Variety is the Spice of Life and a Healthy Gut


Nutrition trends and fads come and go.

Some fads peter out due to unsubstantiated claims offering little support from scientific research, while other trends create such a tremendous impact that it’s important to take notice.

Research into the gut microbiome continues to grow and provides a powerful link to achieving optimal health.

In recent research, the gut microbiome was shown to have an influence on fat storage, glucose metabolism, regulation of hunger and satiety hormones, and neurotransmitter communication influencing mood. The research has correlated a poorly diverse composition and density of bacteria in the microbiome with the onset of obesity, diabetes, and mental health disorders.

The vast diversity of microbes in the human gut plays a role in physiology and brain function.

This year, researchers from the UC San Diego School of Medicine published their first major findings from the American Gut Project, the largest published study on the human microbiome to date. The goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of human microbiomes including which types of bacteria live where, how many of each, and how they are influenced by diet, lifestyle, and disease.

The most staggering finding was that the number of different plant varieties in a person’s diet will highly influence the diversity of bacteria in that individual’s gut microbiome. Regardless of one’s dietary pattern (whether one is a vegan or not), it was found that people who consumed more than 30 different plant varieties per week had more diversity in their gut microbiomes than those who ate 10 or fewer different plant types.

In addition, eating 30 or more different plants per week was found to have fewer antibiotic resistant genes than those consuming less than 10 plant types, indicating that the bacteria in a more diverse microbiome had a lower number of genes that encode molecular pumps helping the bacteria avoid antibiotics.

Aim to include a wide variety of different species of plants in your diet to help build a more diverse microbiome. In addition to increasing variety, increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, seeds, and beans is helpful for overall health as well. Here are some ideas to help increase the number of plant species in your diet.

  • Swap a salad of just romaine or spinach for mixed greens. A mix of various spring greens can contain as many as 10 different types of plants. For example, a mix can contain baby romaine, chard, mizuna, radicchio, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, oak leaf, arugula, butter lettuce, and spinach – each one counts.
  • Purchase different varietals of apples instead of sticking with only one type. Aim for a new variety each day – Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, Cameo, Golden Delicious, Enzy, Jazz – the list is endless.
    Go for mixed nuts. Change up an afternoon snack by having 1/4 cup unsalted mixed nuts including almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, etc.
  • Make a soup or stew. These are easy meals to put together that can provide a host of different plant species. Fresh herbs are also considered plants.


Written by PRO Club

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