The gut health-conscious among us are buzzing about the Hadza tribe, a small group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania. For the most part, the Hadza eat only food they find in the forest, and because of their diet, they have remarkably healthy microbiomes, which means they have remarkably healthy guts.
But let’s back up. What even is a microbiome? Basically, it’s the collection of bacteria in our gut that’s vital to digestive and metabolic health and the key to a strong immune system. Unfortunately, the low-fiber, high-sugar Western diet has changed our microbiomes so much, we don’t have as wide a variety of gut bacteria—meaning our bodies are more susceptible to things such as irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances, metabolic syndrome, gallstones, diabetes, and even chronic depression.
But not all hope is lost. A recent study looking at the Hadza people showed their microbiomes actually change over time, depending on what they’re eating. In the dry season when they snack on things such as berries and honey, their gut bacteria is more diverse, but in the wet season when they eat a lot more meat, their micobiomes look strangely similar to ours. Why? Researchers think fiber might be the key.
We repeat: FIBER. Yep, the same stuff your grandma mixes into water. And this isn’t anything new. There’s a ton of evidence that fiber has a major impact on gut health, probably more so than kombucha or kimchi (or that probiotic you’re taking). Microbes feed on fiber, producing short-chain fatty acids, which have been tied to myriad health benefits, such as reduced inflammation and protection against heart disease.
Americans consume only about 15 grams of fiber per day.