An individual with a diet of legumes, bread, fish, nuts and red wine is likely to have high levels of healthy gut bacteria, according to a new European study.

To arrive at the findings, researchers at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands studied four groups – the general population, people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and patients with irritable bowel syndrome to analyze the relation between dietary patterns and gut microbiota.

Study participants provided stool samples, which were analyzed and compared with the results of a food frequency survey. 

Lead author and dietitian Laura Bolte and her research team identified 61 individual food items associated with microbial populations and 49 correlations between food patterns and microbial groups.

The study supports the idea that a specific diet could be an effective way to treat or manage intestinal diseases.

“The results indicate that diet is likely to become a significant and serious line of treatment or disease management for diseases of the gut – by modulating the gut microbiome,” Bolte said in a press release.

Plant-based foods and a Mediterranean-influenced diet help bacteria with anti-inflammatory properties to thrive. 

Bolte added, “A diet characterized by nuts, fruit, greater vegetable and legume intake than animal protein, combined with moderate consumption of animal derived foods like fish, lean meat, poultry, fermented low fat dairy, and red wine, and a lower intake of red meat, processed meat and sweets, is beneficially associated with the gut ecosystem in our study.”

The findings were presented at the United European Gastroenterology Week 2019, the largest gastroenterology meeting in Europe.