you are what you eat
We have all heard the old adage ‘YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT’; well it would appear it has never been more true. New research is proving that the food that we eat has a direct impact on our gut microbiome and from that a direct link with our brain and our mental health.
Having diverse gut bacteria is a key player in our mood and mental health. It can help relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress but, equally if these bacteria are out of balance, they might make it worse. The key thing to do to increase your gut microbiome is to eat a diverse and healthy diet with as many different fresh foods as possible.
MY 5 TOP TIPS:
30 different plants a week
For a long time now we have been told to eat 5 fruit or vegetables a day, but the latest research is now saying that we should aim to eat 30 different plants a week. This may sound a lot but it’s not actually as hard as you might think as this includes nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, pulses, oats, grains, herbs and spices, as well as fruit and vegetables.
MAKE A LIST
Try making a list of everything you eat in a week and see if you can reach the magic 30. I have been doing this for a few weeks and on the first day after a breakfast of granola, Greek yoghurt and berries followed by a egg muffin made with a few chopped vegetables, I realised I’d already had 12 different ‘plants’. Only another 18 to find in the next 6 ½ days!
I realise that in the current climate buying lots of different fruit and vegetables every week but might seem a little extravagant but think about buying a bag of ready made stir fry vegetables or mixed bags of nuts or seeds to get the variety without buying too many things at once. Or buy frozen fruit and vegetables so you always have some in the freezer and don’t waste any.
MAKE YOUR OWN KEFIR
During lockdown I started to make my own kefir. Increasing the amount of probiotics is vital for a healthy gut and fermented food is one of the best ways to do this.
You can buy a small amount of kefir culture off the internet for a few pounds, and by simply adding some fresh whole milk to the culture and leaving in a cupboard for 24 hours to ferment, you will have made your own kefir. It literally takes a couple of minutes to strain off the culture and refill with milk every day, and put the strained kefir into the fridge to use in smoothies, mixed with yoghurt or in a salad dressing.
It multiplies pretty quickly so I often give mine away to other people if I get too much. If you want a break or have made too much, just store the culture in some fresh milk in the fridge and it will stall it growing for a few weeks. I add my kefir to yoghurt in the morning or use it in a smoothie – it has quite a ‘sour’ taste on it’s own.
My latest fermented food project is making Kimchi, the jury is still out on that one and I keep forgetting I have it in the fridge. It does taste lovely and spicy as an addition to food. There are lots of different versions of kimchi, it’s a staple addition in every Korean household and every family has their own tweaked recipe. You can ferment so many different foods, why not give it try?
Simply chop up come cabbage, cover it in salted water for a few hours, strain and add spices and chilli flakes, massage it all together until you get natural juices or liquid to cover the cabbage. Allow it to sit out on the counter for a few days and then move to the fridge. Use it as a pickle or relish and feed your gut microbiome with probiotics.
IS IT TIME TO TAKE CONTROL?
I often to say to clients when they come with a problem…what can you control? We may not be able to change a situation but there are lots of things we DO have control over and one of them is the food we eat.
If a simple tweak of eating more fibre, colourful foods, pre and probiotics could improve our mood and mental health than maybe it’s worth trying?
If you want to find out more, look up Professor Tim Spector and the Zoe project.