Have you been trying to lose weight without success? Well, it could be your gut health – more specifically, the population of microbes in your gut – that’s the problem. There’s more and more evidence that the bacteria and other organisms that live in our gut can affect our hunger signals and cravings as well as our tendency towards weight gain. In fact, this is one of the subjects of a new book by Dr Michael Mosley called The Clever Guts Diet*.
We speak to nutritionist Cassandra Barns about some of the foods that could be good for your gut and potentially help you drop some pounds. Here are five of her top picks!
‘A traditional fermented food; raw sauerkraut naturally contains millions of friendly bacteria. It could even be better for us than the average probiotic supplement or yoghurt drink, as the species and strains of bacteria in natural fermented foods tend to be much more varied. Make sure the label says ‘raw’ or ‘unpasteurised’, because the friendly bacteria will be destroyed if the sauerkraut is pasteurised.’
‘Miso is another traditional fermented food from Japan. It’s fantastic used to make sauces and dips, and added to stews, stir-fries or soups, as it gives them that delicious umami flavour. Again, choose an unpasteurised miso for the active bacteria and the gut health benefits; and if you’re using it in hot dishes, add only towards the end of cooking. Try Clearspring Organic Japanese Brown Rice Miso – Unpasteurised.’
‘Oats are one of the foods that naturally contain prebiotic fibre. Prebiotics are substances that help nourish the friendly bacteria in your gut and increase their numbers. Try Nairn’s Scottish Porridge Oats, which are also certified gluten-free. What’s more, oats provide slow-releasing carbohydrates that can help manage your blood sugar. Certain vegetables and fruits are also great sources of prebiotics, such as onions, Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus.’
‘In addition to probiotic and prebiotic foods, it’s thought that flavonoids could be good for your gut bacteria too. According to Dr Mosley’s research, consuming lots of flavonoids could help you avoid regaining weight after a diet*. Flavonoids are found in vegetables and fruit – especially berries and other dark-coloured types – and also in green tea. Matcha tea in particular is thought to contain the highest concentration of flavonoids compared to other green teas: try Clearspring Organic Matcha Shots.’
‘Yes, really! Dark chocolate contains flavonoids similar to those found in green tea, and it’s part of the heart-healthy, gut-healthy Mediterranean diet. But you need to go for high-cocoa, low-sugar dark chocolate to get any benefits. To go one step further, try raw dark chocolate. It’s made from raw cacao, avoiding the roasting process that may reduce the content of natural flavonoids in standard chocolate. I like Ombar 90% Raw which contains a smaller percentage of cacao but also has added Lactobacillus acidophilus, one of the types of ‘friendly’ bacteria that live in your gut.’
* Mosley, M. (2017). The Clever Guts Diet. 1st ed. La Vergne: Short Books.