Once in a happy while, new fashions in nutrition and wellbeing come along to move the conversation forward in a healthy direction. While the ever-booming diet industry tends all too often towards promoting disordered eating as opposed to health, just occasionally something unequivocally good happens for all those who wish to focus on their nutritional health while not wishing to cut out any of the major food groups.

The recent focus on eating for your microbiome is, then, a really positive move. For rather than excluding food, it is inclusive, encouraging disciples of the science-backed movement to eat as diversely as possible. This does not, of course, extend to the deep-fried, the heavily processed or, for that matter, junk food in general, all of which can decimate gut microbes and cause disastrous losses in diversity (it can also increase the levels of bacteria associated with obesity). But for most foods, there is a place. Fermented foods are particularly encouraged, as are colourful and fibre-rich dishes, all of which feed the good bacteria.

The extra good news is that the food that you can eat when choosing it on the basis of what your microbiome wants is often truly delicious. Here we round up some of our favourite meals for maintaining a happy microbiome.

Griddled Aubergines With Yogurt And Mint

BBC Good Food
Griddled Aubergines With Yogurt & Mint

This simple and delicious recipe makes a fantastically tasty and quick lunch, or is brilliant as a starter or a side dish. The smokiness of the griddled aubergines is perfectly offset by the zingy lemon and the cooling yogurt – do make sure you choose a full fat natural variety for maximum digestion-boosting benefits. Your gut will also love the garlic, mint and lemon. We’d be tempted to add a few scattered pomegranate seeds for some lovely jewel-like colour.

Miso Chickpeas And Avocado On Toast

Olive Magazine
Miso Chickpeas And Avocado On Toast

We love regular avocado on toast, especially with a twist of lime, crumbly feta, roasted tomatoes and some chilli. We are avowed refuseniks when it comes to being part of the avo-on-toast bashing brigade who bang on about the cliched breakfast of millennials. After all, it’s both delicious and good for you. But sometimes we want a change – and this twist on the recipe, here in the form of miso chickpeas, is exactly what we’ve been hankering after. You just need chickpeas, a teaspoon of white miso paste, rye bread, some sesame oil and a spring onion and you’re away. What’s more, chickpeas are high in fibre – especially of the soluble variety, which is broken down by gut bacteria (tick); and avocado is full of magnesium, zinc and potassium, all of which aid digestion (double tick). Gorgeous.

Simple Red Lentil Dal

Love Your Gut
Simple Red Lentil Dal

We love dal as a healthy weekday dinner of pure comfort, or as a side dish to a more elaborate weekend feast. It costs very little to make and it’s brilliant for your gut. As the author of the recipe, Dr Joan Ransley, says, ‘This is a nutritious and sustaining dish that promotes gut health. Lentils are the key ingredient and are rich in fibre and contain a type of carbohydrate known as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Both fibre and GOS promote the growth of a range of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract providing a number of benefits including a reduced risk of colorectal and heart disease. Spinach, tomatoes, onion and garlic also contain dietary fibre. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is widely used as a spice and an ingredient in traditional herbal medicine. The rhizome of ginger has been shown in clinical studies to help relieve gastrointestinal discomforts, nausea and vomiting. Turmeric contains curcumin which has been shown to change the balance in favours the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut over that of pathogenic bacteria.’ For us, this is a winner, no matter the season.

Jerusalem Artichoke Salad

Deliciously Ella

We are just on the cusp of those happy, heady days of routinely knocking up salads at lunchtime and, occasionally, even being able to eat them outside. Jerusalem artichoke is a great prebiotic (which can help with inflammation and even with mental health) and is packed with fibre, iron and potassium. This intensely healthy number also features dark leafy greens in the form of kale; a lovely crunch courtesy of the hazelnuts; and a hit of sweetness thanks to the maple syrup and the raisins. We’d serve it as part of a medley of salads or alongside chicken or fish.

Korean Pork And Kimchi Soup

Korean Pork And Kimchi Soup

Eating for your microbiome is not the exclusive preserve of vegetarians. For the carnivores, this delicious recipe is both satisfyingly meaty and excellent for your gut. Spicy and sour, it takes a little making (there are a couple of bits that may not be in your store cupboard, such as gochujang), but it is tasty enough to make a special trip worth it. The health benefits come thanks to the fermented kimchi, which evidence increasingly shows improves intestinal health, supports the immune system, aids anti-inflammatory responses and can improve levels of good bacteria in the gut. Pretty good, huh?

Golden Sauerkraut

Delicious Magazine
Golden Sauerkraut

The art of fermenting food is one with its roots in the ancient world. Never before has its health benefits been more fully appreciated. This golden sauerkraut is an excellent way to start learning the process. As the recipe writer James Strawbridge, a Cornwall-based photographer and eco-living expert, says, ‘Sauerkraut has its roots in ancient Mongolia, but nowadays has a distinctive Germanic or Eastern European vibe. The method can be adapted for a host of vegetables from around the world; red cabbage, fennel, celeriac and carrot kraut are all worth trying. Fermentation needs careful observation – the vegetables must always be covered by the liquid so they don’t dry out or discolour.’ All you’ll need is a whole cabbage, garlic, turmeric (fresh or ground), fine sea salt, preserving jars and a rolling pin. Do note, it needs to ferment for ten to fourteen days before you want to eat it.

Vegan Falafel Fritters

Jamie Oliver
Vegan Falafel Fritters

We can always rely on Jamie to deliver flavoursome dishes, and this healthy sharing lunch or dinner is no different. As he advises, ‘The star of the show is the humble chickpea, which is high in protein and fibre, and lends itself to so many delicious dishes that we know and love. Load it all up in a flatbread for a gorgeous vegan feast. Hallelujah!’ Do note, it contains a fair few ingredients, so not one to knock up quickly. But if you have the time, this is absolutely delicious and completely moreish – which is totally acceptable since our microbiome will actually thank us for our greed on this occasion. And who can argue with that?

By Nancy Alsop
March 2021

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