Eating the same things every day don’t do a body good. Here is why…

Variety is the Spice of Life

meat, vegetable, carbs, eating a variety of food

Variety and diversity is the spice of life when it comes to a healthy gut microbiome.

Since the gut microbiome is home to trillions of gut bacteria, do you think that every single one of those critters thrive off eating chicken and broccoli everyday? (Crickets. Crickets.).

The greater question perhaps is: Do you?

Eating the Same Things Everyday Deprives Your Body (& Gut Bugs)

Just like if you were to eat chicken and broccoli for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for your entire life. Chances are even those with the most limited diets would eventually grow bored or sick of the same thing every single day.

A thriving gut microbiome needs variety of the basic macronutrients that are foundational to human life. Proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates included.

Here are 8 considerations for why you shouldn’t eat the same things everyday.

8 Considerations Why You Shouldn’t Eat the Same Things Everyday

1. Restrictive carb diets lower your healthy gut bugs

Carb variety is essential to feeding your gut bugs since plant foods and fermentable fibers are the primary “fuel” sources for all healthy gut bacteria (i.e. “prebiotics” or “carbohydrates”).

Although the word “carbohydrate” gets a bad rap nowadays in our Keto hyped world. This is often associated with pictures of Dunkin Donuts, big bowls of pasta and Subway sandwiches in our heads. Interestingly, not all carbohydrates are created equal.

The types of carbs essential to a healthy gut microbiome are those found in leaves, plants, starchy tubers, root veggies and some fruits.

Eating these provide a rich blend of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to encourage the diversity and growth of healthy gut bacteria. In addition, it also aids in digestion of our other foods and help us poo!

If you are not varying up your diet and different colors in your diet, chances are your gut may be “off”—even if you don’t “feel it” in your gut.

(Note: If eating carbs make you bloated or constipated, there is probably a bigger “gut issue” going on under the hood).

2. Lack of food variety leads to decreased bacterial diversity.

A loss in diverse bacteria is a common finding in several disease states. This gut biome is flooded with energy in the form of undigested and partially digested foods, and in some cases drugs and dietary supplements (1).

3. Most Americans lack variety in their food choices…and are not healthier because of it.

Today the average American diet contains only 8 to 15 grams of fiber a day and only 1 in 10 veggies. To put this in context, the average hunter-gatherer ate 100 to 150 grams of fiber daily with upwards of 50% of daily intake containing fiber & plants. (2)

4. The Westernized diet contains less than 5% of the total edible known plants.

Our food industry’s options don’t help us get more diversity. Of the 250,000 to 300,000 known edible plant species, humans use only 150 to 200. In addition, six livestock breeds are lost each month in favor of high production practices. Today, 75 percent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species (3).

Interestingly, chronic disease rates have only continued to climb over the past couple centuries of these farming practices.

5. Low FODMAP and other restrictive or elimination diets may do more harm than good if used incorrectly.

Diets, such as a low FODMAP diet, are often prescribed as part of the therapy for “gut problems. While it may help with postprandial symptoms, such a diet may have long lasting consequences by eliminating the signaling described with possible long-term (negative) shifts in the GI microbiome (4, 5).

It’s best to use these diets as a “short term” approach while addressing the underlying root cause of gut imbalances (such as bacterial overgrowth or parasites). Followed by a reintroduction of whole, nutrient dense foods (veggeies, fruits, proteins and healthy fats) with the “least restrictive” approach as possible.

6. Diets that induce obesity and metabolic disturbances in mice and humans are typically not diverse.

Research Diets for assessing the effects of diet on metabolism are generally less diverse overall and often result in the expected outcome (i.e. a slowed metabolism, weight gain, etc.) (6).

These diets often mimic the low veggie diets and high-inflammatory diets of most Americans. This include casein (dairy), cornstarch, grains, sucrose (sugar), lard (pork) and little fermentable fiber.

7. Long term lack of balance in the diet is associated with unhealthy gut bacteria.

You can find research on the extremes for any single nutrient (i.e. high protein, high carb or, high fat diets, OR low fat diets, low carb or low protein diets). Also, discover that the final conclusions often support that long term lack of balance leads to an unhealthy gut microbiome (7-14).

8. Good News: We CAN change our gut microbiome in as little as 3 days with more diversity.

sandwich with vegetables and meat eating healthy

Diet choices has the power to shift bacterial composition in as little as 3 days after dietary modification—either for the better or worse.

Dietary choices that exclude products from sustainably raised animals or from prebiotic, fermentable fibers (plants) can eliminate crucial microbiota.  This is by purging the principal nutrients needed to supply the necessary energy for survival in their habitat (15).

