OPINION: By now, we have all heard about gut bacteria and their loose classification into the "good" and the "bad".
But what if these little guys could have a colossal impact on a multitude of areas in health and disease?
We spoke to Professor Matt Cooper, from The Institute of Molecular Science at The University of Queensland, who appeared on ABC's Catalyst program a few months ago, to discuss some of his findings in this new field.
"When we eat a high-fibre diet, rich in soluble fibre that the body can use, such as apples, blueberries, lentils, legumes, raw celery, raw carrot, for example, this feeds our good gut bacteria," he said.
The more food provided for good gut bacteria to eat (also known as prebiotics), the more they proliferate and outweigh the number of bad bacteria present.
They then manufacture short chain fatty acids, such as acetate, which dampens down inflammation.
Inflammation is now recognised as underlying every main health disorder.
"Interestingly, during the 1970s when processed foods, for example breads, biscuits, fast food, confectionary and junk food, were introduced to the Western world, so too was the acceleration of many inflammatory diseases," Prof Cooper said.
What changed? Our diet, fibre and acetate content, and then our gut bacteria, Prof Cooper says.
He adds that countries consuming a higher fibre and acetate diet have far less inflammatory conditions and disease in general.
So instead of snacking on biscuits that are low in fibre and acetate, snack on a whole food such as a carrot, celery or an apple to boost your good gut bacteria.
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High-fibre feta and lentil salad
Prep time: 10-20 minutes.
Ingredients: 1 large cup of iceberg lettuce, 1 celery stick sliced, 1 carrot sliced, 1/2 avocado sliced, 1/4 red apple, sliced, 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salad dressing: 1 part extra virgin olive oil, 4 parts apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of cooked lentils, 1 tbs whole egg mayonnaise, salt to taste
Method: Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and serve with dressing.