It’s no secret that you’re supposed to be eating your five-a-day. Most people know that overly processed and sugary foods are not the best foods for your health. But a diet rich in plant-based foods may improve gut health and even reduce the risk of developing diseases like diabetes and obesity.
The Link Between Gut Health, Diet, and Well-Being
Research is increasingly showing a connection between the gut, diet, and health. What you eat can impact your health, weight, and gut microbiome.
The gut microbiome is a community of bacteria developed to benefit the host and the bacteria. Ultra-processed foods and those that contain chemical additives affect the gut. Examples of ultra-processed foods include:
Savory packaged foods
Behind the scenes, your gut is hard at work keeping your body ticking over. Your gut breaks down what you eat and absorbs those nutrients to support your body. Your gut microbiome can affect more than just your digestive system. All those helpful bacteria also play a role in the following:
Keep “bad” bacteria in check
The Effects of a Plant-Based Diet on Gut Health
The growing link between the gut and physical and mental health encourages more and more people to improve their own gut health.
A large-scale international study found that a diet with plenty of healthy and plant-based foods is linked to an increase in certain beneficial microbes. These microbes are associated with lowering the chances of developing certain diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
The link between certain microbes in the gut, diet, and disease could hopefully allow many people to avoid some health problems. The food you eat doesn’t just give your body energy; it feeds those trillions of bacteria in the gut.
Research shows the difference between vegetarian or vegan diets and omnivore diets. Those following a plant-based diet appear to have higher diversity and stable microbiomes. Diets high in plant-based whole foods tend to be higher in fiber, which helps waste move smoothly through the body.
Another study suggests that following a Mediterranean diet and avoiding inflammatory foods can help protect against depression. It’s important to know that diet is not the only factor when talking about mood disorders like anxiety and depression. However, it shows how diet could influence gut health and mental well-being.
The Best Foods for Gut Health
Eating a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is a great way to introduce lots of fiber and nutrients into the body. At the same time, avoiding or limiting processed, high-sugar, and high-saturated fat foods is beneficial to the gut.
Typically, the best food for gut health includes the following:
Whole grains and legumes
Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, and miso
Lean protein and less red meat
Colorful fresh fruits and vegetables
Probiotic foods like yogurt and sauerkraut
A healthy gut is diverse. It contains lots of beneficial bacteria and immune cells that ward off pesky invaders like infections, viruses, and pathogens. A healthy gut maintains overall well-being and sets a strong foundation for health.
Your diet is one factor that influences your gut health. Things like stress levels, medication, alcohol, physical activity, and smoking can impact your gut too. While some things may feel out of your control, you can tweak your diet to make positive changes.
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to overhaul your diet, but that doesn’t need to be the case. You can start by adding more plant-rich foods to your routine. Try to eat a colorful diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
If you’re not sure where to start, try ordering a plant-based recipe kit or find a new recipe to follow. You don’t need to restrict your diet. Instead, think of it as inviting more foods into your diet that will help you to feel the healthiest version of yourself.
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