- The book is a guide to improving gut health and well-being by eating more plants and diversifying the diet.
- The author explains the science of gut microbiome and provides practical tips and recipes to increase plant intake.
- The book includes three menu plans for different goals and preferences, as well as shopping lists, quizzes, and testimonials.
- The book is informative, inspiring, and realistic, and caters to different tastes and dietary needs.
Eat More, Live Well (2021) offers a fresh take on the diet and health connection, building on the importance of a diverse and thriving gut microbiome for health, well-being, and longevity.
Introduction: Discover a world of flavor on the road to better health, with plant-based eating.
Table of Contents
It seems like everyone is on a health journey nowadays, and the proliferation of diets – from paleo and keto to gluten-free and vegan – is on everyone’s menu. Yet, it’s also true that global populations are getting heavier, and developing comorbidities like diabetes or high blood pressure at younger ages. In some places, life expectancy is actually shrinking despite modern medicine’s wealth of treatments and interventions. It’s quite a paradox.
That’s what makes recent research into the gut microbiome and health so promising. Human digestion is a lot more than chewing and swallowing – and relies on a whole host of microorganisms such as bacteria and yeasts to extract nutrients from the foods we eat.
Modern agriculture and industrial food production have stripped many of these natural digestion-helpers out of our food and the cost to health is considerable. Given how much sugar and salt are added to processed food and how much fiber is stripped out, many modern guts just can’t deliver the host of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients necessary for optimum human health.
Sadly, even calorie- or food-restriction diets, like keto, vegan, or vegetarian, don’t necessarily encourage good health either. With an over-reliance on processed soy alternatives, even those who are trying to eat with more awareness can find themselves increasingly sluggish, continuing to gain weight, or suffering other nutrition-related symptoms like acne-prone skin or poor sleep.
The answer? Diversity! Humans have evolved to enjoy an incredible variety of foods and to enjoy their taste, smell, texture, and color along the way. Even more, we’ve coevolved with trillions of microorganisms in our guts to help us get everything we need from the fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dairy, meats, and fish we consume. But they need whole, minimally processed foods to thrive.
And if the mention of meat or dairy in a plant-based plan surprises you, it shouldn’t. Because plant-based eating isn’t about restricting the foods you already consume – it’s about adding a host of new plant-based foods that boost health, energy levels, and well-being. Instead of focusing on calories or macros, the plant-based approach focuses on the gut microbiome and the variety of foods it needs for healthy functioning. These include more herbs and spices, too, so it doesn’t mean skimping on flavor.
This approach is vital because more and more scientific research has confirmed that the gut microbiome influences more than just digestion. It regulates mood, hormone levels, and blood sugar. It helps promote healthy sleep and blood pressure while reducing heart disease and bad cholesterol. In short, a healthy gut means a healthy human and few plans address this fact.
So if you’re looking for greater health with fewer restrictions in a diet that’s good for you and for the planet, ditch your calorie counter because this summary is for you.
Plant-based eating isn’t what you think
The popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets in recent decades has led to a host of plant-based options for anyone wanting to eat less meat. But it has also narrowed the popular view of what plant-based eating really is. For many, it means swapping that burger or chicken nugget for a soy alternative, but from both a personal and ecological perspective, this isn’t a significantly better choice.
That’s because both the fast-food burger and soy alternative are highly processed, industrial foods. While they might contain macronutrients, like protein or fats, the heavy processing of ingredients between the farm the table has stripped away much of the additional nutritional value of the food. These foods are tasty, with added sugars and salts to heighten the flavor. But the human digestive system hasn’t evolved to handle the overload of simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, and sodium they deliver.
Over time, our taste buds become accustomed to all that sugar and salt, too, and stop sensing the more subtle flavors present in whole foods. We want to consume more and more for the big chemical hit brought on by the sugar and fat content – and the cycle strengthens.
All along, our gut microbiomes are reacting. The organisms that favor sugar and salt thrive, while others that help regulate mood or hormones or reduce blood sugar, languish without adequate nutrition. The result is poor health, weight gain, and a loss of energy and vitality. The effect of processed foods limiting the diversity and health of the gut microbiome is well-established, but what has been less clear, until now, is how to reverse this cycle.
That’s why this plant-based plan is quite different. It focuses simply on increasing the quantity and diversity of whole, plant-based foods you consume. This includes everything from whole grains like oats, wheat, and barley to herbs and spices like basil and oregano. It includes those power-packed protein sources like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and yes, even soy – but in fresh or fermented forms instead of industrially-produced meat substitutes.
