Is eating the same thing every day bad for us?

Felice Jacka, expert in nutritional psychiatry and gut health, and author of There is a zoo in My Poosays that the more diverse your diet in general, but more specifically your intake of plant foods, the more diverse your gut microbiota.

“It appears that a more diverse gut microbiota is linked to better health outcomes,” says Jacka, director of Deakin University’s Food and Mood Center. “If you think of the analogy of a rainforest – a rainforest that has a great diversity of plants and insects, seems to be healthier and more robust, whereas if you have a monoculture, or an environment where a or two species are dominant, it tends to be less hardy and resilient.

A large study found that people who ate more than 30 plants per week also had more diverse gut microbiomes than those who ate 10 or fewer types of plants per week.

It may sound daunting, but Debenham says, “It doesn’t have to be a crazy compilation of different meals. Simple changes can make a big difference.

Swap your grains, add different fruits and vegetables to your daily smoothie, use different proteins, herbs and vegetables in your salads to create more range.

Jacka reminds that plant foods are not just fruits and vegetables, but also include herbs, nuts, seeds, legumes, and different types of whole grains. If you have oats for breakfast with berries, nuts, and seeds on top, that provides at least four different types of plant foods in one puff.

But that doesn’t mean it should be your everyday breakfast for the rest of your life.

“To encourage a more diverse community in your gut, you really need to diversify your plant foods,” says Jacka, suggesting meal rotation, so oats one morning, rye bread with peanut butter the next, and eggs with mushrooms and herbs the next day.

“I’m an extremely lazy cook and also very busy,” she admits, “so at the supermarket I’m going to get the muesli which has lots of different types of grains, seeds and nuts, I’m going to be pre-cooked rice which has brown and red rice and quinoa – three different plant foods right away.

Why is the diversity of our gut bacteria so important?

Our gut microbiome and its processes are linked to virtually every aspect of our health and functioning, including our skin, weight, energy, sleep, mood, and immune system.

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“When you eat, within hours it affects your gut and the molecules your gut produces by breaking down plant fibers and polyphenols. These molecules, or polyphenols, enter your body and affect virtually every system,” says Jacka. “So it’s very concrete and very immediate: what you eat is going to impact your health and how your body functions literally within hours.”

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