Why a Plant-Based Diet Is Good for Gut Health

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plant-based diet

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Is being a vegan the key to good health? According to statistics, 39% of people in India think so, and already follow a plant-based diet. And, thanks to innovative new studies, we’re starting to understand why.

Thanks to this research, we now know that a plant-based diet can create a more diverse microbiome in as little as four months.


Why Is Diversity Important for the Gut?

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Several species of bacteria live in our digestive tracts. In the correct balance, they help keep us healthy. They balance hormones, provide immune support, regulate appetite, and boost metabolism.

If we all follow a natural diet packed with whole foods, the system works perfectly. Many of us, however, adopt a more Westernized style of eating.

We consume junk food with little fiber and nutrition instead of fruit and vegetables. We couple that with plenty of red meat and dairy. These foods provide more than enough nutrients for unhealthy bacteria in the gut.

The healthy bacteria, on the other hand, starve. The high-carb and protein diet doesn’t provide enough phytonutrients or fiber to sustain them. The unhealthy bacteria increase at the expense of the good guys, and the gut microbiota is suddenly out of whack.

This, in turn, affects several critical systems in the body. Your blood sugar, hormones, and immunity all become less regulated. You’re more prone to developing an illness, gaining weight, and feeling out of sorts.


What Should We Eat?

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The researchers in the study suggested dividing your plate into thirds. In each section, place:

1. Lean Protein

Quinoa, chickpeas, and lentils are all excellent plant-based sources of protein. They’re easy for the body to digest and will help you to feel full longer. As a bonus, they also contain fiber and are a versatile cooking ingredient. 

A quick tip for chickpeas

You may buy chickpeas canned if you’re in a hurry, but do try cooking them from scratch. All you need to do is to soak them for an hour, discard the water, and resoak them. Add a teaspoon of salt and baking soda and let them soak overnight. 

In the morning, the chickpeas will be swollen. Remove the water and rinse them thoroughly, and they’re ready to cook. 

We prepare ours in the slow cooker. We cover them with water, add a little salt and sometimes a cinnamon stick, and set the cooker on Low. Eight hours later, they’re perfectly cooked. 

We cook extra because they freeze well. They’re perfect for making chickpea chips, hummus and to add to stews or curries.   

2. Complex Carbs 

Complex carbs such as bran or sweet potatoes contain fiber that feeds the good guys in your gut. The fiber keeps blood sugar levels regular by slowing down absorption and keeps you feeling full for longer. 

Where possible, eat the whole food, peels and all. With most fruit and vegetables, a good scrubbing is all that’s necessary to remove contaminants from the skin. If you’re concerned about pesticides, it’s better to buy organic produce. 

3. Vegetables 

Finally, add veggies such as green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, etc. Experiment with eating vegetables raw or lightly steamed to maintain the highest nutrient content. A sprinkling of lemon juice can give a zesty flavor to bland vegetables like cauliflower. 

If you really cannot face the taste of it steamed, try roasting the veggies instead. Add salt and pepper, and toss with a bit of olive oil. Then roast until crispy on the outside and done on the inside.

Additional Tips

  • Add healthy fats like avocado oil, farm butter, or olive oil to your plant-based diet.
  • You don’t need to cut out red meat entirely, but limit it to one serving a month.  
  • Consider adding fermented foods like Keifer and Kimchi. These foods contain beneficial bacteria that can help you get your digestive tract back on track.
  • Cut out sugar. It has no nutritional value whatsoever and acts on your brain in a similar way to heroin. It sounds dramatic, but it’s just as addictive as drugs. 


Food as Close to Natural as Possible

bowl of veggies

It’s here where whole food diets make a lot of sense. Ancient people were hunters and gatherers. They didn’t farm to provide a variety of food. Back then, they’d have foraged quite widely and so had a varied diet.

Today we have options. You don’t have to rely on a conveniently located berry bush to survive. Instead, you can buy what you like.

When considering switching to a plant-based diet, it’s essential to look at the types of food we switch over to. You can find many vegan products that are less than healthy because of all the additives.

When making the changeover, stick to whole foods as close to what nature intended as possible. As a good rule of thumb, stick to whole foods where you can and prepare them yourself. 

It’s convenient to buy processed foods, but it may not be the most nutritious option. A ready-made meal may contain salt, sugar, fat, flavorings, colorants, and a host of chemicals that you cannot pronounce. 

We make it a rule in our home not to buy anything that has more than five ingredients in it. If we want a sweet treat, we make it ourselves from healthy ingredients. That way, we get the nutrients and fiber that we need for exceptional gut health.


Final Notes

Eating a plant-based diet helps your gut heal itself. If you’re battling digestive or immune issues, cutting down on red meat consumption and reducing sugar intake could be the best step you take.

From there, work on adding more whole vegetables and enjoy them in the way that nature intended. 

  • Nikola Djordjevic

    Nikola Djordjevic is a Medical Writer at HealthCareers.co. He's found his true calling creating and managing health-related websites that help people live healthier and happier. In his spare time, he likes to get lost in the world of art, music, and cinema—and worry about the next dumb thing his pets will do (he still loves them though).

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