23 Dec 2021
Dr Megan Rossi explains how shifting your diet to include more plants can improve your health, as her new book, Eat More, Live Well, is published next week (30 December).
Welcome to a delicious and sustainable way of eating that’s good for you, your gut microbes and the planet. If you’re looking for an easy, science-backed way to increase your energy, boost your mood, regulate your digestion, find your happy weight and slash your risk of chronic disease, you’re in the right place.
As a dietitian and research scientist, I’m here to explain why simply shifting your diet to include more plants could be the best thing you ever do for your health and happiness. And it’s an approach based on facts, not fads.
My new book ‘Eat More, Live Well’ shows you how versatile plant-based eating actually is. Forget cutting out or cutting down, I’m going to show you how – and why – increasing the number and range of plant foods you eat taps into the very latest scientific discoveries about how your body works best. That’s right, eating more can improve your health, and my recipes and menu plans will show you just how easy and delicious it really is.
Whether it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while or a concept you’ve only just started hearing about, research suggests that more and more of us are interested in exploring plant-based eating. This might mean simply eating more veg meals each week; cutting down on meat, fish and other animal-derived products with meat-free Mondays; being a ‘flexitarian’; or excluding some or all animal products completely, as in vegetarianism or veganism.
But we all know that we need to eat more veg, and there’s lots of information already out there, so what’s different about this book? Well, first of all, the science. I’m not promoting a fully vegan diet, because research doesn’t necessarily support that from a health perspective (more on that in the book). I’m not even suggesting you should go vegetarian, although this book is still for you if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
What the evidence suggests is that we could all benefit from eating more plants, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean only plants. So, rather than being about what not to eat, this book is all about the many varied and astounding benefits, flavour included, of basing your diet around plants. Because once they’re the star attraction, trust me, you’ll experience a health transformation.
My first book, Eat Yourself Healthy, was designed to help people identify and tackle their digestive issues and achieve great gut health. Since it was published, I’ve received thousands of messages from people whose health is flourishing after following the programme it sets out. I know there are lots of you out there who are on board with the idea that gut health underpins overall health.
Many people also got in touch to ask for a follow-up that looked more closely at exactly which foods our gut loves and why. So, this book zooms out and speaks to anyone and everyone who simply wants to eat in a way that’s more aligned with what our bodies (and gut microbes) need. And what they definitely need more of is plants.
This book is categorically not about dieting. Neither is it a trendy fad that cuts out food groups or nutrients. Instead, it’s your introduction to, and inspiration for, a life-changing way of eating that brings profound, science-backed health benefits in both the short and the long term. Sure, one of those may be to do with weight management, but the benefits linked to nourishing our gut microbes go much further than that – from mood, to skin, to hormones and immunity; they are powerful little things.
There is no calorie counting here, no weighing and measuring (of yourself or the foods). In fact, there’s none of the cutting out you may see with other eating plans. I see this approach as enriching, not restricting; inclusive, not exclusive. More plants, more variety, more fibre, more flavour. I call it the Diversity Diet.
We know that, generally speaking, the greater the diversity of the trillions of gut bacteria that live in our digestive track (known as our gut microbiome, or GM), the better our overall health and resistance to infection. I always come back to that sports team analogy – you need a breadth of skills to be at the top of your game. And with so many different types of microbe out there (scientists estimate there are tens of thousands of strains of unique bacteria that can dwell in the gut), it’s no surprise that we each have a distinct combination within us. Our GM is unique to us, like our fingerprints. Identical twins may share the same human genes, environment and lifestyle, but their GM will always be different.
So long as it’s well supported (that’s where Eat More, Live Well comes in), our inner universe is a hive of activity, working super-hard at tasks like:
- Munching up fibre and phytochemicals from the plants we eat.
- Making vitamins (K and the different Bs), amino acids, hormones and chemical messengers.
- Training our immune system.
- Activating and deactivating medicines and toxins (this explains why, at least in part, people can respond in different ways to the same medications).
- Making chemicals that strengthen the gut barrier, helping to balance blood sugars, lower blood fats and regulate appetite.
- Communicating with our brain, skin, liver, thyroid, heart and just about every organ in the human body.
- Protecting us against a proliferation of harmful microbes.
- Assisting gut movement and function.
In other words, a thriving GM can optimise digestion, immunity, metabolism, hormones, brain function and gene expression (turning our genes ‘on and off’, affecting what scientists previously thought was our ‘destiny’). I don’t know about you, but with them having this responsibility, I think we owe it to these microbes to give them as much support as we can.
Whether you think of your GM as your inner universe, Tamagotchi, pet, friend or simply untapped potential, the next time you sit down to a meal, it’s worth acknowledging you’re never just eating for one.
The empowering news is that so much of our GM’s health and happiness is in our control.
There are many ways we can look after our GM, in terms of what we eat and how we treat it (with things like sleep, stress and even exercise). In fact, our diet and lifestyle choices actually have a much bigger effect on how healthy our GM is than our genetics do.
So far, research indicates that people who consume high-fibre diets made up of a wide range of whole plant-based foods from the ‘Super Six’ (wholegrain, vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds and herbs and spices) typically have the greatest GM diversity and stability. This was the main driving force behind me writing Eat More, Live Well – to spread this landmark discovery beyond the research bubble and help as many people as possible to embrace the far-reaching benefits of the Diversity Diet.
I hope, after reading my book and experiencing it for yourself, you’ll feel equally compelled to share it too.
About Dr Megan Rossi (PhD, RD, APD)
Dr Megan Rossi, founder of The Gut Health Doctor, is considered one of the most influential gut health specialists internationally. A Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist for the last decade with an award-winning PhD in gut health, which was recognised for its contribution to science, receiving the Dean’s Award for outstanding research.
As a leading Research Fellow at King’s College London, Megan is currently investigating nutrition-based therapies in gut health, including prebiotics and probiotics, dietary fibres, plant-based diversity, the low-FODMAP diet and food additives. She has received more than £2.5 million in research funding as lead draftsperson and has published over 30 scientific papers in International, peer-reviewed journals. She was also the recipient of the 2017 British Medical Journal prize and the British Nutrition Foundation award for her research, presented by Princess Anne.
Megan founded The Gut Health Clinic in London, where she leads a team of gut-specialist dietitians, as well as creating her own gut health food brand Bio&Me to bridge the gap between science and the food industry.
Frustrated that her findings weren’t reaching the public, and instead seeing fad and potentially dangerous misinformation on gut health being spread, Megan took to social media to share credible, evidence-based advice, building an engaged community of over 350,000 people so far.
Her debut book, Eat Yourself Healthy (UK, Aus & Europe) and Love Your Gut (US & Canada), was first published in September 2019 as an easy-to-digest guide to gut health and beyond, immediately becoming an Amazon and The Sunday Times bestseller. It is now available in four different languages. Her long-awaited second book, Eat More, Live Well is out on 30 December 2021. Megan has also been recognised as Business Insider’s Top 100 Coolest People in Food & Drink and named Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK 2020.