Forget diets, focus on gut-health!

Welcome back to all in 2023!

Tim Spector, an epidemiologist and co-founder of the ZOE nutrition study, wants to change the way people think about food.
His 2015 book The Diet Myth popularised the idea that each of us has a unique and constantly changing gut microbiome that is crucial to our health. Unlike our genes, we can easily influence our gut health.

Once you wrap your head around the microbes in our guts, which need a varied diet themselves in order to process the food that makes us healthy, much of it seems like common sense. Eating a wide range of plants keeps you well –  Aim for 30 plants a week, and this includes  seeds, nuts, fruit, herbs and spices. Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha and sauerkraut contain live bacteria that are good for you .
 “Ultra-processed foods” (UPFs) – a “heady, addictive mix” that makes us “fatter but less nourished”, are bad. Anything that claims to be a “superfood” is probably a con.

Replacing sugar, salt, fat and gluten with weird and untested chemicals is usually pointless and probably dangerous, and the 1980s advice to change butter and cream for margarines and vegetable oils was “one of the biggest health scandals ever”.

A recent study in Nature Communications have also shown links between gut microbiome and Parkinsons disease.

Spector is a huge fan of any food that’s beneficial for your gut, eg  kimchi, kombucha and sourdough bread – in fact, fermented foods are manna to our friendly microbes, including the cacao beans in good-quality chocolate. But he’s sometimes frustratingly understated when it comes to the politics – and finances – of food. Our choices are “a puzzle of availability, convenience, taste and education,” he admits, while cheerfully recommending that cheap UPFs and sugary children’s yoghurts “should be avoided”.

His top 10 tips:

  1. Use lots of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). This staple in the Mediterranean diet is loaded with polyphenols — natural chemicals with antioxidant powers that act as fuel for our gut microbes.
  2. Back to the kitchen – make your own food rather than take-outs
  3. Fermented foods are key
  4. Fill up on fibre
  5. Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) are a great mid-morning snack that can keep you going until lunchtime (
  6. Unsweetened dark chocolate (70%) is great
  7. Make it a combo – eg rice and beans are better than just rice. (Drop some shredded spinach in, you won't even taste it!)
  8. Slow down – eat slowly, and don’t eat while doing other stuff
  9. Use spices like turmeric, saffron, garlic, chilli
  10. Variety – add new foods to familiar dishes

Pick one of our natural, nutritional snack boxes and take a step further towards health:

#healthisland #healthysnacks


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