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Can a plant-based diet help your gut health?


A plant-based diet is primarily composed of plants. This diet is full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. The fiber found in a plant-based diet feeds your good bacteria, thereby improving your gut health. Not only does healthy gut health affect your physical health, but it also affects your mental health.

A diet full of plant foods is essential for your gut health because it's full of fibers (non-digestible plant carbohydrates) and polyphenols (abundant in plant foods). Fiber helps in increasing lactic acid bacteria, while polyphenols have anti-inflammatory, anti-pathogenic, and cardiovascular protection. All these properties in a plant-based diet are great for promoting an excellent ecosystem to support a suitable environment for the growth of good gut bacteria promoting good gut health.

What is a healthy gut?

Your gut contains all types of bacteria. Some are good, and others are bad. The balance between these two bacterias is key. The kind of diet you follow primarily determines which bacteria thrives in your gut. It is easy to ensure you feed the good bacteria and starve the harmful bacteria.

The bacteria found in your gut are also known as microbiomes. If put together, these microbes could weigh up to two kilograms. Everyone has a different microbiome combination depending on age, diet, environment, among other reasons. The composition of your gut microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint.

Since your diet determines the composition of your gut bacteria, those that consume meat, especially red meat, have the most harmful bacteria in their guts. Diets with little meat and dairy products like vegetarian and pescatarians have a better balance in gut bacteria. Those, especially on vegan diets, have the most beneficial bacteria. The higher the number of harmful bacteria in the gut, the higher the risk of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.

Importance of a healthy gut

  1. Regulate mood: Diets rich in refined sugar, high fats, and red meat result in gut dysbiosis, which isn't good for your mental health. On the other hand, research proves that a plant-based diet like a Mediterranean diet may have antidepressant properties leading to a better mood.

  2. Controls blood sugar and weight: Blood sugar plays a significant role in providing energy and nutritional support to your nervous system, organs, and muscles. Studies have found that vegans have higher insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels and have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

  3. Decreases inflammation and pain: Since a vegan diet is full of antioxidants, probiotics, and fiber content, research proves that this could be the reason it helps improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and decrease pain. A vegan diet helps eliminate trigger foods leading to a healthy gut, reducing pain and inflammation.

What to eat for optimal gut health

These are plant-based foods that could highly improve your gut health.

Fiber

Food that is high in fiber is excellent as it feeds good gut bacteria. You can find the best kind of fiber in real food, including vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains. Fiber helps in producing lactic acid bacteria, which is good bacteria keeping your gut healthy.

A lot of water

Hydration is as good for your general health as it is for your gut health. Water is also great as it will help keep your skin clear, improve your energy levels, adjust your blood pressure, and other many benefits.

Minimal amounts of zinc

Zinc is crucial for your body's immunity system. Even though it is good for your health, too much zinc can be dangerous as it is bad for your gut bacteria. Excess zinc in your gut increases the severity of clostridiodes difficile infection.

Avoid refined sugar

Processed sugar promotes inflammation and decreases the number of good bacteria in your gut. When you lose your good bacteria, it will most likely result in gut illnesses. Sugar is very addictive, and once you have started consuming it, it gets hard to stop. If you have a sweet tooth, switching refined sugars for natural sweeteners is much better.

Plant-based probiotics

Fermented foods have live bacteria, which improve both your gut health and general health. Before you move to dairy, you should know real great foods that could provide you with these probiotics. They include; miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and some brands of plant-based yogurt.

Limit fats

Limit foods that contain high quantities of fats, especially animal fats like; red meat, fried foods, and high-fat dairy. Generally, when following a plant-based diet, one consumes few amounts of fat as the diet contains minor quantities.

Plant-based proteins

Consuming plant proteins is excellent for your gut health. Plant proteins decrease insulin resistance and lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease compared to animal proteins. The effect of plant-based proteins on cardiovascular disease risk is the production of compounds like short-chain fatty acid by your gut microbiota when breaking down dietary fiber.

Conclusion

Gut health is just as important as any other bodily health, if not more. A plant-based diet is the best way to take care of your gut and ensure you have a healthy mind and body.

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Written By: Catherine Kakenya

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