You have trillions of bacteria (over a thousand different species!) in your gut and they all thrive on different foods, so variety really is key to making sure you keep them all happy. We all tend to reach for the same fruit and veg in the supermarket as we know what to do with them.
We need to start thinking beyond just fruit and veg. Current research shows that we need closer to 30 different types of plant based foods a week, this includes vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, pulses, legumes, nuts and seeds.
This sounds like a pretty high number to hit but try and get out of your comfort zone, we’ve got a few ideas to get your started.
- Try a new plant based food each week
- Order a veg box
- Try a recipe kit
- Make the freezer your friend (great for frozen veg and berries to top up your variety score)
- Buy or make up a nut / seed mix and add to salads, soups and veggies
- Go for a mixed bag of salad instead of one variety
- Add herbs and spices to your meals
If you don’t know what to do with something, olive oil, (also high in polyphenols which your gut bacteria love) salt and the oven are your friend for lots of roasted veg.
Switch your mindset to ADDING things and not restriction.
A polyphenol is often one of those ‘buzz words’ that is thrown around but what does it mean? A polyphenol is a natural chemical found in some plant-based foods from fruits and vegetables to coffee, chocolate and even red wine! Polyphenols are mini superheroes, they fight against damage caused by free radicals (a lot of this damage is an essential part of your body’s processes).
Only 5-10% of polyphenols are absorbed in your small intestine, the rest are released by the gut microbes in your large intestine – a bit like a squirrel trying to crack a nut.
Polyphenols are like your microbes’ cheerleaders – they help your microbes be their best selves by making them more efficient and feed those responsible for producing short chain fatty acids. They could be seen as a sort of prebiotic.
Consuming a variety of polyphenols is the important thing rather than one particular type. This takes us back to one thing that we can all do easily and that’s upping the variety of plant-based foods we consume, the more colours the better – eat the rainbow.
ultra processed foods
So, virtually all foods have been processed in some way and avoiding these sounds like a pretty obvious one, but now we have the “why” piece to the puzzle confirming why they aren’t great for us.
All the emulsifiers and preservatives and other things put into ultra-processed foods stifle the good bacteria we need in our gut. It does make sense that if something is extending a food’s shelf life by months, it probably isn’t doing great things for the living things in our bodies. Try and cut them down as much as you can and make some simple swaps so you don’t feel you’re missing out!