Importance of Produce Diversity & Gut Health

Written by Stacey Hatfield @naturalspoonfuls

Gut health may seem like a trendy topic, but the scientific studies that continue to be released really does support the hype! Gut health in a nutshell is supported by produce diversity and the power of these plant foods.

What is gut health?

 

Gut health refers to the gut microbiome which consists of bacteria located in the digestive tract. It is extremely important to the body’s overall functioning and wellbeing. Science has only just scratched the surface of this fascinating subject, but it is believed there are more than 1000 types of bacteria. The gut microbiome is often referred to as “gut flora”, this provides a visual representation of a flourishing garden. However, this gut flora can also be struggling due to many factors such as poor nutrient diversity, poor diet, stress, illness, medication, environmental exposures and more. 

What is the importance of a healthy gut?
The gut
microbiome has proved to be imperative to our health. Research suggests it has strong
connections to many parts of the body. Some of the key links are immunity,
glucose regulation, fat storage, appetite, hormone production, digestion and
even mental health!

How does produce diversity affect our gut?

Produce diversity is key to a thriving gut, this is due to the
nutrients and beneficial bacteria that the body receives through plants. In
particular the antioxidants, polyphenols and fibre being key. These can be
accessed through vegetables, fruits, legumes and wholegrains.

Diversity is key as our gut flora thrives when exposed to a
range of foods.  The general rule of
thumb is to aim for at least 30 different types of plant food per week. This is
why it is important to mix it up whilst doing your shopping. An effective way
to achieve this is by eating seasonal food which supports nutrients
requirements throughout the year. Seasonal eating is also a cost-effective
approach.

Building your plate around plants promotes diversity in
nutrients. It is also important to “eat the rainbow” as each plant has a unique
benefit according to its pigment.

 

Plant foods as I mentioned are packed with polyphenols, these are
phytonutrients which are essentially antioxidants. They maintain cells, combat
stress and yes positively impact the gut microbiome. This is all due to their powerful
anti-inflammatory nature. 

What are prebiotics and probiotics?

Prebiotics and probiotics are often confused but they both play very different roles within the body. Probiotics consist of beneficial bacteria for the gut. Whereas prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria within the gut allowing the bacteria to flourish. The easiest way to get these into your diet it through food.

Probiotics sources consist of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kefir and kombucha. These should be taken in small amounts to allow the gut to build up a tolerance.
Prebiotics can be sourced through produce like onions, garlic, asparagus, artichoke, leek, banana, chicory root, flaxseeds and oats.

Produce diversity is essential for a thriving gut microbiome. We have established the importance of our gut on our overall health, so it is very important to give it some love and attention. Our gut bugs thrive off nutrient diversity and a varied diet is the best approach to achieve this.