Diversity in meals: how does it affect our gut microbiome and general health

From time to time, as a dietitian I notice that some of my clients complain when they realize that their eating plan has to have diversity and consist of lots of different foods, especially plant-based ones. Their main point is the lack of time to cook and try out new combinations and experiment on recipes, which is quite understandable. But we all have to cook eventually to eat, don’t we?

What people don’t seem to understand is that without diversity, without the so called “rainbow” in our plates, with a great variety of fruits, vegetables, beans etc, there is no gut health, no gut microbiome balance, no robust immune system.

Each fruit and vegetable has a different nutritional value, with a different load of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, with some being rich in different nutrients than the other, which means we need to consume a variety of them in order to meet our daily needs. Diversifying our diet actually widens the sources from which we get macronutrients, vitamins, minerals etc, essential for our body. 

Besides that, nutrients from different foods work together in a way where one plays a role in the absorption of the other –take for example vitamin C with iron and copper with zinc. It’s one thing to eat lentils for iron alone and another to squeeze some lemon for vitamin C to help iron absorb in our system. Plus the variety of fiber can totally benefit gut microbiome and enhance immunity and overall health in a way that no supplement and no restricted diet can –even if it’s a healthy one. Never forget that a more diverse microbiome can result in better health protection, lowering the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, allergies, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, even depression.

All these are even supported by the largest microbiome study to-date, the American Gut Project, which showed that those who consume at least 30 different plants a week (which means fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, beans, whole grains) have a more bacterially diverse gut than those who consume 10 different plants a week. The reason for this is that some of these foods are prebiotic (feeding good bacteria) and others probiotic (providing good bacteria), the combination of which helps us maintain a beneficial microbial balance. We understand that what we feed our gut microbiome is absolutely crucial. If you want to achieve the goal of 30 different plants/week, you may want to keep track by taking notes of the foods you eat

So, although it would be easier for me as a dietitian to suggest a can of beans with a roasted potato as a meal, so that you can have the time to prepare it and be happy, I want more for you and your health. I want to make your system thrive so that not only you can lose weight, but gain back your health, your well-being, your happiness! 

If you struggle with time, there are some tips that can help:

-Buy and use frozen fruits and vegetables
-Use your leftovers to make another simple meal from scratch
-Make notes of what you and plan ahead when you have the time (for example on weekends you can plan and maybe make some helpful preparations for the next days)
-Eat salads as a main course and don’t forget to add fruits or seeds or nuts according to taste and combination
-Add fresh herbs to your meal for extra taste, aroma and nutrients
-Eat nuts as a snack. Make sure you eat a variety of them
-Top you breakfast or snack with fruits, seeds or nuts
-Search for multi-grain whole-wheat products which contain added seeds and add up to your plant consumption –and texture!

Browse through www.feedyourimmunity.com/ and search for plenty health articles and creative plant-based recipes for a stronger immune system and a balanced gut microbiome, that will help you get your 30 plants a week!