• Letisha Hodges

A Way to Improve Gut Health That You May Be Overlooking

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Variety is the Spice of Life AND It Is Important for Gut Health!

Let’s say you are already eating a lot of vegetables, plant-based proteins, fermented foods, and prebiotics in your diet, what is 1 more thing that you could do to boost your gut health?

Focus on the variety of plant species you are eating! If your typical diet includes a wider variety of plants, then you will have greater biodiversity of bacteria in your gut! If you are struggling to get enough plants, check this blog out! Biodiversity is an important piece of a healthy gut! It essentially means having more than 1 type of bacteria in your intestines. Different species have different jobs which are important for health, immunity, hormones, and even weight.

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There are some short-term studies showing that people who ate >30 plant species a week had greater biodiversity than those who ate 10 or fewer plants a week!

Let's be real, most of us grocery shop on autopilot.

We buy the same snacks and the same fruits every week without much thought!

If you are thinking how in the hell am I going to get 30 different plants within a week, you are not alone.

How to Boost Your Plant Diversity

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1. Set a goal to try 1 new plant a week

- For example, you can try an eggplant dish one week and try a new fruit the next!

2. View variety on a weekly basis, not just a daily one.

- So maybe you normally buy apples & bananas for snacks but you could switch to kiwis & oranges or mangoes & pears the next week.

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3. If you make smoothies, you could switch the frozen fruit or veggies you typically buy.

- Great vegetables for smoothies include cauliflower, zucchini, cucumber, and leafy greens. You could also use sweet potato, acorn squash, butternut squash, carrots, or beets but they do have a stronger flavour.

- You can even try adding silken tofu or chickpeas to smoothies for a plant-based protein boost!

4. Adding a Meatless Monday once a week can really boost your plant intake through beans, lentils, tofu, edamame, seitan, tempeh, seeds, and nuts!

- You could also try to have beans or lentils in dishes more often instead of cutting out meat entirely. Buddha bowls & stews are my favourite way to include legumes in meals!

- If you normally eat almonds for a snack, switch the type of nut or nut butters you use.

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5. Switch up the starchy vegetables you use instead of just potatoes! The possibilities are endless:

- butternut squash

- acorn squash

- barley

- rutabaga

- parsnips

- turnips

- potatoes

- yams

- sweet potatoes

- corn

6. If you normally eat rice, switch it out for

- quinoa

- buckwheat

- bulgur wheat

- couscous

- farro

- teff

- sorghum

- millet

- triticale

- amaranth

- kamu

- fonio

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7. If you normally buy wheat bread, you could switch to:

- rye

- oats

- sourdough (made out of wheat but it's fermented)

- barley

8. If you meal prep, switch the vegetables or grains out week to week!

- You don’t need to eat chicken, rice and broccoli every.single.day.

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9. Try different types of noodles or pasta noodles like

- rice

- wheat

- soba or buckwheat

- naengmyeon which is made from buckwheat or sweet potato starch

- mung bean threads (AKA glass noodles)

- chap che (AKA Korean glass noodles) which is made from sweet potato starch

- shirataki (AKA yam noodle or tofu shirataki.) which is made from yam starch

- bean based noodles made from chickpeas, lentils, black beans, edamame beans

Have you ever tried a new food that you completely fell in love with? For me, it is soba noodles :)

Is PCOS and IBS normal?

Women with PCOS are at an increased risk for IBS compared to women without PCOS.

Changing your diet and habits can help you improve your feelings of discomfort and your bloating even if you do not have IBS; however, some women with PCOS will have both IBS & PCOS. You can read more about it in my other blog post.

Since no woman with PCOS is identical, I tailor each of my guidelines for women with PCOS individually to help improve their gut health and balance their hormones in my nutrition coaching program!

My Nutrition Treatment Plan for Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

In any assessment with women, I am screening for signs of high androgen levels and high insulin levels. If I ever have concerns, I make recommendations for women to discuss their symptoms with their primary care provider since I cannot make any diagnoses as a Registered Dietitian.

My goal is to treat PCOS in a holistic manner, help my clients navigate the healthcare system, and receive treatment for the “whole” of the condition vs. only 1 side such as fertility. I also try to help women understand their condition in a more thorough way, dispel any diet myths, and develop some compassion for themselves.

It is a tough condition that is difficult to manage, beating yourself up or working with a health care provider who shames you in addition to these struggles is the last thing you need.

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For women with PCOS and IBS:

  • Many of the foods I would recommend to women with PCOS to help balance their blood sugar include whole grains, beans, lentils, soy, vegetables, and fruit. However, these foods can also worsen gut health symptoms for those IBS & PCOS.

  • My nutrition assessment, tailored nutrition plan, ongoing guidance & support and helping clients navigate the healthcare system help ensure my clients get the best nutrition treatment for PCOS or weight loss.

  • Some of the foods I listed above are extremely healthy for your gut but those foods can also be triggers for IBS symptoms if you have both PCOS and IBS.

If you think you may have PCOS or IBS, it's important to get diagnosed as early as possible so you can start treatment.

A holistic approach to treating PCOS is often the most successful, and I would be happy to chat with you about which treatment option might be best for you. Don’t suffer in silence – schedule your free Clarity call with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist!

References: PMID: 31766592 PMID: 29795809


Letisha Hodges is a registered dietitian nutritionist with 7 years of experience in women’s health, healthy relationships with food, weight management, and PCOS. Follow her on Instagram & Facebook, or join our email list for more helpful tips.

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