You're probably well aware that eating a variety of nutritious foods each day provides the body with the essential nutrients needed to grow, develop, function optimally and stay healthy. But there’s much more to the story these days. In the last decade, there have been some great developments in research with scientist looking at how the microbes that live on, and within us, influence our health.
When we eat, we're not just nourishing the trillions of cells that make up the human body, we’re also feeding the trillions of microbes (mostly bacteria) that reside inside our digestive system too. By eating plenty of fibre-rich foods that our own body thrives on, like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans, we obtain good amounts of a certain type of fibre — prebiotic fibre (also known as fermentable fibre), which encourages microbial diversity. This means a greater variety of bacteria. It also means greater numbers of beneficial bacteria.
When good microbes are fed well, they reproduce and produce beneficial metabolites (called short-chain fatty acids), substances that have been linked to improvements in gut health, metabolic function, immune system regulation, inflammation, and mood. In the past week, a paper was released on a study that suggested that lack of certain microbes may lead to the development of allergy. More work needs to be done, but it's an interesting space to watch. On the contrary, if we continually eat foods that are ultra-processed, devoid of nutrients and dietary fibre, we feed unhelpful pro-inflammatory microbes which make us more susceptible to acute and chronic diseases.
Plant-based whole foods don't just keep our microbes happy, they're full of phytochemicals (phyto = plant) that exert antioxidant and disease fighting activity in the body.
This highlights the importance of nourishing our bodies with more minimally-refined foods instead of simply filling short-falls with vitamin and mineral supplements. Food is by far the best preventative medicine.
We understand that recommendations can only go so far with nutrition, which is why the Junior Food Explorers program was developed. We are a nutrition incursion service for daycare centres and preschools across Sydney that helps young children develop great relationships with fruits and vegetables. If you are a parent or early learning provider and would to have our workshops at your centre, please get in touch.