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Improve your gut health and age gracefully with this simple diet

05/08/2021

You’ve probably heard that the Mediterranean diet is quite possibly the best way to eat for its countless health benefits. Recent research is showing us it could improve our gut microbiome.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

Mediterranean traditions and cooking methods have shown great health benefits for people living in those regions, which has led scientists to study this way of eating and discover it may be the healthiest diet! It is a plant-focused diet, filled with lots of fruits and vegetables as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans as well as whole grains. The diet includes a healthy amount of fish and lean protein like chicken, with red meat being consumed in small amounts. It also contains lots of healthy fats, mainly from olive oil as well as some low-fat dairy such as milk and yogurt.

What links do we have with the Mediterranean diet and gut health?

A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has given us strong scientific evidence that the Mediterranean Diet can help us age better because it improves the gut microbiome (1).

The participants of the study followed the ‘MedDiet’ for 12 months, and saw great changes to their gut microbiome! The increased quantity of good bacteria found in the participants’ GI tract was linked to lower frailty and better cognitive function. The researchers also found that the change in bacteria was associated with lower inflammation markers in the body!

So how does a simple diet like the MedDiet make all these positive changes? The extra fibre from beans and nuts as well as lots of fruits and vegetables make our gut bacteria healthier and even increase in quantity. The researchers of this study also believe the positive changes seen from this intervention could be from fatty acids coming from the omega 3 fats in! Some of us need more fibre than others to control our blood glucose levels to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Those who carry the GT or TT variant of the TCF7L2 gene (which is 1 in 2 of us) need to eat mostly whole grains to reduce their risk (2)!

Gut health has recently been linked to almost all aspects of our health and wellbeing including mental health, immunity, and heart health. It is such an exciting field that is advancing so quickly but remember we do not need microbiome tests right now… maybe in 10 years when science catches up!

How to eat according to the Mediterranean diet

Eat more:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Herbs/spices
  • Fish/seafood
  • Extra virgin olive oil.

Eat in moderation:

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Low-fat dairy

Reduce:

  • Red meat

Avoid:

  • Processed meats
  • Added sugar foods (sugar-sweetened beverages, confectionery)
  • Refined grains

References

(1)     Ghosh TS, Rampelli S, Jeffery IB, et alMediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countriesGut 2020;69:1218-1228.

(2)     Cornelis MC et al. TCF7L2, dietary carbohydrate, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;89:1256-62.

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