New Research reveals Confusion about what a healthy diet is
Following a healthy balanced diet is more important now than ever. However, new research conducted by Love Your Gut for Love Your Gut Week 2020 has revealed confusion around what a healthy diet looks like. Its impact on good gut health and the relationship it has with the immune system and general wellbeing.
The research shows that nearly half (49%) of people do not think dried fruit and fruit juice can form part of a healthy balanced diet. Over 1 in 8 (13%) don’t consider any kind of fruit, whether fresh, tinned or frozen, as good for you. Fruit and vegetables are a source of fibre, which is important for gut health, as well as vitamins and minerals, and is why Public Health England recommend we eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced all count towards this.
Despite advice that starchy carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta should make up just over a third of our diet, the new research shows that just 4 in 10 (38%) people think these foods can form part of a healthy balanced diet. Starchy foods contain important fibre, as well as calcium, iron and B vitamins.
Impact of good gut health
Gut health can impact on many aspects of our health – from mood and immunity, to weight management, so looking after it is essential. The research however, shows that many are not aware of the impact gut health can have on our wellbeing, with nearly 3 in 10 people (28%) not realising that gut health can support immunity and only half knowing gut health can support mood (51%) or stress (55%). 1 in 3 people (33%) do not believe that gut health is linked to weight and 44% do not think that a healthy digestive system can benefit sleep.
A Healthy Balanced Diet and Lifestyle
Nearly 1 in 3 don’t recognise that one of the most effective ways to support good gut health is to enjoy a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle.
Instead, many people think other diets are preferable. Over 1 in 4 people (27%) think a low carbohydrate and high protein diet is one of the best diets for gut health With this rising to 1 in 3 (33%) in the 18-24 year age group. A similar number of people (28%) think that a sugar free diet is best for gut health.
The paleo diet, which includes foods that can be hunted and fished, such as meat, or gathered, such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, is also viewed favourably, with nearly 1 in 10 people (9%) rating this as best for digestive health. This figure was much higher amongst those in the younger age brackets, with nearly 1 in 5 of those aged 18-24 (19%) and 25-34 (18%) considering it as best for the gut. In contrast, just 3% of those aged 55-64 and 65+ thought that this was the case.
A common characteristic across these diets is the reduction in carbohydrate-based foods. As well as being an important source of energy and nutrients, carbohydrates, particularly wholegrain versions, are a source of fibre. Fibre (a type of carbohydrate) is an important nutrient for gut health, which can help bowel function and ease constipation as well as have a positive impact on the gut microbiota.
Alkaline Diet, Intermittent Fasting, Grapefruit Diet & Juice Diet
The alkaline diet, which involves reducing the amount of acid-producing food in the diet, such as meat, caffeine and alcohol and replacing it with ‘alkaline foods’, such as fruit and vegetables,was also considered one of the most effective by nearly 1 in 10 (9%), as was intermittent fasting (8%), the grapefruit diet (7%) and the juice diet (7%). Again, these diets were generally more popular amongst the younger age groups, with less than 1 in 20 of those aged 55-64 and 65+ believing these diets were best.
Fast food Diet
Interestingly, a fast food diet was considered the best for good gut health by 3% of respondents.
Dr Megan Rossi comments
On the research findings, dietitian Dr Megan Rossi (PhD, RD) says;
“This survey shows there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to healthy eating and how to look after gut health. Sadly, there are many misleading myths and fad nutrition messages out there, but looking after your gut health is actually much easier than you might think – and it certainly doesn’t require a restrictive diet or cutting out food groups.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all, the key is to enjoy as much plant-based diversity as you can with plenty of fibre, which is our gut microbes’ favourite nutrient. I recommend aiming for 30 different plant-based foods a week, across fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes (beans and pulses), nuts and seeds.
Our lifestyles can have a big impact too, so it’s a good idea to move your body regularly, get 7-9 hours of sleep per night and reduce stress, such as through relaxation and mindfulness. Simple changes can make a big difference for a happy gut, which has been linked to the health of pretty much every other organ in the body, as well as supporting our immunity, better mood, heart health and skin health.”
To help dispel confusion around good gut health and healthy eating, during Love Your Gut Week (21-27) the Love Your Gut experts will be busting gut health myths and sharing advice, tips and easy gut healthy recipes. A free to download guide to gut health myths is available to download from www.loveyourgut.com, alongside other useful resources.