The seven guidelines are as follows:
1. Build meals around plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. This plant-based foundation supports symbiosis, or microbial harmony, in our gut. A thriving microbiota helps maximize absorption of nutrients and vitamins, while regulating immune function, inflammation, hormones, mood, and behavior.
2. Aim to consume at least 50 to 55 grams of fiber each day.Historic populations consumed nearly three to four times as much fiber as we do today. The average American today consumes 16 grams of fiber. Increasing dietary fiber intake by at least 14 grams a day is associated with a 10 percent decrease in net energy intake.
3. Consume at least 5 to 8 grams of plant-based prebiotics each day. This is easy to accomplish with two cups of leafy greens or a half-cup serving of beans. Good sources include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, raw dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic asparagus, whole wheat, beans, bananas, oats, and soybeans.
4. Add fermented foods, or probiotics, to your diet. Dietary sources include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, water kefir, and kombucha.
5. Avoid red meat, high-fat dairy products, fried foods, food additives, and advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs include proteins and fats exposed to high heat and sugar molecules, like sausage links and candy bars.
6. Limit fat intake. Especially if you have or are at risk for type 2 diabetes. Instead, opt for healthful sources, including an ounce of nuts or seeds or a small amount of avocado.
7. Use antibiotics only when necessary and avoid using for viral illnesses. Overexposure to antibiotics destroys good gut bacteria, along with the bad.
The microbiota, composed of 1,000 different species, weighs 4 to 6 pounds and helps maintain internal homeostasis. What we eat feeds beneficial bacteria that respond to changes in just 24 hours. This influences both immune function and our risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
“The microbiome is a complex field, but we can manipulate our dietary choices to create colonies where beneficial bacteria flourish,” says Meghan Jardine, M.S., M.B.A., R.D., L.D., C.D.E. “Whether you want to treat diabetes, reduce the risk of a heart attack, or bolster athletic performance, you can start by building meals around colorful, plant-based foods.”