6 Tips to Improve Gut Health on a Vegan Diet
There are roughly 40 trillion bacteria in your body, most of which are found in your gut. They are known as gut microbiomes and most of them are beneficial for overall health. They promote a healthy digestive tract, along with bowel movements, immune system, metabolism and hormones that help with appetite regulation. However, many factors, including the foods you eat, can impact these microbes found in your digestive tract.
Diet matters greatly here. Depending on what you eat, your gut bacteria will differ substantially. Vegans tend to have the most beneficial bacteria as they are more likely to eat a diet higher in fibre and a more plant-diverse diet. However, while following a vegan diet can be a great way to achieve a diverse microbiome, there are other factors to consider to be able to have a healthy gut. Here are 6 science-based ways to improve gut health with a vegan diet.
1. Fill up on fibre
High fiber foods feed the good bacteria in your gut! Eating enough fibre also helps to keep our bowels regular, prevents blood sugar levels from spiking, slows our digestion and lowers cholesterol by binding to it and excreting it from the gut. The WHO recommends a daily dietary fibre intake of 30g regardless of gender. However, on average Singaporeans only eat 13g of fibre a day. Stock up on fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, and whole grains.
2. Add variety to your meals
Each plant food has its own mix of different types of fibre that feeds its own unique set of microbes housed in the gut. Each of the microbes has its own food preference. The American Gut Project found that people who consumed more than 30 different plants per week had much more diverse gut microbiomes. Those who reported eating more than 30 types of plants per week had a decreased likelihood of antibiotic resistance. A good rule of thumb is aiming for 30 different plant foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, across the week.
3.Eat prebiotic foods
Prebiotics are foods that enhance the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. They are mainly fibre or complex carbs that human cells cannot digest. Instead, certain species of gut bacteria feed on them. Research has shown that prebiotics may help probiotics become more tolerant to certain environmental conditions, including temperature and pH changes. People who want to enhance their gut health should eat more prebiotic-rich foods, such as asparagus, soybean, bananas, cashews, almonds and whole grain.
4. Eat fermented foods
Many fermented foods contain natural probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that help to populate our guts and establish a better ratio of good to bad bacteria. Fermented foods can also benefit the microbiome by improving its function and reducing disease-causing bacteria in the intestines. Some examples of fermented foods are miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh.
5. Be mindful of stress
Chronic high levels of stress are hard on your whole body, including your gut. Studies have suggested that psychological stressors can disrupt the microorganisms in the intestine. Some ways to reduce stress may include meditation, walking, spending time with friends or family, diffusing essential oils, yoga, or having a pet.
6. Limit sugar and artificial sweeteners
Some studies suggest that eating a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners have a negative effect on the microbiome and may cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes. For gut health, it may be best to limit sugar and artificial sweeteners altogether.
Maintaining a healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, brain health, heart health, improved mood, effective digestion and healthy sleep. It may even prevent some autoimmune diseases and cancers. By making appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes, you can change the number of microbes and microbial diversity in the gut for the better. The microbiome will not change overnight, but a healthy diet can bring a noticeable difference within weeks.