Eat Healthy! This year is all about hut health and planet-friendly diet

Vaishali Dar
Eat healthy, bacteria in yoghurt, metabolism, immune system, green diet, Meat consumption, allergic disorders, diarrheal infections

The bug is good

Just as the bacteria in yoghurt can do wonders in stomach ailments, the bug in your gut is 'friendly' and good for your digestive system. It affects metabolism, mood and immune system. The bacteria, if supplemented in the form of food, dietary supplements and fermented dairy products, have the potential to treat many diseases. So for a healthier resolution this year, consider a gut makeover.

According to the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, all diseases begin in the gut. Experts also feel that the path to good health is paved with a good intestine - an important aspect for good gut health. But gut dysbiosis, an imbalance, can lead to nutritional deficiencies, dysfunction, disorders and diseases (both mental and physical) like cancer, obesity, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, irritable bowel syndrome and cardiovascular diseases. As Piyush Ranjan, gastroenterologist and vice-chairman, department of gastroenterology at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, says, intestinal bacteria control the immune system and play an important role in acquired immunity and inflammation. "A number of non-communicable diseases have been shown to be modulated by the gut microbiome. These conditions include obesity, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, fatty liver, allergic disorders, etc. So probiotics have been found to be helpful in treating these conditions," he says.

While our body is capable of creating a new microbiota in about 24 hours, eating the right kind of food can make your gut healthier. Turn to fibre, vegetables, grains and beans to feed a positive gut environment and make the good bugs stronger. With better understanding of diseases, their root cause and changing treatment modalities, clinical nutritionist Ishi Khosla suggests the kitchen to be the best pharmacy with the right grains, fats, herbs and spices. "Food enriched in fibres as well as plant-based foods such as leeks, asparagus, garlic, onions, seeds ,beans, peas, legumes, bananas, berries and lentils are beneficial for good gut," says Khosla. However, highly processed foods often contain ingredients that either suppress 'good' bacteria or increase 'undesirable' ones. Chronic stress, antibiotics, prolonged medication and toxic chemicals in our ecosystem also alter our gut microbiome. The more fruits and vegetables you consume, the better it proves for good bacteria to flourish. Even fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, miso and kefir (fermented drink, traditionally made using cow's milk or goat's milk) are great dietary sources of natural foods that aid in building good gut flora.

But medical science can fast-track this process with faecal transplants. If your faeces teeming with 'friendly' bug are injected into the bowel of a patient, it can help the affected gut get better. Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is an effective solution to recurrent diarrheal infections or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and diabetes. For all you know, beauty treatments in the coming year could also include 'poo therapy' to revitalise and renew bodies.

The green diet

Meat is the devil in more ways than one. Not only is it clogging your arteries, it's clogging the ecosystem as well. As per reports, meat and dairy, particularly from cows, have an outsize impact, with livestock accounting for around 14.5 % of the world's greenhouse gases each year. That's roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today. A recent study by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says on an average, it takes about three pounds of grain to raise one pound of meat. Mindful of the carbon emissions that come from raising animals, plant-based diet is fast becoming a staple of consumers' diet.
Meat consumption in the West has already come under a lot of scrutiny as a plant-based diet has become an important subject of discussion and deliberation. Animal activists, vegans and health experts have raised the alarm against killing of animals, and consumers and restaurants are falling in line.

A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion, says a study by The Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

Confirming an upward trend towards a plant-based diet, nutritionist Kavita Devgan says people will turn to roots to find the right way of eating and living. "Meat-eating will reduce and, as a result, we will see more indigenous grains like amaranth, finger millet, red and black rice take over."

For those who can't give up meat, faux meats and even lab-grown meats could be alternatives. Even in India, researchers are trying to grow fat cells, cartilage cells and bone cells in conjunction with muscle protein at IIT Guwahati, which has developed lab-grown meat to find alternatives to traditional animal-based protein. Meaty substitutes, also called mock meat, like soy can be used in tikkas and burgers, and are suitable for vegans as well. Udaipur-based GoodDot, started by Abhishek Sinha and Shruti Sonali, is making meat alternatives out of soy, wheat and pea protein since 2016.

"The trillion-dollar animal meat industry is ripe for disruption on account of the convergence of several global drivers of change in customer behaviour and demand. Major meat companies have been investing in this space. Besides being eco-friendly and cruelty-free, mock meat can be customised for nutrition and allergies too," says Sonali, who is working towards lowering fat intake significantly with their flagship product being vegan mutton, dehydrated plant-based chicken and egg scramble.