Gut Friendly Summer Foods
Summer is in full swing – hurrah! As well as being the perfect time to take advantage of the Great Outdoors, the warmer months offer an opportunity to introduce more gut friendly foods to your diet. Here are my summer favourites.
Oats are a gut-friendly way to start the day, but a hot bowl of porridge isn’t so tempting in warm weather. Switch it up with overnight oats – an easy-to-prepare (and delicious) brekkie of soaked oats, summer fruits, seeds and milk (or kefir*!)
Oats are rich in fibre, which feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Opt for chunky oat flakes and you’ll benefit from more resistant starch, a type of fibre that boosts levels of Bifidobacteria – a family of friendly gut bacteria. Adding seeds and fruit boots the fibre content further, and should keep you feeling energised throughout the morning.
If you’re more of a grab and go breakfast eater, try a Kefir* smoothie. Kefir is a fermented milk drink that tastes similar to yoghurt. Kefir contains lactic acid bacteria(1) , a family of probiotic bacteria that have a number of positive effects in the gut.
Kefir smoothie: blend 250ml Kefir with two handfuls of your favourite summer fruits and a few cubes of ice. Want a thicker smoothie? Add in half a ripe banana. Optional additions: seeds, nut butter.
Overnight oats: Mix 50g of oats, a spoon of mixed seeds, a big handful of your favourite frozen summer fruits with a mix of milk and yoghurt, or about 150ml kefir. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight, then stir and top with yoghurt, extra fruits or a drizzle of honey.
Seasonal Summer Fruit & Veg
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – your gut bacteria are major fans of fruits and veggies. The fibre they contain provides food for your microbes, and can even be converted into helpful compounds that regulate inflammation.
Summer is a great time to add more fruits and veg to your diet – start by adding an extra serving of veggies with your lunch and dinner. If you’re struggling with the idea, think outside the lettuce leaf and get roasting, grilling and BBQ-ing to add different flavours and textures. Adding a dressing or chopped herbs to a salad makes a big difference to the flavour. Olive oil is a great choice for dressings – as well as heart healthy fats it contains polyphenols, plant chemicals that may encourage the growth of helpful bacteria(2). Fruits are great addition to salads too– try griddled peaches* with feta, walnuts and salad leaves, or figs* with mozzarella, green beans and toasted hazelnuts.
Asparagus* is one of my favourite seasonal veg as it contain prebiotics – types of carbohydrates that stimulate the growth of the helpful bacteria that are already in your gut. Griddle for a few minutes and serve on toasted sourdough with poached eggs and a drizzle of olive oil for a brunch treat, or try a summer asparagus and pea frittata.
Veggies in season now: peas*, broccoli*, aubergine, spinach, runner beans, broad beans, courgette, swiss chard, cabbage*, mangetout*, watercress,
Fruits in season now: raspberries, peaches*, plums*, figs*, bananas, redcurrants, and strawberries
As temperatures rise, it’s helpful to keep an eye on your fluid intake, as we tend to need to a top up when it gets warm as we lose fluid through sweating. Dehydration can lead to constipation and sluggish bowel movements. If you find bowel movements slowing down, or your stools are hard to pass, check you’re drinking enough – the easiest way is to keep an eye on your wee – if it’s dark, concentrated and strong smelling, chances are you need to drink up.
All fluids (except alcohol!) count towards your fluid intake, but water is ideal as it’s calorie and sugar free. Not a fan of water? Peel a few strips of cucumber with a veggie peeler and pop into your water bottle with a sprig of mint to freshen up the flavour. You can also up your fluid intake with lots of veggies, juicy fruits, smoothies and chilled summer soups like Gazpacho.
Having a summer shindig? Swap the boozy beverages for some gut-friendly mocktails using kombucha* – a fizzy fermented tea with potentially probiotic effects (3). Muddle a few mint leaves with some lime-juice, add ice and top up with kombucha for a virgin mojito with a fizzy twist. Fancy a fruity flavour? Blend a handful of strawberries with the juice of half a lemon, pour into a glass with ice, and top up with kombucha.
(*These foods are not suitable when following the low FODMAP diet as they contain high levels of fermentable sugars that can trigger IBS symptoms. Kombucha is suitable in small amounts – 180ml)
1. Leite AM de O, Miguel MAL, Peixoto RS, Rosado AS, Silva JT, Paschoalin VMF. Microbiological, technological and therapeutic properties of kefir: A natural probiotic beverage. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology. 2013. p. 341–9.
2. Hervert-Hernández D, Goñi I. Dietary polyphenols and human gut microbiota: A review. Food Rev Int. 2011;27(2):154–69.
3. Marsh AJ, O’Sullivan O, Hill C, Ross RP, Cotter PD. Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal compositions of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples. Food Microbiol. 2014;38:171–8.