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CHARACTERISTIC In the last few years, “microbiota” has become a keyword in health measurement. It refers to most bacteria that reside in the intestines, colon or large intestine. Specialists call this the core of your health.
If you have an unhealthy balance of bacteria in your gut, your likelihood of having poor health increases dramatically. Among the elderly there are clear correlations not only between diet and microbial composition, but also health status.
There are 300-500 different strains of bacteria residing in a healthy gut and trillions of individual bacterial cells. The best way to feed these cells is to feed them a variety of plants to help them grow. Research shows that people who eat more than 30 different types of plants each week have the healthiest and most diverse microbiome.
To help support the goal of eating 30+ plants a week, I recommend starting with your environment. Consider what types and varieties of plants are in your kitchen, refrigerator, office, lunchbox, or pantry. If you can increase the plants in your environment, you are more likely to eat them.
Next, consider buying plants to fill any gaps you see in your environment. Consider these food groups as a guide: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and whole grains. Focusing on eating the whole food and not a processed version is key to feeding those microbes, because processing often removes the fibrous parts of these plants that travel to the large intestine as fuel for the microbes.
Here are some examples:
Vegetables: Try eating a salad with a blend of greens such as spinach, leafy red lettuce, collard greens and collard greens. Top it with carrots, peppers, cucumbers, olives and radishes. You could also have sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli or spaghetti squash for dinner. 12 plants have now been added to the list.
Fruit: Select two fruits that you don’t eat very often and add them to your shopping list. Remember, you are looking for diversity here. Add some fruits that are easy to pack for lunch, such as sliced apples, grapes and tangerines. You just added five more plants to your list.
Nuts and seeds: Snack on almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts between meals. Add chia seeds or sunflower seeds to your morning oatmeal or side salad later in the day. There are six more. Go on.
Whole grains: It has already been said to eat oatmeal for breakfast with seeds. You could also try a brown rice base for a stir-fry meal. Whole grain pasta, bread, and tortilla chips all count as one type of plant. Perhaps you could try steamed quinoa as a side, or mix it into a meal you already enjoy for a total of four grains.
Beans and lentils: Start with black beans and red beans, both commonly used in salads. They are also good with chili peppers. Chickpeas can be made into hummus and eaten with sliced greens or used as a sandwich spread in place of mayonnaise. Red lentil paste is easily available; serve it simply with a drizzle of olive oil and herb dressing. You just brought your plant total to 31.
As you begin your journey to add more plants, don’t forget to switch things up. Try a new variety of apple or a less frequently eaten vegetable. Be sure to drink plenty of water as you increase the amount and serving sizes of these plants. Listen to your body and feel the difference these habits can make to your sense of well-being.
For a list of plants to track your progress in any given week, check out my blog at AnneliesNewmanRDN.com.
Written by ANNELIES NEWMAN, RDN, CD.
This article was originally published in May/June 2023 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.
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