You know that certain gut bacteria can put you at risk for type 2 diabetes, asthma and even depression. But did you know that different strains of that same bacteria can minimize those risks, helping rather than hurting your immune system?
It's true, finds a growing pile of research. (Some of which we personally tackle, here.) So to ensure you're being good to your gut, follow these seven simple steps.
1. Eat prebiotics
Eat an abundance of prebiotic-rich foods, like onions, garlic, and leeks. If you go the leeks route, consider making one of our favorite recipes: Leek and Sausage Flatbreads.
2. Get fresh air
Open your windows, since soil blowing in dirties up the sterile indoors. Better yet, go to parks more or exercise outside.
3. Adopt a dog
A recent study in the journal PLOS One found that homes with dogs had more diverse microbes. Can't commit to Fido long-term? Try being a part-time pet owner.
4. Work on your green thumb
Getting your hands dirty with the microorganisms in soil can enhance your own inner terrarium.
5. Cook veggies al dente.
"Your body has to work harder to break them down, so more end up in your colon," says American Gut Project cofounder Jeff Leach.
6. Diversify your plate
Instead of a big pile of spinach, grab a little bit of everything at the salad bar. The fiber is different in different vegetables. Or, if you're feeling ambitious, put together one of these 12 Hunger-Fighting Salads.
7. Meet your microbes
For $99, you can join the American Gut Project throughout the year and get to know your microbes at humanfoodproject.com.