Hit 30 Plants a Week For the Win

Written by Clare Carrick ANutr BHSc (Nutrition and Health Promotion)

Scientifically reviewed by Dr Fathalla Ali, PHD Paediatrics

17/07/2022

‘Gut healing’… ‘Gut-friendly’…. ‘Gut Love’…

 

A quick scan of our supermarket shelves shows that even our Big Food companies have cottoned on to just how important our gut health is for our overall health. And, they’ve got that part right…looking after our gut is super important…but, how do we actually go about creating our own ‘healthy gut’? And, why is it important to have a healthy gut going into our baby-making years?

 

A Healthy Gut for Healthy Pregnancies and Healthy Babies

Making some changes to help support our gut health can be particularly important around the time we start planning babies. The trillions of tiny bacteria in our guts play a major role in our reproductive endocrine system by communicating with oestrogens, androgens, insulin, and other hormones (1). An imbalance, or dysbiosis, in the gut microbiome has been associated with pregnancy complications, polycystic ovary syndrome, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and endometriosis (1) Your gut microbiome composition prior to, and during, pregnancy and birth, will also help shape your baby’s future microbiome development and health (2). So, by getting your gut ‘balanced’, you’re supporting not only your own health, but you’re also giving your bub a better chance of a healthy life themselves (2)!

 

GOAL: A Rich and Diverse Gut

Whilst there isn’t one ‘perfect’ gut microbiome composition, there are general characteristics that seem to be fairly consistent across healthy people. A rich and diverse gut bug community leads to a well-balanced, stable gut microbiome, and this has been a common thread amongst what can be quite different gut microbiome compositions in healthy people (3). 

 

How does one get a rich and diverse diet, you might ask? Contrary to what you might read online, it doesn’t come down to daily bone broth or collagen supplements! In fact, the answer is surprisingly simple…it’s all in the plants (4)!

 

So I need to become vegan?!

Not at all! Being plant-focused does not mean you have to exclude animal products from your diet! In fact, labels like ‘vegan’ or ‘omnivore’ seem to be less predictive of a rich and diverse gut microbiome than focusing on including as many different plants in your diet as possible (4). This makes sense if you think about the fact that you can be ‘vegan’, but eat only vegan pizza, cookies, or burgers…with barely a vegetable or fruit in sight! 

 

Tips for Increasing Plant Diversity

Diet culture may have you all focused on what you need to cut out of your diet, but, as far as gut health goes, it can really pay to think about what you can add in! Studies have shown that people who eat 30 or more plant foods per week have a richer and more diverse gut microbiome (4). This is most likely because of the resulting increased variety of dietary fibres and resistant starches (4).

 

Hitting Your 30

Thirty different plant foods a week may seem like a lot, but don’t forget that this includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even herbs and spices! Try these tips to increase the diversity of your diet…



Instead of this…

Try this…

Buying a bag of baby spinach leaves for salads…

Buying a bag of mixed salad leaves.

Snacking on a handful of almonds…

Snacking on a mix of almonds, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, macadamias etc…

Eating your store-bought muesli as is…

Adding a handful of mixed seeds (e.g. sunflower, chia, pumpkin, hemp) to your muesli.

Always serving your dinner with brown rice…

Mixing it up with a combination of brown, black, and red rice…or quinoa, barley and freeman!

Adding a tin of black beans to your soups or stews…

Adding a Five bean mix to your soups or stews.

A strawberry smoothie…

A mixed berry smoothie.

Adding salt and pepper to your meals for flavour…

Adding a bunch of different herbs and spices to your meals for flavour…




Preparation is the Key…

Focusing on making some of these simple changes can positively impact the composition of your gut microbiome, creating more richness and diversity (3, 4). If you are planning on having a baby any time in the future, increasing your plant diversity to support your gut microbiome prior to pregnancy is not only going to be benefiting you and your own gut health, but also your baby’s gut microbiome development and future health outcomes (2)!

References

  1. Qi X, Yun C, Pang Y, Qiao J. The impact of the gut microbiota on the reproductive and metabolic endocrine system. Gut Microbes. 2021 Jan 1;13(1):1894070. 
  2. Moholdt T, Hawley JA. Maternal lifestyle interventions: targeting preconception health. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2020 Aug 1;31(8):561-9. 
  3. Rinninella E, Cintoni M, Raoul P, Lopetuso LR, Scaldaferri F, Pulcini G, Miggiano GA, Gasbarrini A, Mele MC. Food components and dietary habits: keys for a healthy gut microbiota composition. Nutrients. 2019 Oct;11(10):2393. 
  4. McDonald D, Hyde E, Debelius JW, Morton JT, Gonzalez A, Ackermann G, Aksenov AA, Behsaz B, Brennan C, Chen Y, DeRight Goldasich L. American gut: an open platform for citizen science microbiome research. Msystems. 2018 May 15;3(3):e00031-18. 

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