Diet & Diversity
I’ve just come back from a fabulous relaxing break on the beautiful island of Menorca. Whilst there I have been doing some reading on the history of this little island & was interested to learn it was made UNESCO Biosphere Reserve back in 1993 due to its ecosystem range of wildlife, flora & fauna. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. (UNESCO 2017)
The importance placed on Menorca’s biodiversity by UNESCO made me think; we, as an organism are not dissimilar and perhaps we too should place more importance on protecting and increasing our own biodiversity?
Firstly we can consider our gut; the diversity and ecological balance of our own personal gut bacteria is vitally important to our health. Gut bacteria have been implicated in so many health states from their possible role in modulating our immune system to their effect on our hormones & the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. They keep our digestive system functioning ensuring we absorb vital nutrients from our food. In fact we are only just scratching the surface of the roles of these bacteria within our bodies and the surprising results of new studies are regularly released. Getting the diversity of your gut bacteria out of balance may contribute to things from indigestion to various disease states.
A massive factor for the diversity of our gut bacteria is the diversity of our actual diets. A widely diverse diet, especially in vegetables and fruits, is crucial for health. It ensures adequate soluble and insoluble fibre which provides food and fuel for the gut bacteria. Ensuring you “eat a rainbow” of brightly coloured, seasonal vegetables and fruits ensures maximum intake of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients; all essential for good health.
This dietary diversity also includes your carbohydrate and protein sources. A wide variety of carbohydrates such as wholegrains and starchy vegetables provides valuable fibre, vitamins and minerals; some of which can be removed by the refining process of the “white versions”.
For Vegetarians/Vegans diversity in your protein sources will ensure you are getting the full spectrum of essential amino acids which are sometimes harder to get from vegetable proteins where you would need to combine pulses and rice for example to hit the full range. Just because you eat meat and/or fish this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider protein diversity; by adding some vegetarian meals means your diet still contains all the protein it needs whilst reducing your animal protein consumption; too much of which, particularly red meat, is linked to disease.
Our biodiversity goes beyond our food. Diversity in lifestyle is also important for good health and wellness. Take exercise, for our increasingly sedentary lifestyles we generally need more but we still need rest too, especially after a hard workout. We should ideally combine strength training with some cardio and some restorative stretching, Pilates or Yoga for maximum health benefits. Some stress is good for us and gives us purpose & drive but we need to relax & switch off too and this doesn’t mean scrolling the internet which can be a stressor in its self. We need to spend quality time with friends & family but we also need time alone.
So; be more Menorca – bring diversity into every part of your life. Make a point of protecting it, increasing it and reap the benefits to your health and wellness.