How to improve gut health: Five recipes to help you achieve a happy tummy

The gut has been linked to many aspects of health in recent years, including the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune disease, skin conditions and even cancer. Research has suggested what gives the gut these powers is millions of microbes. What you eat isn’t just nutrition for the body, it also feeds your gut microbes and keeps everything in perfect balance.

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But certain foods have been found to be better for feeding the gut than others.

TV fitness king Jessie Pavelka offered Express.co.uk five recipes to help keep your gut in good stead.

Avocado and edamame toast

A fabulous breakfast or snack which offers a great balance of protein, carbohydrates and good fats to help stabilise blood sugar levels (so preventing cravings), according to Jessie.

He added: “Eggs are the perfect ‘fast food’; a rich source of lean protein to help heal and repair the cells of the gut lining, they are also packed with vital vitamins and minerals, as well as choline, which supports healthy communication between the gut and brain.

“Sourdough bread contains enzymes which help support and feed the healthy bacteria in our gut to improve digestion.

Avocados are wonderful for the gut’s immune system. They contain healthy monosaturated fats which are anti-inflammatory, they are rich in Vitamin E; a nutrient which helps protect and heal our gut lining (our internal skin), and they also help us absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) from our food.

Edamame beans are another great source of digestive fibre, lean protein, and healthy carbohydrates to improve the gut’s microbial environment.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • Approx. 3oz (75g) frozen edamame beans, defrosted
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, stoned and roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 slices of sourdough
  • 2 tbsp shelled pistachio nuts, chopped
  • Freshly milled black pepper

How to cook it

1. Bring a small pain of water to the boil and poach the eggs to taste (4/5 mins for a runny yolk). Remove with a slotted spoon.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash together the edamame, avocado, lime juice and pepper.

3. Toast the sourdough slices and cover the edamame mash.

4. Top the edamame mash on the toast, topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with chopped pistachios to serve.

Celeriac and hazelnut soup

A tasty soup which is packed with nutrients which help support both the gut and liver with detoxification.

Jessie explained: “Celeriac is a low-calorie healthy carbohydrate which is not only filling, helping control appetite and cravings, but is rich in fibre to promote healthy gut bacteria. The hazelnuts add protein content, healthy fats and flavour.

“Onions add antimicrobial properties; in particular quercetin, which help eliminate harmful bacteria and toxins. Celery works as a detoxifier, helping to then remove these toxins from the body. These then work well alongside sage, which helps stimulate digestion, calming and soothing the gut lining.

“Greek yoghurt then helps replace healthy strains of bacteria to the gut to further assist with digestion and a healthy immune defence system.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and chopped
  • 5 1/3 oz (150g) hazelnuts
  • 35 fl oz (1 litre) vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp chopped sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • Seasoning

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, celery, celeriac and half of the hazelnuts.

2. Cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to turn a little golden.

3. Pour the stock in the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-18 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.

4. Meanwhile, make the pesto by placing the remaining hazelnuts, sage and extra virgin olive oil in a small blender and blend until nearly smooth.

5. Using a hand blender, blend the soup together with the Greek yogurt, until smooth.

6. Season to taste and drizzle with pesto to serve.

Chicken and chickpea curry

A great balanced dish, said Jessie; the chicken offering a low-calorie source of lean protein, to help promote healing, repair and a healthy immune defence function.

He added: “Chickpeas are a useful combination of protein, carbohydrate, but also health fibre and resistant starch; resistant to digestion itself, it helps feed the good bacteria in our gut. They also contain isoflavones which help us absorb nutrients when we digest our food.

“The bell peppers, onion, spinach and salad provide a great variety of healthy phytonutrients which are protective in our gut and body cells. The are also packed with fibre and antimicrobials, which also help feed and multiply our healthy gut bacteria, whilst contributing a multitude of vitamins and minerals to the body.

Coconut in the oil and milk adds a healthy fat which can help balance cholesterol levels, and encourage the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E and K).”

