The Best Foods to Feed Your Gut Microbiome

Every time you eat, you are feeding the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live inside your gut. But are you feeding them the right food?

Scientists knew little about these communities of microbes that collectively make up the gut microbiota, also known as your gut microbiome. But a growing body of research shows that these vast communities of microbes are the gateway to your health and wellness—and one of the simplest and most powerful ways to shape and nurture them is through your diet.

studies show That our gut microbes convert the foods we eat into thousands of enzymes, hormones, vitamins and other metabolites that affect everything in your body. mental health And immune system according to your chances gaining weight and the development of chronic diseases.

Gut bacteria can also affect your mental state by producing mood-altering neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which regulates pleasure, learning, and motivation, and serotonin, which plays a role in pleasure, appetite, and sexual desire. some recent studies suggest That the composition of your gut microbiome may play a role in your sleep as well.

But the wrong mix of microbes can churn out chemicals that flood your bloodstream and making a plaque in your coronary arteries. The hormones they produce can affect your appetite, blood sugar levels, inflammation, and your risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The foods you eat — your environment and your lifestyle behaviors — play a much bigger role in shaping your gut microbiome than genetics. In fact, genes have a surprisingly small effect. studies show that identical twins also share only a third of the same gut microbes.

Your ‘good’ germs feast on fiber and variety

In general, scientists have found that the more varied your diet, the more varied your diet. gut microbiome, Studies show that high levels of microbiome diversity are related to good health and low diversity is associated with higher rates of weight gain and obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic diseases.

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and founder of the British Gut Project, said a wide variety of fiber-rich plants and nutrient-rich foods seem to be particularly beneficial. Microorganisms.

Even if you already eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, Spector recommends increasing the variety of plant foods you eat each week. A faster way to do this is to start using more herbs and spices. You can use different types of leafy greens for your salads instead of one type of lettuce. Including a variety of fruits in your breakfast, adding many different vegetables to your stir fry and eating more nuts, seeds, beans and grains are all good for your microbiome.

These plant foods contain soluble fiber that is largely unaffected by your gastrointestinal tract until it reaches the large intestine. There, gut microbes feast on it, metabolizing fiber and converting it into beneficial compounds such as short chain fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and to help control your appetite And blood sugar Level.

In one study, scientists followed more than 1,600 people for nearly a decade. They found that those who had the highest levels of Microbial diversity High levels of fiber were also consumed. And they also gained less weight in a 10-year study published in the International Journal of Obesity.

Clusters of ‘bad’ microbes thrive on junk food

Another important measure of gut health is the ratio of beneficial microbes to a person’s potentially harmful microbes. In a study of 1,1oo people published last year in the United States and Britain nature medicine, Spector and a team of scientists from Harvard, Stanford and other universities identified clusters of “good” gut microbes that protected people from heart disease, obesity and diabetes. They also identified clusters of “bad” microbes that promote inflammation, heart disease and poor metabolic health.

While it’s clear that eating lots of fiber is good for your microbiome, research shows that eating the wrong foods can throw off the balance in your gut in favor of disease-promoting microbes.

The Nature study found that “bad” germs were more common in people who ate a lot of processed foods that are low in fiber and high in additives such as sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients. This includes soft drinks, white bread and white pasta, processed meats, and packaged snacks such as cookies, candy bars, and potato chips.

conclusion . were based on an ongoing project called Zoe Predict Study, the largest personalized nutrition study in the world. It’s led by a health science company called Spector and his colleagues called Zoe, which allows consumers to analyze their microbiome for a fee.

Add more spices, nuts, plants and fermented foods to your diet

Once you start increasing the variety of plant foods you eat every day, set a goal to try to eat 30 different plant foods A week, Spector says. It may sound like a lot, but you’re probably already eating a lot of these foods already.

The sample menu shows how you can easily eat 30 different plant foods in just three meals during the week.

  • On day one, start your morning with a bowl of plain yogurt topped with sliced ​​bananas and strawberries, a pinch of cinnamon powder and a handful of mixed nuts (including almonds, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and peanuts). Food Matching: 8 Plant Foods
  • On another day, eat a leafy salad with at least two mixed greens, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and peppers. Add Herbs de Provence, a seasoning that usually contains six herbs, to grilled chicken or fish. Food Matching: 12 Plant Foods
  • Later in the week, eat chicken with pesto (it contains basil, pine nuts and garlic) and a bowl of brown rice with onions and kidney beans and enjoy stir-fried vegetables with green and yellow squash, mushrooms and shallots. Take it Food Matching: 10 Plant Foods

Another way to nourish your gut microbiota is by eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. The microbes in fermented foods, known as probiotics, produce vitamins, hormones, and other nutrients. When you consume them, they can increase your gut microbiome diversity and boost your immune health, said Maria Marco, a professor of food science and technology who studies microbes and gut health at the University of California, Davis. studies.

In a study published last year journal cellStanford researchers found that when they assigned people to eat fermented foods every day over a 10-week period, it increased their gut microbial diversity and reduced levels of inflammation.

“We are rapidly developing a very rich understanding of why microbes are so good for us,” Marko said.

Do you have any questions for Anahad about healthy eating? E-mail eatinglab@washpost.com And we can answer your question in a future column.

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