Thursday 15 June 2017

Potato salad - a nice meal for a healthy gut

Today I’ll wear my nutritional therapist hat in the kitchen to talk about what’s been a hot topic in the nutrition world for a while: gut health.  It’s not surprising that the subject is getting so much attention, given that about 80% of our immune system is located in our gut. It’s in there that trillions of microorganisms reside – what we call human gut microbiome.

It’s also in the gut that our bodies produce 90-95% of the “feel good” chemicals, serotonin and GABA. The microbiome protects the gut lining, synthesizes vitamin K and B vitamins, produces enzymes that support the liver etc. A great way to feed our gut bacteria is by including in our diet food that contains prebiotics (which feeds the friendly bacteria) and probiotics (that populate the gut microbiome with friendly bacteria).

You will find prebiotics in things like jerusalem artichokes, chicory, onions, fennel, apples, raw garlic, raw asparagus, seeds, cooked and cooled potatoes and under-ripe bananas. Probiotics in natural form can be found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, unpasteurized cheese, organic raw milk, yogurt, sourdough bread, miso, tempeh, natto and so on.

It’s only recently that scientists started to discover the link between diet, gut bacteria and immune system. Depending on the food we eat we can directly feed the friendly bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophillus, Bifidum bacterium amongst others) or the pathogenic organisms (fungus, yeast or parasites). So, keeping our gut healthy is very important to maintain good health. If our gut bacteria are balanced, our immune system is also balanced. If not, we will become a lot more susceptible to illnesses and diseases such as colds and flu, chronic inflammation (Crohn’s disease, psoriasis), allergies, sinusitis, candida overgrowth etc.  Also, sometimes, due to the excess of antibiotics (which kill the good as well the bad bacteria), poor diet and stress, people’s microbiome is compromised. 

In order to keep our gut in check, we should have as much diversity as possible in our diet on a regular basis. There are a multitude of ethnic shops in London where we can find vegetables or fruits that we may have never tried before. Try experimenting with different foods. In doing so, you will be creating diversity in your gut microbiome. Think of an abundant colourful garden. But don’t forget my motto: ‘’healthy and happy eating’’, no need to obsess, just be sensible about what you cook and eat. This salad should do the trick.

Scrub the new potatoes...

...and leave their skins on.
Add all the ingredients together...
...pour the kefir and feta cheese dressing over the salad...
...and mix gently.
Enjoy it!

Potato and egg salad with kefir sauce
serves 4
This salad is a perfect combination of prebiotic and probiotic food source. See the  healthy note below for its nutritional benefits.


1kg organic new potatoes, scrubbed and skins on
3-4 spring onions, chopped
1 red onion, sliced
6 organic eggs, boiled and halved
50g sunflower seeds
80g pine nuts, toasted
70g rocket leaves
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle

For the dressing

250ml organic kefir (if you can’t find it, use organic live yogurt instead)
150g organic feta cheese (unpasteurized, preferably)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons English mustard
5 sprigs of fresh dill
1-2 garlic clove
Sea salt and black pepper


In a medium pot, cover the potatoes in cold salted water and bring to a boil, let it cook without the lid for about 15 minutes or until tender.
Drain and leave to cool.
In the meantime, blend all the dressing ingredients.
When potatoes are cooler and easy to handle, slice them in halves or quarters, depending on the size you like.
Transfer them to a big bowl, add the eggs, red onion, spring onions, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, a handful of rocket leaves and parsley. Pour as much as you like of the dressing over the salad, mixing everything gently. Season to taste. 
Serve it on a bed of the remaining rocket leaves with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
This dish is also great to take to picnics and barbecues.

A healthy note: Cold potatoes contain a lot more starch that is "resistant" to digestion than hot or warm potatoes. Resistant starch is a prebiotic that feeds the friendly bacteria in our gut and won't spike your blood sugar levels. But be warned that too much isolated resistant starch can also upset your gut population.
If bloating or digestive discomfort occurs, reduce your intake of prebiotic foods for a few days and then reintroduce it again.

Onions are also a good prebiotic food source. I have already mentioned about gut health in this post here  and in here

Milk kefir - the fermented dairy product as well as the water-based one - contains healthy bacteria that promote gut health and supports digestion. It also contains elements that help to boost our immune system such as vitamin B12, biotin and folate. Kefir contains calcium, magnesium and vitamin K2 that help to build bone strenght.

Egg is a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein. It contains lecithin, which helps the body to break down fat and cholesterol. Egg also contains biotin, another B vitamin-like compound, which is very important for the digestion of fat and protein, and is essential for the health of hair, skin and nails. It is very rich in Omega-3 fats, which prevent diabetes, obesity and depression.

Till next week!


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