Did you know that there are more microorganisms living inside of us than are cells in our body? These microorganisms within our gut make up our gut microbiota. Research shows that the type and ratios of these microorganisms are directly tied to our health and immune system. As the gut microbiome develops early in life - during the first three years - so does our immune system.
What you feed your child can affect disease development later in life. You can help keep your child healthy by what you feed your child’s gut.
Functions of the Gut Microbiota
Although diet can alter the microbiome, its development is most influenced during the initial three years of a child’s life. What you feed your child can change the types and ratios of these gut bacteria. Changes in the gut microbiota can affect the risks for childhood obesity, metabolic disease, diabetes, allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.
The introduction of solid foods, specifically macronutrients – protein, fats, and carbohydrates - determine which bacteria appear in the gut. Carbohydrates that are “non-digestible,” in other words, high in fiber, have the most impact. Non-digestible carbohydrates provide prebiotics to the gut bacteria that live there. Sources of non-digestible carbohydrates include whole grains, whole wheat, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables (those with a stalk, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale).
Whole Foods Rich in Fiber
Increasing dietary fiber is the best way to promote the growth of the “good bacteria” that directly affects the immune system. Diets high in fat, sugar, processed foods, and low in fiber decrease the diversity of bacteria; diets high in fiber enhance the growth of more diverse species. Ideally, it is best to consume fiber from whole plant-based foods, not supplements, as these foods provide additional nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Add 5 to your child's age to equal the number of grams of fiber needed daily.
Maintaining a healthy microbiome through a healthy diet can help maintain your child's optimal health.