We’re always told to eat our greens and get our 5 a day, but did you know that we should actually be trying to eat at least 30 different plant foods a week in order to achieve great gut health, immunity, and mood? When we talk about plant-based diversity we mean eating an array of plant foods- from vegetables to whole grains, nuts to fruits, seeds to legumes.
Each plant food contains its own mix of different types of fibre that feeds its own specific set of microbes in the gut. Each different type of fibre has different physiological properties, and having an array of these allows our microbes to grow and thrive, remaining diverse and plentiful, which is what keeps us in tip-top health and happiness.
We should be eating a diverse range because that’s how we get a diverse array of fibre. If we lived off broccoli then we’d only be getting specific amounts of certain fibre, and therefore only some of our microbes would be getting fed, and our microbiome would suffer for it.
Let’s talk about fibre, baby (let’s talk about you and me)
Plant foods are chocka with fibre, and the body loves and needs fibre. There are two different types of fibre- soluble and insoluble. Both are super important for health and digestion, but they each have different jobs to do in the body. Eating an array of plant foods means you’re getting lots of different fibre in your gut, which it’ll definitely thank you for.
Soluble fibre absorbs water during digestion which forms a gel. This gel helps to add lubrication to the stool and the digestive tract to help things move along smoothly. It has also been shown to help decrease glucose levels and cholesterol levels in the blood.
Soluble fibre is found in:
- Oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus, carrots, barley, black beans, sprouts, avocado, broccoli, sweet potatoes.
Insoluble fibre isn’t digested and remains unchanged during digestion. It helps to bulk up stools and attracts water into stool, making it easier to pass and helps to prevent constipation.
Insoluble fibre is found in:
- Whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables.
When it comes to getting your fibre in, you may be tempted to think ‘Heck, I don’t have time for all these plant foods, I’m going to take a fibre supplement instead’. And sure, this may seem like a great idea at first- easier, quicker… But no, sadly this alone will not do.
When you take a fibre supplement, it usually only contains one type of fibre. This means that in your plight to get your fibre in, you’re not getting the array you really need for a fabulously healthy gut.
Not only this, but you also won’t be getting all the amazing vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals you would get from eating an array of plant foods. So no, don’t forsake plant foods for a quick supplement. It’s just not the same. Take a fibre supplement if you find yourself lacking in your plant foods on certain days, but don’t use it as an alternative.
And when we say plant foods, we mean an array of them, not just one or two. If you just eat one type of plant food each day- like broccoli, you’re only going to be getting specific types of vitamins and fibres that that specific food gives. You really need to be eating an array to reap the best rewards.
At Balance Box, we know just how important eating an array of plant foods is, and that’s why we always include at least 10 plant foods in our menus each day. We care about your gut, we really do. Our Plant-Based Box, in particular, focuses on all the fantastic benefits that plant-based eating brings, and aims to fill you with all sorts of healthy and gut-loving plant foods without a speck of meat or dairy. You’re welcome.
On to the biotics: Pre, Pro, and Post
Prebiotics and Probiotics are vital for gut and overall health, and they are often found in abundance in plant foods.
Prebiotics are types of indigestible plant fibre that help the body by feeding the beneficial gut bacteria and making them grow, multiply, and thrive. When this happens, our gut bacteria is much better at digesting our food into fuel for the body. All prebiotics are fibre, but not all fibre is considered to be prebiotic, hence why we need to eat an array of plant foods in order to get enough prebiotics. Prebiotics help to offer better digestive health and support a healthy gut, which has positive knock-on effects on our entire body’s health.
Prebiotics are found in:
- Garlic, leafy greens, oats, berries, asparagus, bananas, onions, apples, barley, leeks.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that when consumed, can have beneficial effects on the gut. Ensuring we have the right balance of good vs bad bacteria is essential for optimising gut health. Making sure we consume more of the good bacteria that feed our beneficial bacteria, and reduce the consumption of processed foods and sugars which feed the bad bacteria, is key for great overall health.
Prebiotics are found in:
- Pickles, sourdough, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, fermented foods.
Postbiotics are the by-products of the fermentation process that happens in the gut when probiotics munch away on prebiotics, otherwise known as Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs).
Short-chain fatty acids (what a mouthful).
As we mentioned above, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are the end-products of bacterial fermentation in the gut and intestines. SCFAs are the main player in gut health, and do a huge amount of good in your gut, including keeping the intestinal barrier strong, producing mucous, and protecting against inflammation that can lead to cancer. Their effects aren’t just limited to the gut, though. SCFAs can help to keep us regular, lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar levels, and are associated with lower body weight.
The best way to get Short-chain fatty acids is to increase your dietary fibre intake, and the best way to do this is by increasing your plant-based diversity and trying to eat at least 30 different plant foods per week. This includes whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Eating a diverse range of plants = Getting a range of different beneficial fibre in the gut.
Diverse fibre in the gut = A higher and more diverse growth of healthy bacteria.
More bacteria = A healthy microbiome.
A healthy microbiome = A higher amount of SCFAs being produced.
More SCFAs = BETTER HEALTH!
The health of the bacteria in our gut- our microbiome, is the key to a healthy body and mind, and to achieve a healthy microbiome we need to be eating a range of plant-based foods each day to up our fibre intake. Sorry, we must sound like a broken record, but we just really care about fibre, ok?
How do you increase plant- based diversity?
So really, when all is said and done, it’s all about that fibre, and the best way to get fibre is through eating a range of plant foods. If the idea of getting in a broad diversity of plant foods feels scary, if not terrifying, then you’re in luck! Balance Box always aims to offer a minimum of 10 plant foods each day to keep you on track for a healthy gut and thriving microbiome. Browse our menus now to find the best fit for you and your gut!
Still concerned about your gut health? Read our blog on our top tips for gut health!