Of course, fruits and vegetables are also on the menu, and this plant-based plan encourages you to try them all. But believe it or not, that ugly apple from the farmers market or humble backyard tomato likely packs a bigger nutritional punch for you and your gut microbiome than the plastic-wrapped ones from the supermarket. That’s because local, organic produce has had more time to absorb nutrients from the soil and still carries the microbes from the healthy soil for your health.
Similarly, locally-produced nuts, seeds, herbs, and legumes are also rich sources of both macro- and micronutrients and offer a diversity of microorganisms that can transform your gut health. That’s why the only actual rule of plant-based eating is that diversity matters, with the added caveat that minimally-processed plant foods pack more than just nutritional benefits, but can actually be the source of gut-healthy microbes that transform the way you feel.
The fiber factor
So a healthy gut microbiome helps humans thrive in a myriad of ways, and a healthy gut microbiome flourishes on a diverse diet of plant-based foods. But that’s not the only reason that focusing on more diversity and quantity of plant-based food makes a difference. It’s time to factor in fiber.
Your gut relies on plant-based fiber to help with digestion – everything from moving things along your meters of small intestines to facilitating absorption of vitamins and minerals. Not only that, many gut microbes digest the fiber you can’t, extracting nutrients from it and passing along those nutrients on to you. When they thrive, you do too.
And while your ancestors consumed massive amounts of fiber in the course of their hunter-gatherer lifestyles, modern diets are particularly poor in sources of fiber. With 30 grams a day recommended for good health, the average person gets fewer than 20.
Couple this low-fiber intake along with high meat consumption and it’ll lead to increased levels of cancer and a host of other gut problems. Stripping the fiber from whole grains like wheat or rice also turns them into simple carbohydrates that cause spikes in blood sugar. Stripping the skins from potatoes to make french fries not only eliminates most of the fiber but cuts off most of the vitamins and minerals contained in the skin.
The great news? Plants are the only natural source of fiber, so eating a diverse array of plant foods will naturally increase your fiber intake. A host of fruits, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, beans, and pulses are incredibly fiber-rich. Many contain both the soluble fiber that fights bad fat in the bloodstream along with insoluble fiber that helps your body eliminate toxins and waste.
So just swapping white bread or rice for their brown versions will make a huge difference in upping your plant-based nutrition. Swapping those greasy fries for a baked potato not only wins the nutrition game but also delivers a powerful dose of dietary fiber to your gut. This lets the helpful microbes flourish and curbs the ones that crave simple sugars and carbs.
And don’t forget that diversity in fiber sources is key here, too. The benefits of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables such as berries or beets are numerous; they’re loaded with a host of unique phytonutrients from their glorious colors and pack additional vitamins like C and B12.
Bearing all of these benefits from increased plant-based eating for gut health and overall well-being in mind, in the next section we’ll tackle what this plant-based diversity diet might look like.
The magic of diversity
To begin enjoying the benefits of a plant-based diet, simply consider how many servings of plant-based foods you currently consume during any given week. This doesn’t include highly processed ones like french fries or fruit juice, but servings of whole fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans. You don’t have to track yourself strictly, either, just get a rough idea of how many unique servings of plant nutrition you eat right now.
What’s a serving? For leafy greens, a serving is about a cup or two big handfuls. With raw or cooked veggies a serving is the same, about a cup. Berries or fruit are similar, about a handful as well. But for nuts or seeds, which are much more calorie dense, only about half a palm-full, or a couple of tablespoons, is a whole serving.
For cooked beans or lentils, which are also more calorie-dense, a serving is just half a cup. So adding this small amount to soups or salads is an easy way to diversify your plant foods and up your protein and fiber. A serving of cooked whole grains like rice or barley is also just half a cup, so it is easy to get a lot of benefit from even a small portion.
Herbs and spices count too – adding a few tablespoons of dried herbs to any dish adds half a serving of plant-based foods to your diet. Packed with flavor, they also reduce the need for added salt when you’re cooking at home. Flavoring dishes with homemade vegetable broth is an easy way to incorporate more nutrients into foods you already enjoy. Life’s a banquet, after all, so why not relish in the flavors?
From the abundance of choices, aim for 30 servings of unique plant foods each week. If you ate three bananas, for instance, that’s just a single plant food and counts only once. But a cup of blueberries, an apple, and a banana add up to three unique plant foods, and you can check them off of your weekly 30 portions.
If you’ve already had carrots and broccoli this week, switch things up with some sweet potatoes, avocado, squash, or peas. Each of these has unique nutrition profiles and adds unique microbes for a balanced gut. Swap out whole wheat for amaranth, spelt, or quinoa, too – heritage forms of grain and rice have rare micronutrients that nourish overall health.
