When it comes to beneficial bacteria in your body, that lively internal ecosystem called the gut biome, one thing is clear—diversity is healthy. You want to have a robust population of as many different good-for-you bugs as possible.

The latest research, from a pair of studies in Europe, reveals how to nourish that diversity. It’s good news for beer lovers—but watch those potato chips!

Biome Boosters

Here are the foods that were associated with a diverse gut biome…

Biome Busters

And here are the foods and eating habits that were associated with a less diverse gut biome…

  • White bread
  • Sugary soda
  • Savory snacks (chips, pretzels, crackers)
  • Whole milk
  • High-calorie diet
  • High-carb diet

The research also revealed a fascinating tidbit about chocolate. People who ate dark chocolate in particular had a gut biome with more of a particular kind of beneficial bacteria strain, Lachnospiraceae, that’s linked with lower colon cancer risk.

BATHROOM CLUES

How can you tell whether your diet is good for your biome? One reliable tip-off is in the bathroom, the researchers found. People whose stools were looser, rather than harder and dryer, tended to have a more diverse biome (but not too loose, of course). So did people with more frequent stools. A high-fiber diet (see fruits and vegetables above), rather than one that leans toward refined carbs, promotes healthfully loose, more frequent stools.

And when your gut feels good, it’s much easier for all of you to feel good.

To learn more ways to keep your inner bugs healthy, see Bottom Line’s article, “The ‘Gut Bug’ Diet—It Really Works!