Clever guts: The prebiotics

This month’s “Clever Guts” diet involves not only avoiding particular foods, but also going out of your way to consume particular foods. These are prebiotics and probiotics.  Prebiotics are foods which your gut bacteria enjoy eating. Some gut bacteria thrive on anything, and others seem to need particular nutrients. If you don’t eat well you only end up with the first type – the book has a lot of detail about families of gut bacteria so I won’t go into it here.

Resistant starch

Resistant starch is starch which doesn’t get broken down in the small intestine, travelling further through the gut acting a bit more like fibre than carbohydrate. A recent discovery is that various foods which are high in carbohydrate are actually better for you if cooked, then cooled, then cooked again – this process changes the starches in the food into resistant starch.  So by boiling potatoes, letting them cool, then cooking them again (e.g. by tossing them in a little olive oil and baking them as home made oven chips) they become much healthier. Similarly, brown rice is pretty good but if you cook it, cool it, then cook it again it gets better so stir-fried rice becomes a healthy option.

This is the kind of scientific finding I can totally get behind.

It turns out though that noodles, cooked cooled then reheated, turn to mush.


Phytonutrient seems to be another word for “chemicals found in plants”. Your gut microbiome likes to eat a lot of different phytonutrients. One way to do this is to eat a lot of different vegetables – particularly different coloured vegetables.

Again, this is the kind of scientific finding I can totally get behind.

Omega 3

Omega 3 is mostly obtained from fish. We don’t really eat fish. Well, I eat fish occasionally but R hates it and so we don’t have it in the house. Vegetable sources of Omega 3 include linseed, and walnuts, and that kind of thing. So I’ve been having these with breakfast when I remember.


This picture shows a super-charged clever guts breakfast of linseeds (omega 3), raw oats (resistant starch), blueberries (phytonutrients) and live yoghurt (probiotics). Not a bad start to a day.


Some of the gut bacteria feed on the things that are in your gut when there’s no food there – mucus and stuff – and so fasting is a part of this diet. This is no surprise given that the diet comes from Michael Mosley AKA Dr 5:2.  The change for this diet is that he reckons 800 calories is probably enough of a fast, and he reckons it’s important to go for a long break between meals. So on the day before fast days I’ve stopped eating early (say, no snacks after 8pm) and eating lunch about 1pm giving me about 17 hours of nothing.

Having spent quite a while (4 weeks this year, and about 6 months a few years ago) on the 5:2 I am very pleased to learn that I can now have 800 cal on a fast day. This is so much easier than 500.  Indeed it feels pretty extravagant. How perceptions change eh?


This picture shows about 300 calories and several different colours of vegetable.

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