So by incorporating more into your diet – more varieties of plant-based foods, and more whole instead of processed versions – you bring vastly more nutrition and fiber into your diet and promote gut health. This improved gut health, in turn, begins a powerful transformation in overall well-being.
Over time, your body’s ability to repair and protect itself flourishes, along with your energy levels and even your sleep quality. All because you’re eating more of what a healthy body craves.
Preparation is key
One of the most common reasons people give for not incorporating more home-cooked whole foods, fruits, and veggies into their diet is taste. The food that gets unwrapped from the drive-thru bag, by contrast, tastes so very good. We crave it again and again. But what most don’t understand is that the fast-food indulgence is actually driving the craving for more and some can’t break the addiction.
So don’t think about eliminating anything, including fast food, from your diet right now. That thinking can lead to very unhealthy habits like binge eating. Instead, focus on discovering new ways to prepare vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and seeds that you really enjoy eating.
If you’ve only ever tasted boiled, overcooked Brussels sprouts as a kid, for instance, you might think you hate them. Try them lightly steamed and then roasted with a balsamic and herbal dressing, and you may change your mind. The same goes for anything you might have found bland or boring in the past. Spices like turmeric add cancer-fighting chemicals to your curry, while roasted pumpkin seeds on your butternut squash soup add extra magnesium to your spoon.
Finding new kinds of fruits and vegetables to prepare can be enjoyable, too. Going to your local farmers market is a great way to discover new varieties of plant-based foods. Farmers often know how to prepare their harvest in simple ways that bring out the very best flavors, so chat with them as you peruse their heritage tomatoes or plums.
Farmers markets often carry homemade pickled vegetables as well, including cucumbers, cabbage, and carrots. These are fermented and pack additional beneficial microbes. Bought from a farmers market instead of an industrial grocer means more diversity of microbes in the jar – and also in your gut.
But the payoff doesn’t stop there. Over time, as you incorporate your 30 servings of plant-based foods each week, things will begin to change. First, taste buds that had withered from an overabundance of salt and sugar will actually regenerate. That means that you can really enjoy all of the flavors you’re packing into your meals.
Without the sugar spikes from so many simple carbs, mood and hormones will also begin to regulate. Over time, those fast-food or quick-fix meal cravings will subside, especially if you’re enjoying herbs and spices. As you become accustomed to the richer flavors, your gut microbiome is shaping itself around all this healthy intake, helping your body regulate cravings and promoting sustainable, healthy eating habits for the long term.
Plant-based eating is about a lot more than getting more fruits and vegetables. It’s about seeking out a diversity of plant-based foods designed for maximum gut health. Poor eating habits inhibit the gut microbiome, leading to salty or high-sugar food cravings. Over time, this way of eating leads to disease and poor health and restricts the body’s necessary building blocks for protection and repair. Eating more whole plant foods instead of cutting calories or restricting food groups, leads to a thriving gut and more sustainable health and well-being.
About the Author
Science, Health, Nutrition
The book is a guide to improving your gut health and overall well-being by eating more plants and diversifying your diet. The author, Dr. Megan Rossi, is a registered dietitian and gut health expert who has helped thousands of clients with her Diversity Diet.
The book explains the science behind how our gut microbiome affects our health, immunity, mood, skin, hormones, and metabolism. It also provides practical tips on how to increase your plant intake without giving up your favourite foods or counting calories.
The book includes over 80 delicious recipes, such as Hearty Lasagne, Fibre-packed Carrot Cake, Loaded Nachos, Prebiotic Rocky Road, Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins, and Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
The book also offers three bespoke menu plans for different goals and preferences: the 7-day Reset Plan, the 4-week Diversity Plan, and the Plant-based Plan. The book aims to help you eat more, live well, and feel amazing.
I enjoyed reading this book and found it very informative and inspiring. The author writes in a clear and engaging style that makes the complex science of gut health easy to understand and apply. The book is full of evidence-based advice and practical tips that can help anyone improve their gut health and overall well-being.
The recipes are mouth-watering and diverse, catering to different tastes and dietary needs. The menu plans are flexible and realistic, allowing you to customize them according to your preferences and lifestyle.
The book also includes shopping lists, one-minute snack ideas, FAQs, quizzes, and testimonials from the author’s clients. The book is not only a cookbook but also a lifestyle guide that teaches you how to eat more plants and enjoy more flavour without feeling deprived or restricted.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about gut health and plant-based eating, as well as anyone who loves delicious food and wants to diversify their diet.