Microbiome & nutritionMicrobiome knowledge

What food is great for your microbiome?

Diet is one of the best and easiest ways to change your microbiome for the better. The food that you eat can help you to increase the diversity of good gut-bacteria & to improve your health.

In this blog we share some key facts on healthy diets -including the Mediterranean diet- and suggest an easy-to-implement home-challenge to start implementing a healthy-diet: the “30x weekly challenge”.

First, a crucial insight: your diet can change your microbiome.

Second important piece of knowledge: a diverse microbiome is linked to good health…whereas a gut microbiome with low diversity is a sign of bad health. So the question arises: can diet change your microbiome, to increase diversity & improve your health?

The good news is that the answer is “yes”: food can change your microbiome and give you health benefits.

For example, a recent clinical study had a look at giving a Mediterranean diet to elderly people in residential care homes. When a varied mediterranean diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables & olive oils, was given to elderly residents of care-homes, their health was shown to remain good and for longer compared to those not on the diet. The scientists also found that the microbiome diversity was richer in those given the Mediterranean diet.

Does this mean that the Mediterranean diet is the best diet? Some of the oldest-living populations on Earth live around the Mediterranean and healthy food is believed to play a role. But there are also other diets that have been associated to healthy long lives, e.g. the Okinawa diet in Japan. So it is also obvious that, whereas a Mediterranean diet may be healthy, there are other diets, perhaps many diets around the world, that may also be healthy.

The best diet(s) for you: 3 recommendations.

So which is the best diet? Here, we have collected three recommendations from experts for you:

1: Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in large variety. This is food for bacteria. The more different complex fibres you eat, the more diversity of the microbiome you encourage.

2: Eat good bacteria, for example in fermented dairy products or other fermented foods. Consider old recipees like kraut-salads, kimchi, Sauerteig. Should you even consider tasting various types of non-pasteurized cheeses? (note: non-pasteurized cheeses are not recommended if you’re pregnant or suffer from immune deficiencies; ask your medical practicioner if in doubt!)

3: Avoid processed foods! Processed foods usually are frozen, canned, dried, baked, or pasteurized. They often have too much fat, salt and sugar. Look for quality and origin of your foods, buy organic and local to reduce overall foodprint of your food. Many of us got used to cooking more at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. Keep up this habit, it will help you keep up a healthier diet!

The 30-a-week challenge.

If you really want to start implementing our recommendations today for a long and healthy life, here is a home challenge for you: try to eat 30 different fruits and vegetable every week and write a list of them. You can start today!
Take down the fruit and vegetable names that you have eaten on a blank sheet of paper. Add any new, addition vegetable type in the following 6 days. Good news: nuts count as well, and here the specific type. So almonds and hazelnuts can be entered separately (if you’re not allergic!).

In summary, we’re suggesting that you should keep up a healthy, diverse and balanced diet, with plenty of plant-based foodstuffs.  To help you, try the recommended 30-a-week challenge, counting how many fruits, veggies and nuts your diet includes!

Bon appetit!

Selected references:
Clinical study of Mediterranean diet in elderly care-setting (original study):

Gosh, T.S. et al (2020), “Mediterranean 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 countries”, Gut 2020;69:1218–1228. Doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654

Mediterranean diet & microbiome (review):

Singh, R.K. et al. (2017) “Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health”,  J Transl Med 15:73. Doi: 10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y

Mediterranean/ Okinawan diets & microbiome (review):

Fava, F. et al (2019) “Gut microbiota and health: connecting actors across the metabolic system”, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 78, 177–188. doi:10.1017/S0029665118002719

Nutrition & microbiome (book):

Spector, T. D. a. The diet myth : the real science behind what we eat. Updated edition 2020.

More information about “The 30 Different Plant Based Foods Per Week Challenge” from the Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI):


1 Comment

  1. […] to follow a healthy diet, with plenty of fresh fruit & vegetables. We recommend that you try at least 30 different types of fruit & vegetables every week. Second, consider taking suitable probiotics as food-supplements. The right probiotics are a simple […]

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