Doctor and medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley is possibly one of the keenest guinea pigs in the health arena at the current time - whether deliberating infesting himself with a parasite for research and documentary purposes or swallowing a camera and broadcasting the workings of his intestines to an audience at the Science Museum, it’s fair to say that he’s game, where testing his own theories and ideas is concerned. In terms of diets, weight loss and reversing his own type 2 diabetes diagnosis, his experiments have led to profound success- he’s shed almost a stone and a half in the past five years and normalised his blood sugar levels by way of the now famous 5:2 diet combined with his Mediterranean-inspired Blood Sugar Diet. He’s experienced first hand the difference that dietary and lifestyle changes can make to overall health, and his newest focus is the gut , or rather, fostering a diversity of healthy gut microbes that can improve everything from our mood to our digestion to our potential to lose weight.
If you’re wondering where to begin, here are some of key additions to your diet as recommended by Dr Mosley as part of the ‘Clever Guts Diet’:
Anti-inflammatory, heart healthy and protein-rich, oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring also have a beneficial effect on your microbiome (the microbes within your gut), increasing a bacteria called butyrate that helps to protect your colon and reduce gut inflammation. At least two servings per week is the baseline to reap the rewards, but every little helps. Pregnant women, in particular, shouldn’t consume more than this amount to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury. Otherwise, oil up. Speaking of which…
An all-round ‘good fat’, olive oil is a key component of the much-lauded Mediterranean diet , and thought to be one of the reasons behind the longevity and general good health of populations on the continent. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich and brimming with plant polyphenols, olive oil can help to soothe gut irritation while also making you feel fuller, and thus less likely to graze throughout the day, which in turn can result in more effective weight loss and maintenance.
Fruit and vegetables
You knew this one was coming. Dr Mosley encourages getting the greatest variety and colour range into your trolley as possible (like ‘eat the rainbow’, but not Skittles). Basically, beige diets are the enemies of our guts - our intestines et al love a mixed bag, but said colour needs to come from healthy sources. Just go easy on sulphuric veg such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli if you’re an IBS sufferer - many find that high levels of sulphides spike irritation. Otherwise, your gut loves them for their antioxidant and amino acid prowess.
On to the exciting/unexpected news: as long as your choc of choice has a high cocoa content. Dairy Milk won’t cut it apparently. Dark chocolate boasts a high number of antioxidant flavonoids and polyphenols that help your gut to stay healthy, with far less sugar and ‘bad’ fat than milk chocolate. Shift to the dark side for serene digestion.
The live, full-fat kind brings a whole lot of probiotic goodness to the table, keeping intestinal bacteria happy and reducing your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Fermented microbes in food both create a unique tangy flavour ( kefir fans will relate) and add good bacteria to your digestive system. Think sauerkraut, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, cheese and even the next surprise addition to the list…
Before you crack into the Sauv, we’re talking a moderate intake of red wine, which Dr Mosley notes has been linked to lower cholesterol, possibly thanks to its Bifidobacteria content. Red wine is also thought to promote the growth of Bacteroidetes in the gut, which is a bacteria apparently associated with keeping us slim.
Some of us barely reach half of our daily recommended intake of fibre in the UK, and upping our levels of plant fibre in particular helps to not only keep us regular but improves our gut’s absorption of key vitamins and minerals. Check out our fibre guide for high fibre food ideas and further intel.
Just not antibiotic reared, low welfare meat. Good quality, grass-fed red meat once or twice a week, on the other hand, is likely to pose no risk to health, or even better, potentially have a protective effect, as a large European study quoted by Dr Mosley indicated.
The humble egg has had a bad rap in the past from the cholesterol police, but current research indicates that their health pros outweigh any potential cholesterol cons: they’re loaded with protein, vitamins and mineral and make for a much more gut friendly breakfast that sugary cereals or pastries.
For more information about the clever guts diet, plus what to eat (and cut back on), buy The Clever Guts Diet book here , £4