Getting macro…and micro about it
Different foods and food groups are good sources for various macro- and micronutrients, so a diverse diet best ensures nutrient adequacy. The principle of dietary diversity is embedded in evidence-based healthy diet patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet and the “DASH” diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and is affirmed in all national food-based dietary guidelines. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that a healthy diet contains fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
It’s what you know
A diverse diet is most likely to meet both known and unknown needs for human health. In addition to our knowledge of protein, essential fatty acid, vitamin and mineral requirements, new knowledge about health effects of a wider range of bioactive compounds continues to grow. Considering plant foods alone, it is currently estimated that there are approximately 100,000 bioactive phytochemicals and that observed health effects associated with vegetable, fruit, berry, and whole grain consumption can likely be explained by the combined action of many different phytochemicals and other nutrients.
Your microbiome is diverse to say the least
Bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microscopic living things are referred to as microorganisms, or microbes, for short. Trillions of these microbes exist mainly inside your intestines and on your skin. Most of the microbes in your intestines are found in a “pocket” of your large intestine called the cecum, and they are referred to as the gut microbiome. Although many different types of microbes live inside you, bacteria are the most studied.
But really, how diverse?
In fact, there are more bacterial cells in your body than human cells. There are roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells in your body and only 30 trillion human cells. That means you are more bacteria than human.
What’s more, there are up to 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome, and each of them plays a different role in your body. Most of them are extremely important for your health.
Altogether, these microbes may weigh as much as 2–5 pounds (1–2 kg), which is roughly the weight of your brain. Together, they function as an extra organ in your body and play a huge role in your health.
The gut microbiome affects the body from birth and throughout life by controlling the digestion of food, immune system, central nervous system and other bodily processes.
We evolved eating a seasonal diet
Often natural crop cycles are in sync with our seasonal health needs. Summer fruits, such as stone fruits, provide extra beta-carotenes and carotenoids that fight off sun damage. And citrus in winter provides Vitamin C for fighting colds and flus.
So how do you start eating seasonally? The idea can seem a little daunting at first, but these days there are a wealth of resources online for finding what’s in season in your area.
A great place to start is your local Farmers Market.