Professor Tim Spector, the King’s College London epidemiologist celebrated for his work on diet and the microbiome, advises on the best eight foods for a healthy gut.
When The Diet Myth was published in 2015, few people had an inkling of the role that the estimated 100 trillion microbes in our gut play in our digestion. Spector’s work, via the Zoe Project, the world’s largest nutrition study, has revolutionised our understanding of the importance of our microbiome for a healthy, longer life.
“Forget about calories. Eating for your gut microbes is the best way to think about food at the moment,” says Spector.
“It’s something we can all do. If they are happy, you’re basically making your body more efficient at processing the food. You’re going to reduce sugar and fat peaks, and reduce stress and inflammation in the body. This should give you more energy, less hunger and help weight loss. Try to aim to eat about 30 plants per week – these include nuts, seeds and herbs.”
Key gut-healthy foods include nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, red wine, olive oil and vegetables such as leeks, onions, garlic and artichokes, which are really packed with chemicals that microbes love. We also need to be regularly consuming more fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, live yoghurt and kefir, as a source of natural microbes.
Here are his top 8 recommendations for a healthy gut:
Nuts and seeds: packed with fibre and prebiotics that feed our healthy gut bacteria.
Artichoke: prebiotic fibre could help curb cravings and aid blood-sugar levels.
Red wine: people who drink red wine have more diverse gut flora.
Kimchi: a feisty fermented cabbage teeming with beneficial microbes.
Dark chocolate: cocoa compounds are fermented into anti-inflammatory chemicals.
Live yoghurt: full of protein, calcium and live cultures with gut-friendly bugs.
Olive oil: healthy fats in olive oil improve our ability to absorb nutrients.
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