"It's not just about what you eat – but how you eat."
A healthy body and mind need a healthy diet. And good food not only provides us with the fuel we need every day but it's essential for the functioning of the digestive system too. With a few simple and easy improvements to your diet, you can positively affect the health of your gut.
Good food provides us with the fuel we need every day, but it can be difficult to find interesting and tasty ideas. To help brighten up your meal repertoire why not try these seven recipes – designed to be nutritious as well as delicious!
1. Roasted garlic instead of butter or margarine on toast – oven roasted whole garlic bulbs for 30 minutes will lose most of their strong, pungent bite, and will take on a buttery sweetness.
2. Use spinach instead of iceberg lettuce in our sandwiches – whilst iceberg lettuce and spinach are both fat free and low in calories, spinach is more nutrient dense, providing a great source of iron, magnesium, folate, and vitamins A and C.
3. Curly kale crisps instead of potato crisps as a tasty snack – for a lower calorie swap, try oven baked kale crisps instead of regular crisps. Kale is high in vitamins K, A and C, and also in calcium and antioxidants. Try making your own.
4. Frozen banana instead of ice cream for a cool dessert – in a blender, place a frozen, peeled and sliced banana, add a little milk if desired and hey presto: an instant healthy replacement for high calorie ice cream!
5. Cauliflower rice instead of white rice at your picnic or barbecue – simply blend cauliflower in your food processor until the texture resembles that of rice, then steam or sauté for a lighter, healthier alternative.
6. Roasted chickpeas instead of croutons on your salad – add a tasty gluten free crunch to your salad, by using fibre and protein filled chickpeas instead of bread based croutons. Simply lightly coat the chickpeas in olive oil and your favourite spices and pop in the oven.
7. Frozen grapes instead of ice lollies for a summer snack – Just pop some seedless grapes in the freezer and use as a replacement snack instead of high sugar ice lollies and ice cream.
Your five a day
Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day; choose a varied range and go for a rainbow of colours. Where you can, eat them raw with the skin on for extra fibre. Frozen vegetables and dried fruits count too – as do juices. Although remember, juice only counts as one portion, no matter how much you have.
Stock up on fibre
Fibre is essential for good digestive health; it provides the bulk to our food, helping it to move through the gut. Good sources of fibre include fruit and vegetables, pulses (such as lentils and beans), grains and cereals. Switch refined carbohydrates such as white rice, bread and pasta for wholegrain varieties, which contain significantly more fibre.
Some bacteria that live in the digestive system work to keep the gut healthy as well as beneficially influencing the immune system. But you can also help beneficial bacteria to multiply in your gut by eating prebiotic foods.
Prebiotic carbohydrates occur in the Allium group of plants (onions; garlic; leeks), and in asparagus and artichokes, as well as to a lesser extent in beans and pulses and some cereals, e.g. oats.
Good sources of protein include lean meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. However, it's important to be aware that some sources of animal protein contain a high amount of fat, so go lean where possible. Proteins are essential and are building blocks for the body. And therefore, they are important for growth and repair. In addition, they are vital for a large number of processes within the body.
Drinking regularly keeps your mouth fresh as oral bacteria stay on the move. And it also helps your gut flush out waste, preventing constipation. Aim to drink eight to ten glasses of liquid each day – this can include fruit juice, tea and cordial as well as water.
Take your time
It's not just about what you eat – but how you eat. Eat slowly and chew your food well – this releases enzymes which kick-start digestion and hormones which will reduce the amount you want to eat. It also ensures that food reaches the stomach in manageable slivers. If food is not chewed properly, stomach enzymes and acid have to work harder to break it down, which can cause bloating and heartburn.