Our resident nutritionist has a no nonsense approach to New Year healthy eating, by resetting your gut microbiome, and we’re on board for the long term!
January is without a doubt the most miserable time of year. It’s a period of deprivation, of tiredness, of over-exercising, and punishing yourself for all the Christmas indulgences.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, I promise.
Over the past few years, we’ve been realising just how important our gut health is for overall health. One of the most important things you can do to improve or maintain good gut health is eating a wide variety of foods which will help your gut microbiome. The opposite to going on a restrictive diet. The exact opposite, in fact.
If you look back at the all the delicious food you ate over Christmas and conclude that you enjoyed it, then fantastic! There’s no need to feel guilt or beat yourself up about it, you had a wonderful time and were happy – which is great for your mental health. Feelings of stress and guilt also definitely won’t help your gut health. When we stress or feel anxious while eating, our stomach is more rigid and tense, leading to less effective digestion, and more work for your gut bacteria. When our gut bacteria eat remnants of food in our large intestine they produce gases as by-products, and you can probably guess where I’m going with this…more work for your gut bacteria can mean more bloating, flatulence, pain, and discomfort.
The key to gut health is having a thriving gut microbiome (the population of bacteria and other microorganisms in your large intestine), which can be achieved by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria and increasing the variety of food they can get. A wider variety of foods can feed a wider variety of bacteria.
What does this mean in practice? It means that rather than making your new year’s resolution to cut foods out, you should be aiming to add more in! It can be as simple as adding a smoothie to your lunch for extra vitamins and fibre, or trying out a new vegetable every week. The key is to aim for more fibre, so I’d actually recommend against cutting out carbs, just swapping them for wholegrain options every so often will keep your gut much happier.
We know that long-term, restrictive diets have an 80-95% failure rate and can end up doing more harm than good. Not only can it lead to weight-cycling (yo-yo dieting), which can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes, but it can also be mentally damaging. So, the only thing you should be resolving to exclude from your diet this January is exclusion itself. Embrace simple swaps such as wholegrain bread instead of white bread, a side of fruit with your sandwich lunch instead of crisps, and snacking on foods like veggies and hummus (as well as that piece of chocolate if you really want it!).
Re-setting your gut microbiome after the Christmas festivities involves the exact opposite to what you’d expect: enjoying food, and eating a greater variety of foods, especially high fibre foods. No crazy ‘detox’ diets here, thank you very much!
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