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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Food Guide > October 2017 > More than a GOOD GUT REACTION?


Everyone’s talking about fermented foods and how good they are for our gut health. Nutrition editor Amanda Ursell updates you on research that links them to even more benefits, and shops for the best


YOU KNOW A HEALTH TREND HAS GAINED PUBLIC APPROVAL when a niche product leaves its hidden corner in the health store and lands on the supermarket shelf. Or when it gets a| name-check on a national soap.

Yogurt, the most familiar fermented food, made the transfer decades ago. Now kefir – a fermented milk-yogurt drink – can be found in the chillled aisles at Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, and it’s being famously fermented by The Archers’ Tom. It’s hit the big time because of the health benefits it may have for the bacteria that live in our gut, known as the ‘microbiome’.

This scientific term is also making the transition into the vernacular. The health of our microbiome is a hot topic for leading scientists, who are looking into how it can affect our health, from obesity to diabetes, and even our mood.

The inside story

Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, is a specialist in the impact of gut bacteria on our health and weight. He describes our microbiome as our ‘inner garden’, with fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and kimchi providing the ‘fertiliser’. In other words, including fermented foods in our daily diets can, he claims, help to nourish the bacteria and create a more diverse microbiome.

While work in this area is in its infancy, there’s a frenzy of scientific research under way to help us discover more about how the trillions of bacteria in our microbiome can interact with and impact on our health, with Tim Spector in the vanguard.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Get clued up on everything veggie with our vegetarian special issue! Find out all you need to know about vegetarian nutrition and eating out, and try our nutritious and tasty recipes. Discover our healthy eating plan for before, during and after a hospital stay, and sort out problem hair with our expert guide to five main conditions. And we've got your winter fitness sorted with new ideas for exercising indoors. Plus, try this month's all-veggie diet planner, warming soups and an extract from Ching-He Huang's brand new book – it's all in this month's Healthy Food Guide.