Lack of Food Diversity in Britain’s Highly Processed Diets
Alongside a healthy lifestyle, a well-balanced and varied diet is the cornerstone to good health, and can provide all of the vitamins, minerals and fibre needed to keep our digestive system healthy, our gut microbes well fed and our immune system strong. But, with all the challenges and stresses of day-to-day life; the rise in popularity of nutrient poor processed foods and takeaways, loaded with saturated fat, sugars, salt, refined grains, preservatives and additives; ‘faddy’ calorie – restricted diets and the unnecessary avoidance of certain food groups – this isn’t always an easy thing to do.
Time To Get Out Of Our Food Rut And Expand Our Food Choices
The diversity of the average British diet is also too limited. We tend to eat the ‘same old, same old’ diet, which is not only depriving our body of some key immune-friendly nutrients like vitamin A, folate, iron, selenium and zinc, but it’s also starving our hungry gut microbes of their favourite plant-based foods. In short, our 21st century eating habits are doing our gut microbe community, digestion and immunity no favours!
Positive Diet And Lifestyle Steps To Help Restore Microbial Balance
The good news is that there are lots of simple, everyday diet and lifestyle changes we can take to help reset the balance of our gut microbiota. And, research shows that if we embrace positive changes to our eating and lifestyle habits, our inner gut health and microbe community will quickly benefit, and in turn, so too will our immune health!
What To Eat, Do and Side-Step To Improve Our Gut Microbiota And Support Our Immunity……
Go big on plant foods
This doesn’t mean you need to follow a vegetarian or an ‘in vogue’ vegan diet. Simply let fruit, veggies, peas, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices and starchy wholegrain carbohydrates take centre stage in your diet, as they’re brimming with fibre, prebiotics and plant chemicals called polyphenols that help keep your gut and microbes healthy. Challenge yourself to eat 30 or more different types of plant foods in a week!
Eat fibre rich foods
As well as keeping waste moving through the digestive tract, fibre is considered as a type of fertiliser for our gut microbes – giving them the food they need to flourish and work at their best. We should be eating 30 g of fibre a day but, on average, we are only managing 19 g! The easy solution is to gradually move over to the ‘dark’ side and swap out refined ‘white’ carbs for wholegrain or higher fibre varieties such as brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta and wholemeal bread, as well as enjoying more legumes and pulses, skin on fruit, vegetables and potatoes, and nuts and seeds, too.
Give fermented foods a try
Fermented foods have been part of traditional diets around the world, for centuries, mainly because the fermentation process helps to preserve food. They don’t just add different tastes and flavours to our diet, but some fermented foods contain live microbes, and higher amounts of B vitamins and vitamin C to support our immune system. Try different nationality’s recipes – European ‘live’ or ‘bio’ yogurts, French aged cheeses, Turkish Kefir, Russian Kombucha, Korean Kimchi, German Sauerkraut, Japanese Natto, Sweddish Surströmming and Ethiopian Injera, among many others.
Avoid severely calorie restricted ‘faddy’ diets
You may shed a few pounds in the short term, but its much better to lose weight gradually and ‘faddy’ quick fix diets are harsh on your gut health – a restricted diet starves off good gut microbes that need a steady, diverse and rich nutrient supply, and the irony is that some of these are associated with looking after our weight over the longer term.
Pack in more fruit and veg
Worryingly, only a third of adults meet the ‘5-A-Day’ recommendation. So look for ways to add more colourful, seasonal and unusual varieties of fruit and veggies to your diet as they’re loaded with gut healthy fibre, health giving plant chemicals and immune boosting vitamins such as vitamin C and A.
Moderate your alcohol intake
Make sure you stick to no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, as drinking too much alcohol can irritate the digestive system and can also cause an imbalance of our gut microbes.
Get adventurous in the kitchen
Our gut microbes do well on a wide array of different foods and nutrients, so variety in our diet is an absolutely must to help maintain the balance, integrity and diversity of our microbe community. So, getaway from the monotony of eating the same things, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, and broaden your food horizons. Cook from scratch whenever you can and attempt some new recipes with new ingredients.
With the sun finally shining, it’s still important to stay well hydrated – especially if you’re upping your fibre intake! Drinking enough water and fluid is essential for many important functions in the body, including helping our digestive system function well. We get some fluid from the foods we eat, but on top of this, it’s estimated women need around 1.6 litres of fluid and men around 2 litres a day. Water is the best choice as it’s calorie and sugar free, but tea and coffee also count towards our fluid intakes. Britain’s favourite brews are also rich in polyphenols, which may actually benefit some people – ‘with less caffeine sensitive guts’ – by acting as a prebiotic, and feeding our beneficial bacteria.
The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP, Pharmacist or other health professional if you’re struggling with gut symptoms or low immunity, you’re pregnant, on medication or you have a medical condition that means you’re immune suppressed and are on medication and wanting to boost your friendly gut microbe community with VSL#3.
Job Code: UK-VSL3-2000035
Date of prep: Feb 2020