To get fit and feel better, we can push ourselves to our limits at the gym, leave eight hours between our low-carb, low-fat and scarily high amounts of protein meals, and drench them with a side of celery juice. Oh, and don’t forget about getting into ketosis and only eating green vegetables with the added bonus of feeling starved, exhausted, hangry and never satisfied with your body!
Sounds like a great time… said no one… ever.
Fad diets. Urghhh.
Fad diets are the ones that praise eliminating certain foods, or only eating particular foods. While they promise quick weight-loss, this weight-loss is not usually sustainable and can often wreak havoc on our minds, bodies and gut microbiome.
You and the planet are much better off with a high plant based flexitarian approach with diverse ingredients. And for all the strict vegans and people worried about climate change there is an interesting article over on the Guardian here which suggests that unless you’re sourcing your vegan products specifically from organic, “no-dig” systems, you're actively participating in the destruction of soil biota, promoting a system that deprives other species, including small mammals, birds and reptiles, of the conditions for life, and significantly contributing to climate change.
Diet plays a key role in regulating the health of the microbiota. Eliminating certain food groups or following a specific elimination diet can starve good gut bugs, ruining our microbiota and intestinal lining.
Having healthy, diverse and happy gut bugs ensures we’re protected against pathogens, helping to regulate our immunity and absorb all the nutrients we ingest.
Let’s start with carbohydrates. Ahh, the low-carbohydrate diet, a classic one followed by many. Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. There are two different types of carbohydrates – digestible carbohydrates that we’re able to, as the name suggests, digest, such as sugar and starch, and non-digestible carbohydrates such as fibre. Fibre is accessible to the gut and is vital for digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients.
Carbohydrates are essential for maintaining the health of our microbiome, energy stabilisation and hormone regulation. With limited carbohydrates, we have limited gut diversity which is never a good thing and starving ourselves of essential fibres and prebiotic rich ingredients.
When it comes to carbohydrates, it’s important to include a variety of different sources for microbiota diversity and anti-inflammatory effects. Choose nutrient-dense carbohydrates, such as whole grains like oats, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and brown/red rice, legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils, fruit and starchy root vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato and beetroot.
Some of my favourite gut-friendly and carbohydrate-loving recipes include:
There’s a lot of talk about cutting out fat to lose fat, but generally fats don’t make us put on weight. They’re essential for hormone balance, the health of our skin and nutrient absorption.
On the other side of the scale lies the high-fat diet. One of the biggest diets going around at the moment is the ketogenic diet, a high fat and low carbohydrate approach. The ketogenic diet was initially developed to treat epilepsy, but it’s reached fame for its ability to quicken up weight loss. The aim of the ketogenic diet is to reach a state of ketosis, which can help with weight loss and lowering blood sugar levels.
Recent studies have indicated that being in the state of ketosis can cause an increase in the gut bug Akkermansia muciniphila, a bacterial species that can cause harm (1).
While the jury’s not quite out yet on this one, many people are now having to relook at their gut health after taking up the keto approach.
When it comes to what to eat, it’s more important to have a balanced diet and eat a moderate amount of high-quality fats such as avocado, hemp seeds, nuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and oily fish.
For all of your gut-loving delicious recipe needs plus the latest gut health research and information, get your hands on my latest book, Supercharge Your Gut.
Some of my favourite gut-friendly recipes rich in good-quality fat include:
Dietary changes can cause imbalances in the diversity of your microbiome, causing gastrointestinal dysbiosis and potentially causing irritable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel disease, asthma and more.
If you're looking out for your gut, the best piece of advice I can give you is to follow an approach that looks after the health of your gut, a diverse high plant based approach with all the necessary amounts of fibre, protein, good carbohydrates and good fats.
If you're not sure where to start, it helps to begin with a clean, toned and efficient gut. For people who don't have the time to start from scratch when it comes to cleansing the gut, try my Love Your Gut powder. It's a vegan, gluten-free whole food that can improve digestion and nutrient absorption, and reduce gas and bloating and help your gut to work more efficiently and productively.
I’d love to know – which fad diets have you tried? Have you noticed how they’ve affected the health of your gut?
If you’re looking for a gut-friendly snack that’s full of goodness, these tasty crackers are on regular rotation at our house, where they’re affectionately known as ‘buck cracks’.
Simple and quick to make, they’re a convenient snack when you feel jelly legs coming on.
If you’re looking for more information on the best way to feed your gut, my book Supercharge Your Gut is definitely one to add to the book shelf.
Gut Buck Crackers
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz/1 cup) almond meal
- 35 g (1 1/4 oz/1/4 cup) buckwheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz/1/2 cup) flaxseed (linseed) meal
- 1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 free-range egg (optional and if you are vegan, it can be replaced with 1 TBS ground flax to 3 tbs water and mix until absorbed)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 175°C (340°F).
Grease a large baking tray.
Combine the almond meal, buckwheat flour, salt, flaxseed, dried herbs and lemon zest in a bowl.
Whisk the egg (or flax mixture if using) in a small bowl, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix to form a dough. If it’s too dry to roll out, mix in a little water.
Roll the dough out on a sheet of baking paper, to a thin rectangle measuring about 25 x 35 cm (10 x 14 inches). Place the baking tray face down over the top, then invert the two together so the dough is on top. Peel off the baking paper.
Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 5 cm (2 inch) triangles or squares. (Alternatively, you can leave it whole and break into pieces once cooked.)
Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until crisp, turning the crackers over halfway through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before serving.
The crackers will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container in the pantry.