by Robin Thomas

Now is the perfect time to take some simple steps towards better health. The days are longer and the weather is perfect for getting outdoors for a walk or a swim. The flowers are brightening our world, and the farmer’s markets are filled with fresh produce. Speaking of farmer’s markets, summer is the perfect time of year to try some new vegetables—remember, a variety of vegetables is best for your gut microbiome!


Your best bet is to start small, slow, and to have a plan. Here are six tips to get you started.

Once or twice a week, plan a meal with a healthy vegetable you’ve never tried before, and experiment with how you prepare it. Sure, you may not like steamed broccoli. But what if it’s sautéed in a bit of olive oil, and tossed with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and lemon juice? Swiss chard may not be your thing, but use sautéed leaves for a filling in enchiladas, or even raw in a smoothie? You might make a delicious discovery. And, remember, cooking at home is always better (for your health and for your wallet) than going out to eat.

Next time you have a salad, try making a simple vinaigrette. Mix up olive oil, vinegar, and whole-grain mustard—three parts oil to one part vinegar with a dab of mustard works best. You’ll be skipping the bottled salad dressing that most likely has a lot of extra sugar and calories.

Instead of buying sweetened cereal or yogurt, simply add your own fresh fruit. You’ll find it’s just as tasty, and you’ll feel good about the choice.

Feed your microbiome. Some of the best foods for increasing healthy gut bacteria are high in fiber and those rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish and eggs. Maybe skip the processed smoked salmon or lox, and try grilling salmon with olive oil and fresh herbs on top.

Try introducing probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are foods that contain active microorganisms. When you consume these foods, you introduce healthy bacteria into your gut that can help maintain a healthy balance of microbes to support gut health. Common probiotic foods include yogurt, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and sourdough bread.

Grow a garden. Nothing quite beats the taste of a fresh-off-the-vine heirloom tomato you watched grow all summer. It’s not really fair to compare homemade pesto to the store-bought version either. You can get a real sense of accomplishment that comes with growing your own food, too. And kids might be more likely to sample the literal fruits of their labor. If you don’t have the yard space for a garden, you can grow some plants and herbs in smaller pots and containers. If that doesn’t work, try hitting the farmers market, or sign up for a space in thh community garden or for a share of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

Want to learn more?

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Robin Thomas worked for 25 years in Medical Research at UNC studying inflammation in chronic and autoimmune diseases. She left UNC to start her own Wellness Business in 2004 and founded Living Well Connections, a community for people whose passion is healthy living, in 2015.