Love Your Gut
This year, you’ll keep hearing about gut health and its effect on both mind and body, says nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik. The microbiota – the population of bacteria living in your gut, helping digestion – is a key subject of medical research, with studies showing the mix of good and bad bacteria can affect weight and bowel health, even mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. And that the mix and diversity needed for health is being reduced by modern life, including stress, junk food and antibiotics.
‘Ninety-five per cent of serotonin is made in the gut,’ says Eve. ‘And sorting out your gut is essential for tackling health issues like weight loss or food intolerances.’ A whole new industry of books, eating plans, probiotic supplements and fermented foods has sprung up to increase the health of your gut. So how can you improve the balance?
* Take a daily probiotic to add good types of bacteria, which can improve the ecosystem and functioning of your gut.
* Good bacteria feed on high-fibre foods, especially a kind of fibre called prebiotic. Get yours by eating plenty of it; good sources are bananas, onions, garlic, cabbage, beans, lentils, root vegetables and wheat bran. The more varied your diet, the more varied your bacteria.
* Eat fermented foods, the original, traditional probiotics, which are teeming with good bacteria. You can now buy sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kefir (a milk based drink), kimchi (a spicy Korean pickle), kombucha (a type of tea) or raw miso at health foods stores. Or make your own: learn how in Fermented: A Beginner’s Guide to Making Your Own Sourdough, Yogurt, Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kimchi and More by Charlotte Pike (Kyle books, £16.99).
* Cook up some bone broth. You’ve probably heard of this already from foodie sisters Hemsley + Hemsley, authors of The Art Of Eating Well who’ve been singing its praises for being rich in collagen, amino acids and glutamine (very healing for the gut). Like stock, it’s made by boiling bones, but usually for longer – up to 12 hours for chicken, and up to 24 for beef or lamb, say the Hemsleys. If you don’t want to make it, you can now buy it in health food stores, too. Add it to everything from soups, risotto and stews; the Hemsleys even drink it as a snack.