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and thickly slices
  • 1-2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (or more if you like it hotter)
  • 12 1/3 oz (350g) chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 14 oz (400g) can coconut milk
  • 14 oz (400g) can chickpeas, drained
  • 6 oz (175g) baby spinach leaves
  • Portion of rice or salt of your choice to serve

How to cook it

1. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion and red pepper for 4-5 minutes, until starting to soften.

2. Stir in the curry paste and cook for 1 minute before stirring in the chicken pieces.

3. Stir well to coat with the curry sauce and cook for 6-8 minutes.

4. Pour in the coconut milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 12-15 minutes.

5. Stir in the chickpeas and spinach, cook for a further 2-3 minutes and then serve with rice or salad.

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Parmesan crusted cod

Fish is an important source of lean and healthy protein, rich in protective minerals such as iodine and selenium, as well as Vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium from other foods.

Jessie added: “It also contains iron, zinc and Vitamin K which are vital for a healthy gut-based immune system; to counter disease and infection, and to help with healing and cellular repair. The parmesan crust adds satiating flavour, as well as a good amount of protein and calcium.

“Almonds contribute additional calcium, plus important dietary fibre, which helps healthy gut bacteria multiply and thrive. Garlic has anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties, so helping reduce the population of unhealthy bacteria and other pathogens in the digestive system.

“Salad and the steamed vegetables add extra healthy fibre with a good array of vitamins and minerals. Broccoli in particular, is thought to have anti carcinogenic properties; helping protect against cellular damage.”

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 oz (75g) ground almonds
  • 2 2/3 oz (75g) parmesan, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 lemon, including the rind
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Freshly milled black pepper
  • 4 x 8 oz (225g) coffee fillets

To serve:

Steamed greens (4.4 oz (125g) broccoli florets, 3.5 oz (100g) mange tout, 5.3 oz (150g) frozen peas), crisp green salad.

How to cook it

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) or gas mark 6.

2. In a bowl mix together the ground almonds, parmesan, garlic, 1 tsp grated lemon rind, chopped parsley and black pepper, mix to a paste.

3. Place the cod fillets in a roasting tin skin side down, and divide the

topping between them pressing it onto the top of the fish.

4. Halve the lemon and place in the roasting tin with the fish and then

bake for 15-18 minutes, until the fish is cooked through (it should be opaque).

5. Serve the fish with your choice of greens (steamed for 6-8 minutes, until tender) or salad.

Tuna and three bean salad

The legume family, which include Butter Beans and Berlotti Beans, are a great base ingredient to any recipes, containing very low levels of bad fat or cholesterol, but rich in healthy fats, folate, potassium and iron.

Jessie explained: “They help balance blood sugar levels so controlling appetite and cravings. Adding green beans and rocket further diversifies the fibre for gut bacteria to feed on.

“Tuna adds important lean protein and omega 3 healthy fats; both of which help reduce inflammation and support the gut-based immune system.

“Honey and garlic both provide more antimicrobial support to help the good gut bacteria thrive and to reduce the space in the gut for bad bacteria to proliferate.

“Lemon juice works as a digestive stimulant, encouraging the release of digestive juices and enzymes which help break down the food and absorb nutrients.”

Ingredients

  • 5 1/3 oz (150g) green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • Seasoning
  • 14 oz (400g) can butter beans rinsed and drained
  • 14 oz (400g) can borlotti beans rinsed and drained
  • 6 1/2 oz (185g) can tuna, drained
  • 1/3 cucumber, chopped
  • 3 1/2 oz (100g) cherry plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 oz (25g) arugula (rocket) leaves

How to cook it

1. Blanch the green beans in boiling water until tender, then refresh under cold running water and drain. Place in a large bowl.

2. Make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, garlic, mint and seasoning.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the green beans

and gently toss together with the dressing then serve.

Jessie Pavelka has launched a new app and training program that takes you on a journey of incremental change through four elements of health – Eat, Sweat, Think & Connect. To find out more visit www.pavelka.co.uk/JP4

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