5 simple things a top nutrition scientist who studies the gut microbiome does to stay healthy

Vegetables in a rainbow
One of Dr. Tim Spector's tips is to "eat the rainbow."MEDITERRANEAN/ Getty
  • An epidemiologist and nutrition expert shares how he looks after his gut health.

  • Tim Spector studies the gut microbiome, which is thought to be key for overall health.

  • His tips include eating 30 plants a week, colorful foods, and fermented foods.

A top nutrition scientist has shared what he does to care of his gut health, including eating up to 30 plants a week and fermented foods.

Dr. Tim Spector, a British epidemiologist and cofounder of the nutrition company Zoe who studies the gut microbiome, wrote in a post shared on Instagram earlier this month: "What I do to look after my gut health is the question I'm asked most often and I always go back to these 5 principles."

A person's gut health is considered important for their overall health because the gut microbiome, or microbes that populate it, has a symbiotic relationship with our bodies and plays a key role in its functions. The food you eat contributes to the health of those microbes.

"Do all these things and you can't go far wrong," Spector said.

1. Eat 30 plants a week

Spector said he ate 30 different plants in a week because "the wider diversity of plants you eat, the more diverse your gut microbiome tends to be."

In studies, gut-microbiome diversity has been linked to greater longevity and overall better health. An unbalanced microbiome, meanwhile, is related to health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, infections, and hardened arteries, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

While 30 plants may seem like a lot to fit into one week, Spector said, "it becomes a lot easier" if you consider that nuts, seeds, pulses, wholegrains, spices, herbs, fruits, and vegetables all count.

Business Insider has previously shared healthy vegetarian recipes that could help increase the number of vegetables in your diet.

2. Eat the rainbow

Eating as many brightly colored fruits and vegetables as possible, Spector said, feeds the variety of microbes in the gut, which support your health in different ways.

Plants get their colors from polyphenols, Spector added, which "are like rocket fuel for your gut," as they feed the good microbes.

As well as foods with vibrant colors, he recommended consuming those with bitter or tannic tastes, such as coffee, extra-virgin olive oil, and berries.

3. Have a little bit of fermented food every day

Spector also eats plenty of fermented foods. A 2021 study that he cited found eating a diet high in fermented foods over 17 weeks was linked to increased gut-microbe diversity and decreased markers of inflammation.

In another post on Instagram, Spector shared the types of homemade "fermentation experiments" he liked to keep in his fridge, including water kefir. Participants in the study ate more kefir, as well as yogurt, fermented cottage cheese, fermented vegetables, vegetable-brine drinks, and kombucha.

4. Give your gut a rest

Spector said eating within a 10- to 12-hour window during the day helped microbes "get a good night's sleep" of 12 to 14 hours overnight.

This allows specific microbes "to clean up your gut lining and keep it healthy," he said.

A 2023 review of studies found a link between time-restricted eating and improving or reversing the underlying factors of metabolic diseases and the issues associated with gut dysbiosis. However, it's important to note that many of these studies were done on mice, and the research on this is in its early stages.

5. Eat fewer ultraprocessed foods

Spector's final tip was to reduce the consumption of ultraprocessed foods.

Ultraprocessed foods are produced using methods that are difficult to reproduce at home and don't look like the ingredients they are made from, according to the nova scale, which categorizes foods based on how processed they are. Eating a lot of ultraprocessed foods has been linked to various health concerns, including a higher risk of developing cancer and dementia.

"Try to make some simple swaps to homemade alternatives wherever possible," Spector said.

BI recently reported on the ways a nutritionist reduced the amount of ultraprocessed foods he ate.

Read the original article on Business Insider