A new diet craze has hailed gut microbes as an answer to losing weight, improving skin health and boosting your mood
DITCH counting calories or weighing carbs – this year’s diet craze is all about BACTERIA.
The idea is to encourage a certain mix of gut microbes that speeds up the metabolism and makes you digest food faster.
Devotees of the so-called “gut diet” are hailing it as a one-stop answer to losing weight, improving skin health and immunity and even boosting your mood.
Every human lugs around more than a trillion different kinds of microbes in our innards, making up a sort of mini gut-ecosystem called a microbiome.
Studies have found that eating certain foods creates a balanced microbiome — not just sprucing up digestion and the metabolism but also preventing bloating and protecting against infection.
Virgin Radio’s Mac Twins took part in research that discovered the so-called “skinny bacteria”.
Lisa and Alana Macfarlane, 28, are genetically identical in every way — except in the microbe population of their stomachs.
The pair volunteered as guinea pigs for researchers at King’s College London, who found they shared only 40 per cent of the same gut bacteria.
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It provided an answer to why Lisa was always one stone heavier than her sister.
With the “skinny bacteria” identified, the pair made it their mission to seek out gut-friendly foods to even up their microbes and their weight.
And it has worked.
The diet that best seems to boost the good bacteria is full of fresh high-fibre and high-antioxidant foods, plus probiotics.
Lisa says: “We’re only just realising how important the gut is to our health and well-being.
“We were always identical in every way so were shocked when we found we had totally different stomach bacteria.
“Growing up in Scotland eating deep-fried pizzas, we only knew what kale was because we used to give it to the guinea pig on his birthday.
“The gut diet is not about depriving yourself, but try to lay off the processed foods as much as you can — it made us feel amazing.”
Here are tips on the diet – and a recipe that will keep you AND the microbes happy.
FIBRE: Eat lots of different fibres to feed your skinny gut bacteria.
Good choices include oats, bran flakes, kidney beans, nuts, leeks, onions, chickpeas, raspberries, blackberries, garlic and lentils.
PROBIOTICS: These are the good bacteria in your gut. Sourdough bread is naturally fermented so feeds your skinny gut bacteria. Sauerkraut, pickles, miso soup and yoghurt are full of naturally fermented bacteria that thrive in your gut.
ANTIOXIDANTS: The excellent news is that you can get your fix of coffee, red wine and chocolate as they all contain polyphenols which are brilliant for the gut. Polyphenols are natural health-boosting agents with antioxidant properties. Antioxidants also help control the rate at which your skin ages by protecting cells from damage.
VARIETY: Eat loads of different- coloured foods to stimulate those trillions of good gut microbes.
DITCH PROCESSED FOOD: Go as natural as you can. Where possible, make your own meals and avoid processed ready meals.
TIME YOUR MEALS: Try to eat breakfast no later than 7am and dinner no later than 7pm. Studies show that when eating during these times, the gut absorbs fewer calories.
SIT BACK AND CHEW: Relaxing when eating as well as chewing food slowly and properly helps to stimulate the acid and enzymes needed for good digestion. It also renews cells in the lining of the gut.
For more information, visit thegutstuff.com.
The gut-buster curry recipe
Cooking time: 30 minutes
¼ white onion
¼ tin of tomatoes
100g peeled sweet potato
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp red chilli flakes
½ tsp cumin
¼ vegetable stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
½ garlic clove
½ tin chickpeas
¼ cup yoghurt
¼ pack butternut squash slices
5 sprigs coriander
Pinch salt and pepper
METHOD: Wash and peel the garlic, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot and the onion.
Then slice the onion as thin as you can, chop the sweet potato and carrot into 1.5cm bite-size chunks, and chop the garlic as small as you can.
Trim the coriander leaves, roughly chop and set aside.
Wash the spinach leaves, drain and set aside.
Place the stock cube in a bowl and add one cup of boiling water. Mix until fully dissolved. Set aside.
Rinse the chickpeas in a sieve and, again, set aside.
Over a medium-high heat, heat the olive oil for 30 seconds and add the onion and garlic. Fry for two minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.
Add the sweet potato, squash, carrot, the chilli flakes, cumin and turmeric. Stir-fry for 1 minute.
Add the tinned tomatoes, and cook for a further two to three minutes.
Add the chickpeas and stir to combine all ingredients. Add the stock and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Bring the heat down to medium and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the drained spinach leaves and yoghurt to the saucepan.
Stir until spinach begins to soften. Cook for no longer than one minute, add coriander and turn off heat.
Sprinkle pepper to taste. Serve with brown rice on the side, or eat on its own.