So, you’ve relished in a few celebratory beverages, you dove head-first into the Christmas trifle, and you had an extra helping (or six) of assorted cheeses and chutneys from various party platters – you enjoyed your holidays and that’s OK. But let’s be real: your gut and your overall health might be suffering and now you’re thinking it’s high time to press reset.
You may be wondering, what’s the best way to get my health in check and keep my gut bugs happy? Or maybe you’re looking for new ways to improve your health completely?
Forming new habits can be challenging but the benefits are real, and they certainly outweigh the challenges every time.
Did you know it can take between 18 to 254 days to change a habit? Neither did I, until I read about it in a 2009 research study. However, it does explain why many of us are great at making New Year’s resolutions but have a hard time sticking to them. So, here’s a few new habits that your gut bugs will love:
1. Try new plant-based foods
As creatures of habit, it’s easy to head toward the same fruits and vegetables. This is because they’re familiar, we know what they taste like, we know how to cook and prepare them or even that the family will eat them. However, research shows that the more diverse our diet in plant-based foods, the more diverse our gut microbiome (that community of bacteria living in all of us). And this makes perfect sense if you think about it: if we eat the same sorts of foods, we nourish the same sorts of microbes. So why not try some new foods that you would usually cruise past in the supermarket, greengrocer or farmer’s market?
Some ideas of foods you may not commonly consume might be millet (grain), fennel (vegetable), white beans (legume), carambola (star fruit), linseeds (seeds), and brazil nuts (nuts). You might find that you and the family actually enjoy the new food and it can feature more regularly in your diet.
New habit tip: Park your trolley or stand in a section of the supermarket you wouldn’t usually frequent. Take a look around, learn what foods are there and how to cook them and make a deal with yourself to give something new a go.
2. Plan your meals
Meal planning is a task that most of us would like to do but somehow find ways not to. However, research shows that planning meals in advance is linked with higher intakes of fruit and vegetables. As many fruit and vegetables contain nourishing prebiotics (fuel for your gut bacteria), this is great news for your gut microbiome. Another benefit of planning your meals is that you can structure your week to include some meat-free meals and plan to incorporate foods rich in fibre and prebiotics throughout the week.
This ensures your gut is receiving the nourishment it needs all week long. If the thought of planning out a whole week’s worth of meals seems like trying to put a square plug into a round hole (ie. It’s never going to happen) just start small and look to build on this down the track. Not only will your gut bugs thank you, but you will also save money by reducing your food wastage and ordering less take-out.
New habit tip: Start by planning your evening meals for the week ahead. Write them on a piece of paper, whiteboard or using your favourite app on your phone – whatever will work best for you. Be sure to factor in some meat-free meals each week – meat-free Monday’s are all the rage.
3. Move your body
Movement is good for us in so many ways. Not only does it help to improve our mood and keep us physically strong, but it also helps our gut health by increasing the diversity in our microbiome. A recent study has also found exercise can be linked to improvements in insulin sensitivity as well as changes in the functionality of the gut microbiome through increased capacity to produce gut- nourishing substances, short-chain fatty acids.
New habit tip: Arrange to meet a friend or two and go for a walk. Make this a regular gig. For many of us, meeting people is a great motivation to get us out and about moving our bodies.
So, don’t feel bad about indulging in the celebrations (including the trifle and cheese!). You can pick it up in 2020 by changing your habits. Be kind to yourself and remember that this is a lifestyle, not a quick fix.
Keep your gut and your health on track by taking on board these simple, lifestyle changes!
If you’d love to learn more about what your gut is doing and how it can influence your health, you can take a look at your gut bacteria with a gut microbiome analysis such as Microba’s Insight™ kit.
The Carousel would like to thank Christine Stewart, Nutritionist, Microba Microbiome Coach, Registered Nurse, for her article.