It’s probably not news that eating foods containing probiotics, like kefir and yogurt, can benefit your health by positively affecting your gut microbiome (the community of microorganisms that populate the intestines). What you may not know is that regular intake of other foods and drinks like coffee and wine may also positively affect your gut health: a study found that these culinary favorites were correlated with increased gut microbial diversity—which is generally linked to better overall health. The study was published in Science and included 1,135 healthy participants from the LifeLines program, a Dutch population-based cohort study. Researchers collected information on lifestyle factors from the participants, including dietary habits, medication-use, smoking status, and other health data. Stool samples were collected and analyzed to identify the bacteria and other organisms present in the participants’ guts. Researchers discovered that:
Out of the 126 lifestyle factors considered, 110 of them were associated with specific microbial patterns, and 125 different microbial species were found to be affected by participants’ lifestyle habits.
Regular consumption of coffee, wine, buttermilk, and (you guessed it) yogurt were each associated with a more diverse gut microbiome.
On the other hand, regular consumption of whole milk and a high-calorie diet were associated with a less diverse gut microbiome.
These findings suggest that almost everything we do on a regular basis impacts the composition of our gut microbiome. While more research is needed to understand what these findings mean for public health, previous research has linked a healthy gut microbiome to a reduced risk of catching a cold, and to fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. In short, a healthier gut may just mean a healthier you.