I was actually going to say hello humans but considering we’re only ten percent human, as ninety percent of our body’s cells are non-human microbial cells, the human element to us all, is well, not so much.
There’s no doubt that eating a healthy diet can influence and feed our good microbes and as digestive worries are becoming more central to many health concerns and symptoms, eating delicious food to keep your gut happy is the key to less discomfort, a flatter belly, more energy and less internal disruption.
Did you know that cultivating a new gut microbiota, can be achieved in a short amount of time with the right food and drinks? Eating certain foods which help your good gut bugs to flourish will change the balance in your gut and help you to absorb nutrients from your meals more effectively.
By the way if you’re not keen on sport please keep scrolling…I am just about to make my very first sporting analogy.
So if you’re still reading, and you were to compare your gut to a rugby match and the microbiome are the two opposing teams, imagine your good and bad gut bacteria team players all having their own unique job to do and positioning within your intestines.
Now think about what the players are doing. Perhaps they’re a forward or a halfback; maybe they’re needed to attack, defend, stay back or are ready to go in for a tackle.
When it comes to being a good gut player, good bacteria are the heroes on the field. They act as halfbacks in our intestinal tracts, calling the shots and controlling the tempo of the game. Good gut bacteria rally together to help your body digest and absorb your food more effectively and unite against opposing forces. The good gut bacteria team as a whole can help boost your entire immune system and send messages to your brain to help regulate metabolism.
Not that we have the sporting talk out of the way, I’d love to introduce you to my good-gut microbe boosting and flavoursome watercress soup from my new book Heal Your Gut. It features two ingredients which turbo charge the anti-microbial action in the gut and are heavily loaded with beneficial fibre, in particular inulin, a fibre source that feeds the good guys inhabiting our digestive system.
This recipe screams springtime slurping, and strikes the perfect balance between being refreshing and light, yet creamy and decadent enough to leave you feeling fully satisfied. It features a combination of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats, and fortunately doesn’t taste like you’re mowing into a freshly cut lawn.
A dark, leafy green grown in natural spring water, watercress is the star ingredient in this dish. Gone are the days where watercress was used solely as a plate garnish.
Due to its adaptability, this magnificent semi-aquatic plant is making a major league comeback. Speaking of resourcefulness, the earthy green leaves can be thrown into salads, positioned upon sandwiches, or, enjoyed as a cleansing and gut-soothing soup.
Watercress is no stranger to good gut health. It acts as a highly effective antibiotic which is good for combatting candida and the chlorophyll component contained in the leaves possesses digestive support enzymes to help alleviate bloating and discomfort.
Previously a staple in Roman soldiers’ diets, peppery watercress, a cruciferous family member, is bursting with a whole range of health-promoting nutrients. Watercress has been shown to reduce DNA damage in white blood cells and positively alter blood antioxidant concentrations, making it a wonderful medicinal plant to help decrease inflammation and detoxify your entire body.
In fact, due to its impressive antioxidant profile, watercress has recently been labeled the “natural facelift” plant, with females experiencing visible improvements to their skin’s appearance with regular consumption!
It’s also high in dietary nitrate, which has been shown to lower blood pressure. While we tend to associate calcium with maintaining healthy bones, vitamin K, found in abundance in watercress, is equally as important, as it can improve calcium absorption and reduce urinary excretion of calcium.
Leeks have a mild, onion-like taste and aroma, making them an ideal addition to your vegetable-based soups.
The thing I admire most about leeks is their ability to add noticeable flavour without overwhelming the other ingredients in a recipe.
Similar to watercress, leeks are incredibly low in calories yet are still abundant in nutrition. An allium vegetable closely related to onions, garlic, shallots, and scallions, leeks add beneficial fiber and bulk along with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant polyphenols to a range of dishes.
Leeks are a particularly great source of vitamin A, which not only promotes eye health in a similar way to carrots, but which also supports healthy blood cell development, including white blood cells that fight infection.
As I’ve done in this recipe, sautéing thinly sliced leeks in some high quality oil until they wilt helps draw out their aromatic flavour and makes them easier to digest.
In this dish, it is the coconut milk that brings these two refreshing yet underrated vegetables together in creamy, decadent matrimony. Coconut milk is the best plant-based alternative to full-fat cow’s milk, as it adds richness and luxury to any dish. I use it in a range of gut-healing soups, as the unique healthy saturated fats enhance nutrient absorption of the ingredients it is paired with.
If you can make this soup the night before it’s needed, so much the better, as the flavours will meld and develop the longer they are left to infuse.
Watercress Leek and Coconut Soup
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil or 2 teaspoons ghee
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
- 1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
- 85 g (3 oz/23/4 cups) watercress, rinsed, plus extra to serve
- 270 ml (91/2 fl oz) tin additive-free coconut milk
- 375 ml (13 fl oz/11/2 cups) vegetable stock (see page 151)
- Celtic sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Melt the oil or ghee in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 3–4 minutes or until transparent. Add the leek, turnip, watercress, coconut milk and stock, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then purée in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add salt to taste, reheat if necessary, then grind over black pepper, garnish with extra watercress and serve.
Happy gut healing 🙂