Which Diet Is Best for Optimal Gut Health?
There are so many options to choose from, but there is one style of eating that stands out from the pack.
Many popular dietary styles exist today—you have likely heard much buzz about the Mediterranean, paleo, and keto diets, for example—so how are you supposed to determine which one is best for your gut? It's a tricky question, and it's also one that has a broad answer. "There is literature to support positive impacts on the gut microbiome in particular settings with a variety of eating styles," explains Dr. Marvin Singh, an integrative gastroenterologist and the founder of Precisione Clinic. "Largely, the benefits may be a result of including a variety of different plant foods in the diet."
While more research is needed, says Dr. Singh, to fully understand how different diets impact gut health, one thing seems clear: Eating plenty of colorful vegetables and fruits has the most benefits for your gut and beyond. "These benefits might include weight loss, increased energy, reduced cardiovascular risk, enhanced mood, reduced inflammation, and many others," he says.
A diverse, varied diet is key.
Eating a broad variety of foods, and, specifically, a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables, will "better diversify your gut microbiome," explains Dr. Singh. It's widely accepted, he says, that a diverse gut microbiome is a key element to optimal health and wellness, which makes this diet a clear winner for most.
Start with a few key dietary changes.
If you're hoping to change your diet and increase your gut health, Dr. Singh suggests starting with a varied palette. "Avoid monotony. Focus on organic and non-GMO foods and definitely avoid processed ones," he explains, noting that these small changes can add up over time. "Additionally, it is important to avoid excessive amounts of saturated fat and to try to get your fat sources from mono- and poly-unsaturated sources." Another pro tip? Heed Dr. Singh's clinic's mantra: "Fiber is good, sugar is bad." It sounds simple, but rings particularly true in the name of gut health, since fiber feeds gut microbes that encourage good bacteria and banish the bad.
Avoid these common pitfalls.
The biggest mistake Dr. Singh sees patients make? They follow popular, buzzy eating styles. "The gut microbiome doesn't follow fads or trends," he explains. "Often, those eating plans are not sustainable for the long haul." We want to eat in a flexible, sustainable way, he explains—but we should also be able to enjoy life and optimize our bodies at the same time. Even still, he points out, everyone is different—what works for one person might not work for another. "What we eat is a very personal matter. It is so personal, that it is specific to the level of the individual microbes," he says. "Different microbes grow and flourish when they are fed different kinds of foods. We want to eat microbiome accessible carbohydrates, including plant foods that our microbes prefer to digest and process."