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How Many Plants Makes a Healthy Gut?

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Gut health really seems to be the major topic of the day right now, with a lot of focus on how the composition of bacteria in our guts influences health, from mood to digestion. It is important to stress that its early doors with this area of research, and it is ripe for nutrition fads; we’ll be here to point them out so you can avoid them, as we see them.

But what do we know already that you can do to improve your gut health? And what does ‘gut health’ even mean?

First off, what it means is that you have an abundance of particular species of bacteria that we know positively influence health. These bacteria are groups that specialise in breaking down fibre, which is the part of plant foods that we humans don’t have the right digestive enzymes to break down. So these bacteria live in our gut and do it for us! When they break down these fibres, they produce these compounds, known as short-chain fatty acids, which we can use for a range of beneficial effects in our intestines. 

As we eat more fibre, different species are able to specialise in different types of fibre; for example, certain fibre in oats is different to fibre in bananas. So a ‘healthy gut’ is one which has not only an abundance of beneficial bacteria, but diversity in the types of species that are there. 

Right, how to get there? A cool recent study looked at the diversity of bacteria in the gut related to types of food intake. What it found was that people who consumed 30 different plant foods weekly had the most diversity and abundance of beneficial gut bacteria. Now, 30 seems like a lot. But think about it, it includes things like nuts, seeds, not just your leafy greens and broccoli! If you factor in different legumes, different squashes and potatoes, different fruits, different nuts and seeds, and of course different non-starchy, green leafy veg and other veg [peppers, tomatoes, etc.], it’s actually not that intimidating a threshold.

Maybe make a bit of a game of this, and think about all the ways you can hit that threshold of 30 different plant foods per week. The bacteria in your gut will thank you.

As always, stay fit and stay healthy!
Team Bua Fit 👊