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Feed your 'good' bacteria

There's a lot more going on in your gut than just digestion, absorption and excretion. Trillions of microorganisms inhabit your intestines. In fact, there are 10 times more bacterial cells than human cells in your whole body. And these little beneficial bugs are busy! Scientists are beginning to unravel how friendly bacteria can protect your health and how the foods you eat can nourish them.

Fiber-rich plant foods give bacteria a fighting chance. Fiber feeds the healthy, hungry microbes, so that's one of many reasons you should have lots of high-fiber plant foods, including grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, on your plate.

Medications, hygiene, age, health status, and diet can influence your microbe balance. Eating wisely is likely your best strategy for boosting the beneficial bugs. We see hints of the effects of food on intestinal bacteria when we examine diets around the globe.

In populations that consume a largely plant-based, fiber-rich diet, such as those in Africa and Asia, the predominant microbes are the beneficial ones, such as bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria, commonly known as probiotic bacteria. These crowd out the bad guys.

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