Are California Raisins another way to Love Your Gut?

By Rick Miller, Clinical and Sports Dietitian, Harley Street, London

Love Your Gut week (17th-23rd Sep) is a time to raise awareness about the health of our digestive tract. A recent survey by Love Your Gut showed that 81% of Brits are totally clueless about the health signs their gut is giving them and 74% are rarely concerned about the health of their digestive system.

These are worrying facts but is something I see a lot in my own dietetic practice, people just don’t know how to look after their guts or what to do when they feel under the weather.

Yet, more and more research is pointing in the direction that gut bacteria can influence almost every aspect of health from improving blood glucose, keeping us slim, affecting our fitness and even affecting our mood. The British Medical Journal entry recently reported that the microbiome (all the genetic information from the bacteria living in our gut) could be referred to as a ‘virtual organ’.

So is there anything we can do to change the balance of bacteria for the better?

According to UK TV Doctor and best-selling author of ‘The Clever Guts Diet’ Dr Michael Mosley, one of the most sensible ways to foster a healthy gut, is by encouraging the growth of these micro-organisms.

In fact in a recent interview with BBC focus, Dr Mosley expressed our changing understanding and importance of the gut microbes from his own work as a doctor:

“As a medical student, I was taught that the main role of our gut microbes was to protect us from dangerous invaders and synthesise a few vitamins. Now we know they do far more than that.

Among other things (like influencing our mood and weight), those little microbes help regulate our entire immune system”

These are huge claims but I would agree with Dr Mosley that loving your gut through diet can be broken down into a few simple changes; and some of the most important are eating more fibre and a range of fruits and vegetables that at least hits the Public Health England message of 5-a-day.

I’ve talked about just how important it is to eat more fibre in my previous article for a variety of health reasons but in terms of spreading some more nutritional love to your gut bacteria; eating more fibre is a great way to go, the ‘good bacteria’ just love fibre.

California Raisins are naturally a fibre-rich food, just a single 30g serving boasts approximately 1.6g fibre. The fibre they contain (inulin) not only acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of new ‘good’ bacteria but these bacteria may help to protect our guts against the ‘bad’ species that cause disease and infection.

The diversity of our diet is also a fundamental ingredient in growing a bountiful gut colony. In an age where ‘clean eating’ and other popular ‘fad’ restrictive diets that remove gluten, dairy and even traditional dried fruits reign supreme – in my clinical experience this hardly allows for sufficient diversity of fruits and vegetables. Instead of being a panacea of health, the truth appears to be the opposite – these restrictive diets may put a ceiling on good bacteria proliferation and mean we struggle to stay healthy long term.

As a consequence of our modern diets and drive for lower calorie options, this means that more and more artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame are appearing in our diet. Despite the safety seal of approval for a small amount of low calorie sweetness – research suggests these sweeteners appear to disrupt the microbiome in a negative way, reducing bacterial diversity.

So instead of eating unnatural ‘clean’ treats, perhaps opt for a handful of natural sweetness from natural sources, such as California Raisins. They’re also a better way to enjoy a natural snack or they can add natural sweetness to cooking, on breakfast cereals, or on salads whilst doing your gut microbiome some big favours at the same time.

Could a serving of California raisins be a solution? By Rick Miller, Clinical and Sports Dietitian, Harley Street, London

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About the Author: 

Rick Miller is a registered Clinical and Sports Dietitian based in Harley Street, London.

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