Feed Your Gut Bugs
Having a healthy, balanced, microbiome is the key to good health. It has an impact on many aspects of health, not just in the gut but body-wide.
When I plan meals, I always consider how what I eat will benefit my microbiome (yes, I know that is quite geeky!). So, I thought I'd share a couple of my current microbiome-friendly recipes/food ideas.
Cooked and cooled potatoes are a great source of gut-friendly resistant starch. Resistant starch cannot be broken down by our own digestive enzymes so is available to feed our gut microbes in the large intestine.
When potatoes are eaten hot immediately after cooking, the starch will be quickly digested into glucose and cause a big spike in blood sugar. However, when the potatoes cool down the structure of the starch changes and it becomes food for your gut bugs - a pre-biotic food. How amazing is that! This also applies to pasta and rice, when cooled they also become "resistant starches".
Gut bugs break down the resistant starch and produce substances known as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which have beneficial health properties. One of the most important of the SCFAs, butyrate, provides energy for the cells in your gut lining and helps maintain a healthy barrier between the gut environment and rest of your body.
So this is how I make my resistant-starch, potato salad - I don't really measure quantities for this, just make it up as you go along!
- Add new potatoes to boiling water and simmer until cooked. Drain and, while potatoes are still warm add some olive oil - use the best quality you have, I always use extra virgin olive oil.
- Squeeze over some lemon juice and lots of chopped fresh herbs and season to your taste.
- Leave this to cool, then stir in some plain Greek yogurt and maybe a bit of mustard.
Fresh herbs make such a difference to the flavour, you can use whatever herbs you happen to have, I use parsley, mint, sometimes oregano or tarragon. And, of course, herbs are not just for flavour and appearance, they are packed with a range of vitamins, minerals and powerful phytonutrients. ⠀⠀⠀
Buckwheat Tabbouleh Salad
Buckwheat is a type of seed known as a pseudocereal. Despite its name it is not actually related to wheat and is naturally gluten free. It is a great source of dietary fibre, protein and complex carbs along with several minerals and vitamins - a great nutrient dense base for salads. It contains both heart-healthy soluble fibre (like oats) and resistant starch which feeds your gut bugs.
Approximately 110g buckwheat groats
1 tbsp olive oil
3 spring onions, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
½ cucumber, diced
Flat leaf parsley, chopped
Fresh coriander or mint, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
- Rinse the buckwheat, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the groats and simmer for about 10 mins or until just tender. Drain and allow to cool.
- Mix in the garlic, tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber. Add in lots of chopped herbs.
- Mix in olive oil and lemon juice and season well to taste.
Good old hummus, which everyone loves. Hummus is a rich plant-based protein source loaded with minerals and unsaturated fats.
Hummus contains prebiotic fibre that nourishes beneficial gut microbes. As an added benefit, the combining of the lemon juice with chickpeas helps with absorption of iron, which is important for vegetarians and vegans.
Multiple studies show that chickpeas can help keep blood sugar levels to be stable as well as lowering inflammation.
1 tin chickpeas
Juice of ½ lemon
Tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
- Drain the chickpeas and save some of the liquid
- Add chickpeas to a food processor, with lemon juice, good splash of olive oil, 1 tbsp tahini, some chickpea juice, salt, pepper and 1tsp cumin.
- Blend until smooth. If too thick add a bit more liquid or oil and blend to get the right consistency.
- Taste and add more lemon, cumin or salt to suit how you like it.
- You can vary it by adding extra ingredients such as sundried tomato, beetroot, roast peppers or different spices.
TIP If you don't have a blender, you can make hummus using a pestle and mortar or a potato masher and a bowl!