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The good gut health diet

Judith Wills / 17 October 2019

Diet expert Judith Wills on why you should go with your gut feeling when it comes to weight loss, and how a healthy microbiome could give you a health boost.

Prebiotic foods
Prebiotic food such as leeks, asparagus, bananas and garlic are excellent for good gut health

Recent scientific research from Austria has just found that if you go on a fasting diet – eating nothing one day, then eating ‘normally’ the next day, you’ll lose on average half a stone in a month.

Well – fancy that. What a surprise. Who’d have thought it, eh? Halve your calorie intake in effect, and you’ll lose weight. Well I never.

The study leader, Prof Thomas Pieber, says that this regime, which, let’s face it, has been pushed into our faces virtually every week in the UK since Michael Moseley first published a book on the subject is good because we don’t have to worry about counting calories. Just don’t eat.

And, though very many people have followed a similar regime or one of its many slight variations, and indeed found it a good way to lose weight, there are a lot of people who find the idea of eating nothing for 24 hours very daunting.

Most people aged 60-plus I’ve talked to say they’ve never been tempted to try a fasting diet – or at least not for more than a day or two - to lose some weight. The two main reasons being that mealtimes can be a welcome routine, something to look forward to, and a pleasure that they don’t want to be denied as often as every other day. And of course, if you happen to be the cook in the household, you still have to provide grub for the others on your fasting day, which isn’t ideal at all.

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The good gut health diet

So for all of us who don’t fancy the idea – what to do instead? Well, I recommend going with your gut feeling. Avoid the fasting – and follow a plan that has your gut health in mind as well as your waistline.

The concept of eating for good gut health has developed very rapidly in the past few years. Much research has been done to show that what you eat, and how kindly you look after your ‘good’ gut bacteria and encourage different types, has a very big bearing on your health in dozens of ways, from lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease to improved mood, better sleep and a stronger immune system.

And as if all that isn’t enough, the type of varied diet that can boost your gut health by increasing not only your quantities and types of those healthy bacteria but also giving them plenty of the things they like to eat, is also an ideal diet to help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight naturally.

The foods the microbiome (the term for gut bacteria) like are called prebiotics – typically high-fibre foods such as Jerusalem artichokes, leafy greens, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, whole wheat, spinach, beans, bananas, oats, and soybeans as examples. And other foods, such as yogurt, aged cheeses, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and kefir (a fermented milk drink similar to yogurt) actually contain the healthy bacteria that will, with care, colonise your gut and are therefore called probiotics.

It’s basically a high-fibre diet that will stop you from feeling hungry. It’s also naturally fairly low in calories as it is high in plants and low in junk/high-sugar/highly refined carbs.

But these aren’t the only reasons a gut-healthy diet works to help with weight control. Research in the USA has found that slim people have 70 percent more gut bacteria and therefore a more diverse microbe than that of their overweight peers. Researchers believe that the microbiome plays a role in processing food and helping to determine how many calories and nutrients your body absorbs.

Indeed I could write a book on the subject – but I’m not going to, for two reasons. One, aforementioned Dr Moseley has already done so. He found time in between writing about fasting also to write The Clever Guts Diet and a couple of others.

And I’ve just found a very very good new book about gut health, your health and your weight by Dr Megan Rossi. She has written Eat Yourself Healthy (Penguin) and what she says in it is some of the most sensible, up to date and encouraging work on the subject that you can read. She, like me, isn’t into fads, getting you to completely alter your diet, and so on. And she calls the trend for fasting ‘C**p’.

Enough said.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.