Researchers from The American Gut Project spent the last seven years gaining a better understanding of the human microbiome.

Lauren Wicks

Pictured recipe: Green Goddess Broccoli Salad

Gut health has become one of the biggest health and wellness trends over the last few years, and for good reason! Scientific research continues to highlight the importance of good gut health for digestion, chronic disease prevention, strong immune systems, and even for our mental health.

So how can we improve our microbiomes for optimal health, you ask? Eat more plants.

Loads of studies on gut health have found fiber is a key factor for a healthy gut, but more than 95 percent of Americans don't get enough. The best way to ramp up your fiber intake is by eating more whole, plant-based foods, since meat and dairy don't contain fiber, and fiber-fortified foods and supplements don't have the same effect as fiber in whole foods. And new research advises taking this one step further.

Related: Top Fiber-Rich Foods for Good Gut Bacteria

The American Gut Project, a seven-year study of the human microbiome, found it's not only important to eat more plants but to eat a wide variety of them-30 or more different types each week! That number may seem pretty overwhelming, but this isn't just fruits and veggies we are talking about. This number can include whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes as well.

One large analysis from the University of California-San Francisco reviewed the data from almost 200 studies on the influence of diet on our gut health. The researchers found consuming more plant-based proteins and healthy carbohydrates while reducing saturated fat and artificial sugar intake will do wonders for your microbiome. By prioritizing the consumption of an abundance of whole, plant-based foods, you can easily follow those guidelines.

Related: 30-Day Healthy Gut Challenge

OK, we've just thrown a lot at you, but we promise we have some great tips, tricks and recipes for boosting your plant intake.

Starting a high-fiber diet typically boils down to making small tweaks-replacing refined or processed grains with whole varieties, serving a veggie-packed salad with your favorite weeknight dinners, or adding a handful of berries to your morning meal. You could also start your day with a healthy homemade smoothie, full of greens and fruits, for a major fiber boost.

If you typically don't eat many plants now or want some more guidance, we have dozens of amazing meal plans to help you get started. Check out one of our 7-Day High-Fiber, Vegetarian, Mediterranean, or Vegan meal plans to diversify your plant intake and boost your fiber consumption. We even have a 7-Day Meal Plan for a Healthy Gut to help you find the best foods for optimal gut health.

Related: This Gut-Healthy Diet Plan Helped Drew Barrymore Lose 25 Pounds

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