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Microbiata: food diversity is good

The community of microbes that live together in our gut is a complex ecosystem collectively known as the microbiota.

Knowledge about the gut’s microbiota composition and its relationship to health has grown over the past few decades as a result of advances in technology. Scientists are studying not only what microbes are found in the gut, but also their collective genes (the microbiome) to understand their role in human health.

An individual’s intestinal tract holds hundreds of types of microbes, and some 10 million genes are estimated to be associated with different microbial species.

Since diversity in bacteria appears to be associated with better health, a variety of plant-based foods—not just orange juice with breakfast and a banana as a snack, but encompassing any of the dozens of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts from around the world—is the best course of action.

A recent article published by the BBC suggests at least 30 different plant-based foods each week for optimal gut health.

Scientists have also found that diet has the most significant effect on the composition and classification of microbes in the gut.

Short-term changes can dramatically alter the composition and function of the microbiota in as little as one to two days—but only temporarily. Major compositional features and overall classification of microbiota do not change.

“Think of running,” said Bridget Wojciak, a registered dietitian with Kroger Health. “While going on one run is better than no exercise at all, it does not produce the same results as many runs while training for a marathon.”

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.