People say that plant-based food makes them feel good, light, and energetic. But why? To better understand that, we have to examine a very important system of the body: the gut.
Knowing Your Gut
The gut, or the digestive system, is more than the stomach. It’s also made up of trillions of microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, collectively known as the gut microbiome. But don’t panic — these tiny living things inside your body are actually good for you. In fact, you rely on them for good health.
The first step to promoting gut health is to reduce meat consumption. Animal proteins like beef and pork increase inflammation in the gut due to their high toxin content. People who eat a lot of meat also tend to have less variety in their diet. After all, when you’re eating a 12-ounce steak, you tend to not have room for much else.
But one thing to know about the gut microbiome is that it needs a variety of nutrients. Though you may be getting enough supply of one type of nutrient from eating the same food, you’re depriving the rest of your gut microbiome with their preferred food. This creates an imbalance that can manifest in symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and a weak immune system.
Powered By Plants
To bring back the balance into your gut, the solution is to eat more plants. Focus on eating a variety of foods — the more colorful the better — while also ensuring you’re getting enough protein. These can be found in greens, soy, lentils, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. They also happen to be rich in fiber, the ultimate gut helper!
That said, making changes to your diet is not that easy. Most Americans have been fed a steady diet of steaks and fast food their entire lives. So to make things easier, here are three things you can do:
1. Eat nourishing bowls.
Plant-based food is more than salad. Try something more satisfying like a grain bowl. These are popular for many reasons — they’re filling, versatile, and extremely nutritious. To build a grain bowl, you need an unrefined grain such as quinoa or barley (these are high-protein), a protein like baked tofu, a medley of vegetables, and a dressing like peanut sauce.
You can even cook grains in batches with a small rice cooker so that you have enough supply for a week. This kitchen tool — or something similar like an Instant Pot — is a must for healthy eaters because it makes meal prepping much more convenient. Preparing the ingredients for a grain bowl ahead of time makes it easier to plan a more balanced diet, one that will make your gut very happy.
2. Drink more smoothies.
Drinking colorful smoothies is an easy way to incorporate more plants into your diet. With a handy personal blender, you can make hundreds of delicious combinations with veggies, fruits, nut milks and butters, seeds, and even plant-based protein powders. Smoothies are packed with nutrients, including fiber, that aid in digestion and sustained energy levels.
3. Swap out one dish at a time.
Switching one of your meals with a plant-based alternative is a great way to consume less animal products. Recreate your favorite dishes with plant-based ingredients, like lentil burgers, chickpea omelettes, and chia pudding. And if you’re craving a quick snack after a workout, try a pea protein bar instead. Focus on minimally processed and whole foods for fewer calories and more nutrition.
Eating less meat and more plants combined can do wonders for your gut microbiome. Watch out for those little organisms because they are definitely watching out for you!
Written for risebar.com by Candice B.