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By: The Villages | Oct 12, 2022

You Are What You Eat

By now we have all heard the term you are what you eat, but rarely do we pay heed to it. While you won’t turn into a steak if you eat one, science has shown that eating a diet that is high in processed foods could shave years off your life.

Conversely, the evidence is clear: eating a plant-centric diet is your best option for longevity. When faced with the conundrum of why to adopt a plant-based diet amongst the ubiquitous ‘high-protein’ fads that are out there, I challenge you to “Trust your gut!”

You may be surprised to learn that we have trillions of microbes that make up our gut microbiome. The microbial composition of our gut microbiome largely determines the state of our health, especially as we age. These bacteria are there for very important reasons; it is their job to help us extract nutrients from our foods. They thrive from living inside us by feeding off our food remains. With over 10,000 different species of these guys taking residence in our digestive tract, you should ask yourself who is really running the show when it comes to your appetite and food preferences. Believe it or not, your dominant gut bugs have the greatest influence over your physiology and food preferences.

Take sugar for example. Eating too much of it encourages the growth of bad gut bugs, which are very hungry for sugar, and need a constant supply to ensure their survival. This means if you try to improve your eating habits by eliminating sugar out of your diet, the bad gut bugs will be screaming out for you to eat sugar! Dietary sugar is the main culprit behind the chronic inflammation that plagues most of us as we age, leading to a litany of health problems.

Researchers have found that intestinal bacteria can affect your food choices in several ways:

  • They can change your taste receptors, causing certain foods to taste better.
  • They can cause the release of hunger-inducing hormones.
  • They can manipulate the vagus nerve (which connects your stomach to your brain) to control your eating behavior.

Having a healthy gut microbiome is not only good for our physical health, but also for our mental health too. That “Gut Feeling” and those “Butterflies” are real folks. The feel-good hormone, serotonin, is primarily manufactured in…your gut!

The good news is you have a lot of control over what types of gut bugs occupy your digestive tract. Studies have shown that diets high in vegetables “tip the scale” in your favor by promoting the growth of bugs that make you crave healthy foods. Chances are, you’ve heard about the importance of probiotics, the good bacteria that establish a healthy gut microbiome. However, have you heard of prebiotics? These indigestible fibers and resistant starches feed your good gut bacteria, making them essential to keep your gut thriving. Prebiotics and probiotics work in synergy to create balance in your gut and support whole-body health. For those of us who aim to be good stewards of our health by taking our daily probiotics, we are falling short by not including prebiotic foods into the mix.

Some benefits of prebiotics include:

  • Supporting digestive function
  • Supporting immune function
  • Impacting cholesterol levels
  • Supporting bone health
  • Impacting weight loss

Fortunately, some of the best prebiotic foods are plentiful as we approach the winter season, providing us with ample opportunities to incorporate these gut-friendly foods into our diet. Topping off the list are root vegetables and tubers. Many of these foods can be found by visiting The Villages Grown at Sawgrass Grove. Here are a few superstars to lookout for: jicama root, chicory root, yams, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, and onions. Try adding these into your diet to keep your good gut buddies happy and they will return the favor, thus enabling you to live your happy and healthiest lifestyle!

The Villages Grown Florida-First Program is still the heart of the company’s mission, offering the best from Florida’s agricultural and artisanal producers. You can find The Villages Grown Local Produce and Plant-Forward Artisanal items at the following retailers in The Villages, The Villages Grown Retail Store; Sawgrass Market, 766 Marilee Place, Suite 104, The Villages, FL 32163, Publix Super Markets throughout The Villages, Winn-Dixie throughout The Villages, and various restaurants, hospitals and assisted living facilities within The Villages community.

You can now have The Villages Grown produce box home delivery along with healthy, ready-to-eat meals home delivery right to your doorstep on a weekly basis through our partnership with Heirloom:

Jaime Giroux is the director of business solutions at The Villages Grown