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  • Writer's pictureMaria Tinoco

Diversity – A Key variable To Gut Health

Hippocrates, more than 2000 years ago, claimed that 'all disease begins in the gut.' Though may actually not be entirely accurate, gut health indeed impacts the overall wellbeing.

Being this way, What do we have to do to improve our gut health and, in turn, our wellbeing?

The formula is quite simple: A (Good, diverse nutrition)+ B (Less stress)+ C (Good sleep) + D (adequate movement)= Good health.

The problem is that even though we think we have an adequate diet, in general, we do not have a diverse microbial community. We only think of stress as emotional, not considering physical or chemical stress. We believe sleeping well is sleeping 8 hours not how restful sleep was and we are spending increasing amounts of time in environments that limit physical activity and require prolonged sitting.

Let's start with the first part of the formula. A (good, diverse nutrition).

Going back to my childhood, I remember eating the right amount of protein and fats, but few and almost always the same variety of vegetables and fruits. Corn, carrots, potatoes, beets, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, sweet potatoes, other tubers, cabbage, and plantain were the staple. Very few leafy greens, cruciferous, and different varieties of vegetables.

In 2013 after my breast cancer diagnosis, I changed many aspects of my diet. I started including a variety of fruits and vegetables. I realized that it is not about a processed vs. whole food diet; it is about how diverse our menu is. It can also be problematic for the health of our gut microbes and overall health if it is not diverse enough. Our food consumption is no more than 15 different foods in a week, which can't be considered a variety, even if we hit all the food groups.

Some people choose to eliminate food groups such as grains and legumes – this is removing a substantial variety of foods that will feed many beneficial bacterial species. Again, vegetables and fruits represent foods that will sustain a lot of different gut microbial species. We need to be more adventurous and try to eat different foods, and we need to eat different varieties of the same food.

Our ancestors ate a greater variety of foods than we eat today. They grew different types of the same food, which was good for the soil, and increase the nutrients available to them in their diet. Agriculture today works differently. Farmers tend to grow a few crops, and hardly they produce more than one variety of the same plant. Different from traditional farming practice. We are missing a lot. However, we can hunt for different variations to the vegetables we are used to eating.

We can start building a healthier gut by eating different foods. When going for groceries, buy three foods that either you do not eat regularly or are new.

A tip to diversify:

  • Buy yellow instead of red beets.

  • Choose purple instead of white cabbage, for example.

  • Buy from local farmers; they usually grow a variety of crops.

  • Visit ethnic stores and look for new grains and legumes.

  • Go to ethnic restaurants – this way; someone else can prepare the foods for you.

Think of the fun and adventure you can have – you and your microbes will be happier


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