Look after your microbiome and you’ll sail through the festive season feeling less stressed, leaner and more energised.
'Tis the season to go too far. We’ve all been there: too much food, too much fizz and soon we’re feeling bloated and sluggish, and lacking in vitality. In short, a long way from your healthiest self. “We now realise that the gut microbiome is one of the biggest drivers of health in the human body,” explains dietitian Bianca Maree Harrington, head microbiome coach at Microba. The good news is, there are delicious and healthy ways to party through the festive season and protect these ‘old friends’ driving your health from the inside. Add these to your festive fuel!
Serve gut-loving salads
Cold rice, pasta and potatoes all make a great foundation for healthy salads. “Cooking and then cooling rice, pasta, and even potatoes, increases their resistant starch, which is actually a great fuel source for your gut bacteria,” Bianca says. “So you’re getting more bang for your buck out of the same food just by cooking and cooling it.”
Pile on berries for lower kJ desserts
“Generally, berries are lower in kilojoules than other fruits,” Bianca says. “They’re also a great source of prebiotics for your gut bacteria.” So if you’re having a slice of pavlova, for example, go easy on the cream and pile on the fruity topping.
Eat the fruits of the season
When fruits and vegies are in season, like juicy cherries in summer, they have their highest nutrient content. It’s also when they’re at their cheapest.
Sip on herbal tea
“People who drink a lot of sugar-laden beverages (including alcohol) have lower diversity within their gut bacteria,” Brooke says. So brew up tea leaves, which contain flavonoids, with fresh fruit for a delicious homemade iced tea. “Flavonoids are health-promoting chemicals that have been linked to a lot of positive health benefits and a reduction in bacteria that are linked to the development of colo-rectal cancer,” she adds.
Swap snags for lean meats
Bad news for barbecue lovers: research shows that saturated fats drive inflammation in the gut. “Replace sausages and other fatty meats, like bacon, with leaner options, like turkey breast, seafood and lean ham off the bone,” says dietitian Brooke Delfino, the editor of Australian Healthy Food Guide.
Don't overlook your vegies
These are powerhouses of prebiotics that act as food for your healthy gut bacteria. Oven-roasted veg – think pumpkin, beetroot, potato – are equally delicious hot, or served cold in a salad. “And add whole cloves of garlic to the roasting tin for another healthy dose of prebiotics,” Brooke says.
Choose dark chocolate
“This is a great source of prebiotics for the microbiome,” Bianca says. And it’s also less likely to have the unhealthy fats that can pad out other chocolate types, and which have been linked to inflammation.
“The specific plant chemicals and antioxidants of nuts helps improve your overall health,” Bianca says. “Research on the microbiome shows that walnuts in particular are powerhouses that seem to really increase the levels of beneficial bacteria that live there.” Add them to salads, as well as baked goodies, such as bran muffins and banana bread.
Sip not glug red wine
If you’re going to drink alcohol, then choose red wine, as it contains polyphenols, plant chemicals which studies show help feed the good gut bacteria, and increase the diversity in the microbiome.
© Prevention Australia
First published: 15 Dec 2020