It is well established that diet influences the health of an individual and that a diet rich in plant-based foods has many advantages in relation to the health and well-being of an individual. What has been unclear until recently is the large contribution of the gut microbiota to this effect. As well as providing basic nutritional requirements, the long-term diet of an animal modifies its gut microbiota. In adults, diets that have a high proportion of fruit and vegetables and a low consumption of meat are associated with a highly diverse microbiota and are defined by a greater abundance of Prevotella compared to Bacteroides, while the reverse is associated with a diet that contains a low proportion of plant-based foods. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear that the effect of the microbial ecology of the gut goes beyond the local gut immune system and is implicated in immune-related disorders, such as IBS, diabetes and inflamm-ageing. In this review, we investigate the evidence that a balanced diet leads to a balanced, diverse microbiota with significant consequences for healthy ageing by focusing on conditions of interest.