currently there are no existing tests that can definitively tell if our gut microbiota is healthy or not. Although researchers have examined the gut microbiota of healthy individuals compared to those experiencing particular diseases, there is still too much variation between the microbiota of healthy individuals to determine a single healthy gut profile. Watch this space!
What plants are included in the challenge?
The 30 Different Plants in 7-Days Challenge includes all fruits and vegetables and other plant foods such as legumes, lentils, kidney beans, soy and tofu.
Our 5 top tips for getting started
- Try a new fruit and vegetable each week that you have never eaten before or rotate your choices
- Try different herbs to add new flavours to your cooking
- Look for mixed beans e.g. four bean mix or soup mix to boost your bean variety
- Buy frozen fruit to add to yoghurt, smoothies, oats, homemade muffins
- Swap meat for tofu, beans or lentils 1-2 days a week
Download our cheat sheet to keep a track of your progress.
- McDonald D, Hyde E, Debelius JW, Morton JT, Gonzalez A, Ackermann G, et al. American Gut: an Open Platform for Citizen Science Microbiome Research. mSystems. 2018;3(3):e00031-18.
- Valdes AM, Walter J, Segal E, Spector TD. Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. Bmj. 2018;361:k2179.
- David LA, Maurice CF, Carmody RN, Gootenberg DB, Button JE, Wolfe BE, et al. Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. 2014;505(7484):559.