Food designed for the microbiome.
I first heard about this when I was taking the Coursera Microbiome class.
Human Food is food for us and food for the trillions of microbes deep in our gut
Every five years a panel of expert researchers is convened by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) to review the latest scientific evidence on a healthy diet and puts together an evidence-based report that ultimately ends up as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans - better known as MyPlate (formally the Food Pyramid). The latest expert committee (13 researchers) - like all the committees before them - includes doctors, epidemiologists, heart researchers, nutritionists and so on. While the 13 researchers are all experts in their respective fields, it’s striking that among the experts gathered to decide what Americans should eat is not a single microbiologist who specializes in the role of microbes in our health and well-being.
Striking, because literally thousands of articles in the last decade point to an important role for microbes in our health. While most microbiologists will tell you these are early days and we have a long way to go before we know which foods and other lifestyle choices will nudge and modulate the gut microbiota in a positive direction (and it’s complicated), the role of dietary fiber in modulating microbe-gut health is well-established.
Since roughly 9 out of 10 cells in the human body are not even human - they’re microbial - and >99% of the genes in our body are held by the microbes, we at Human Food Bar think its important we start thinking about feeding the entire human (us and them). Human Food is simply food that feeds not only us, but provides nutrition for the trillions of tiny microbes deep in our gut. By consuming more dietary fiber (the greater the diversity the better), you guarantee that your colonic environment will become more acidic as well, as the microbes breakdown the fiber. This is an important consideration.
We would go as far as to say that while the increase in fat and sugar in our western diet may have contributed to our modern disease state, we strongly believe the evidence points to our breathtaking drop of dietary fiber in our diet and our less acidic colons (that is, more alkaline) as the biggest diet-related shift in recent times. In fact, the average American consumes <20g of dietary fiber a day - well below what is even recommended by current dietary guidelines. However, our work among the Hadza in East Africa suggests that humans - in general - evolved on a much greater amount of dietary fiber - much more. This means, as a whole, humans today have the most alkaline guts in human history. While gluten, GMO, sugar and the like get all the headlines, it’s our alkaline guts - which allow for growth of potentially nasty bugs and a leaky gut - that may be the 800-lb whatever in the room. Fiber anyone?
We at Human Food Bar encourage everyone to do a little research on the role of gut bugs in your health - a good place start would be the Human Food Project blog. We would also highly recommend getting your hands on the following recently published books on the human microbiome: Follow Your Gut, The Good Gut and Missing Microbes. Simple steps like increasing the average number of plants in your weekly diet could likely make a difference in the diversity of microbes you carry in your gut (a good thing) as per some recent findings of the American Gut project. Spending a little more time outside - or even opening a few windows - might have a positive impact! Or simply asking yourself every time you sit down for a meal or fill your shopping cart at the local market, how much of this food is for me and how much (fiber) is for my microbes? If there’s nothing for your microbes to eat, start over!