The bottom line: Eating a nutrient dense diverse diet as much as possible is a great idea.

5 Tips to Vary Up Your Diet

No, you do NOT have to eat something different every day for every single meal. But try some of these tips to bring more variety to your life.

1. Pick 2-3 rotating breakfasts and lunches that you switch out every few days.

2. Cook something difference once per day (such as at dinner). Take the other half for leftovers for lunch the next day. Repeat.

3. Shop at your local farmer’s market and aim to make meals and sides out of your seasonal finds.

4. Incorporate a variety of fresh herbs and spices to your “old time” favorites to bring in new nutrient diversity.

5. Vary up the types of your favorite fruits, veggies, healthy fats and meats you eat.  Try green apples and red apples, rainbow carrots instead of just orange carrots. Also consider Japanese sweet potatoes in lieu of orange sweet potatoes, ghee instead of coconut oil. In addition go for organic chicken thighs instead of chicken breast.

Little changes on your eating habit add up to big results in variety.

Resources

  1. Heiman, M. L., & Greenway, F. L. (2016). A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. Molecular metabolism, 5(5), 317-320. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005
  2. Eaton, Stanley. (2006). The ancestral human diet: What was it and should it be a paradigm for contemporary nutrition?. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 65. 1-6. 10.1079/PNS2005471.
  3. What is agrobiodiversity? Food and agriculture organization of the United Nations. 2004. http://www.fao.org/3/a-y5609e.pdf
  4. David L.A., Maurice C.F., Carmody R.N., Gootenberg D.B., Button J.E., Wolfe E. Diet rapidly and reproducible alters the humans gut microbiome. Nature. 2014;505:559–563.
  5. Sonnenburg E.D., Smits S.A., Tikhonov M., Higginbottom S.K., Wingreen N.S., Sonnenburg J.L. Diet-induced extinctions in the gut microbiota compound over generations. Nature. 2016;529:212–215.
  6. Parks B.W., Nam E., Org E., Kostem E., Norheim F., Hui S.T. Genetic control of obesity and gut microbiota composition in response to high-fat, high-sucrose diet in mice. Cell Metabolism. 2013;17:141–152.
  7. Murphy, P. Cotter, S. Healy, T. Marques, O. O’sullivan, F. Fouhy, et al. Composition and energy harvesting capacity of the gut microbiota: relationship to diet, obesity and time in mouse models Gut, 59 (2010), pp. 1635-1642
  8. Gabert, C. Vors, C. Louche‐Pélissier, V. Sauvinet, S. Lambert‐Porcheron, J. Drai, et al. 13C tracer recovery in human stools after digestion of a fat‐rich meal labelled with [1,1, 1‐13C3] tripalmitin and [1,1, 1‐13C3] triolein Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom., 25 (2011), pp. 2697-2703 .
  9. Wang Z., Klipfell E., Bennett B.J., Koeth R., Levison B.S., Dugar B. Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature. 2011;472:57–63.
  10. Zhang, M., & Yang, X. J. (2016). Effects of a high fat diet on intestinal microbiota and gastrointestinal diseases. World journal of gastroenterology, 22(40), 8905-8909.
  11. Guerville, G. Boudry. Gastro-intestinal and hepatic mechanisms limiting the entry and dissemination of lipopolysaccharide into the systemic circulation sAm. J. Physiol. Gastrointest. Liver Physiol., 311 (2016), pp. G1-G15, 10.1152/ajpgi.00098.2016
  12. A. Magee, C.J. Richardson, R. Hughes, J.H. Cummings Contribution of dietary protein to sulfide production in the large intestine: an in vitro and a controlled feeding study in humans Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 72 (2000), pp. 1488-1494
  13. Losasso, C., Eckert, E. M., Mastrorilli, E., Villiger, J., Mancin, M., Patuzzi, I., Di Cesare, A., Cibin, V., Barrucci, F., Pernthaler, J., Corno, G., … Ricci, A. (2018). Assessing the Influence of Vegan, Vegetarian and Omnivore Oriented Westernized Dietary Styles on Human Gut Microbiota: A Cross Sectional Study. Frontiers in microbiology, 9, 317. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2018.00317
  14. Carmody R.N., Gerber G.K., Luevano J.M., Gatti D.M., Somes L., Svenson K.L. Diet dominates host genotype in shaping the murine gut microbiota. Cell Host and Microbe. 2015;17:72–84.
  15. Tannock, G. W. A special fondness for lactobacilli. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 70:3189-3194.