It turns out that a Mediterranean-style diet isn’t just good for your heart; it’s also good for your gut, according to findings from a study published in the journal Gut. Researchers from the University of Naples in Italy looked at the eating habits of more than 150 adults over a single week, taking regular stool and urine samples to analyze the participants’ gut bacteria in response to the foods they ate. What they found is pretty interesting.
Individuals who followed a Mediterranean diet—one rich in healthy fats, protein and especially fiber from fruit, leafy greens, nuts and legumes—had higher levels of beneficial short-chain fatty acids in their guts. SCFAs are formed when fiber from plant foods breaks down in the large intestine (or colon), and they provide countless health benefits for the body.
It was noted that different dietary patterns were linked to different microbial compositions, and the more healthy foods an individual consumed, the more his or her gut bacteria worked to produce SCFAs—which in turn helped regulate microbial metabolism and support overall health. In addition to their role in healthy metabolic function, past research shows SCFAs support bowel health and promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body. They have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and related conditions.