Crave Magazine

Recipes to help you love your gut

Did you know that what you eat not only affects your gut health, but can also have an impact on your brain, mood and overall wellbeing?

The gut is the only organ in the body that also has its own nervous system – the enteric nervous system, which enables it to perform and control some actions all on its own – such as digesting the food we eat. This is why the gut is known as our second brain.

Looking after your gut may seem like a daunting task; however, the good news is keeping your gut happy, and therefore your brain too, is simpler than you think.

Many foods that form a gut-healthy diet, such as oats, beans, vegetables, and nuts might already be at home in your cupboards or fridge.

To help you discover how to cook for a happier gut, also known as your second brain, Dr Joan Ransley has created six recipes to help you love your gut

Including energy-boosting Banana and Coconut Overnight Oats, vibrant Buckwheat Noodles with Creamy Green Pea and Kale Sauce, a delicious Broad Bean and Feta Bake, colourful Pan-fried Salmon with Celery, Sweetcorn & Olive Salsa, a zingy Baked Sweet Potatoes topped with a Chorizo, Black Beans, Lime, Coriander & Basil Dressing and fruity Mixed Berry Pudding with Coconut and Almond Crumb topping and more, each recipe has been developed to help you support your gut health and, in turn, nurture the gut-brain axis link.

For further information and recipe inspiration, please visit love your gut

Recipes to help you love your gut – Banana and Coconut Overnight Oats

The idea behind overnight oats is, instead of cooking oats to make porridge, the oats are soaked in a liquid, usually cows’ milk or plant-based alternative. The soaking process allows the oats to absorb liquid and soften enough to eat uncooked. The soaking time can be as little as 2 hours, or overnight, hence the name ‘overnight oats’. The next morning these creamy, soaked oats can be topped with fruit, nuts, seeds and yogurt for a more sustaining breakfast meal.

Oats contain two types of dietary fibre which are good for gut health – soluble and insoluble fibre. Beta-glucan is the soluble fibre present in oats and forms a sticky gel when combined with a liquid such as milk. The gel is useful as it increases intestinal bulk and facilitates the passage of food through the gut helping to reduce constipation.[1]

Oats also contain insoluble fibre which proceeds through the intestinal tract without being digested.

When both types of dietary fibre reach the large intestine, they are fermented by gut bacteria to form short chain fatty acids (SCFA) which help to keep the lining of the gut healthy.[2]

This recipe contains at least nine different plant foods. Eating at least 30 different plant foods per week is associated with a more diverse range of bacteria living in the gut than eating 10 or fewer types of plants per week.[3]

Preparation – 15 minutes. Between 2 and 8 hours to soak. Serves 4


To serve:


Place the oats, chia seeds, milk, yogurt, walnuts, dates and banana in a large bowl. Add 20g of the coconut shavings and mix well. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge. The overnight oats will be ready to eat after two hours but can be left in the fridge overnight and eaten the next day.

Serve the overnight oats with a mixture of chopped fresh fruit, the remaining coconut flakes, and a few chopped nuts. Add a drizzle of maple syrup if you like.

Alternative serving suggestion

Take a portion of overnight oats to work with you in a jar to eat as a snack or as part of your lunch. Sunflower, pumpkin, flax and poppy seeds can be used instead of chia seeds.

Cooking tips

  1. Oats and chia seeds are very absorbent and will continue to soak up milk for several hours. Add more milk or water to the overnight oats if you think they have become too thick.
  2. Overnight oats will keep in the fridge for up to three days, so it makes sense to make enough to last for several days.

Recipes to help you love your gut – Broad Bean and Feta Bake

A delicious savoury breakfast bake containing a plentiful supply of dietary fibre and phytonutrients from the beans, onions, and herbs. It is also packed with protein from the egg, beans and cheese. The side serving of thin, air-dried ham provides a protein boost to this recipe.

Broad beans are a particularly good source of flavanols.[4] Flavanols have an important role in keeping the gut healthy. After flavanols are eaten, they travel through the gastrointestinal tract and reach the large intestine where the gut bacteria break them down into a variety of different compounds which help to regulate intestinal immune function and inhibit inflammation. Flavanols help to keep the balance of microorganisms in the gut healthy by inhibiting the growth of various pathogens and increasing the populations of beneficial bacteria in the gut.[5]

Preparation – 15 minutes. Cooking time – 30 minutes. Serves 4



Preheat the oven to 200°C/ Gas mark 7. You will need an oven proof dish measuring approximately measuring 27cm x 19cm x 8cm.

Drop the defrosted broad beans into a pan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or until just tender. Remove from the heat and drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the sliced salad onions until soft and just beginning to brown. Remove the pan from the heat.

Break the eggs in a large bowl and beat with a fork until the yolks and the whites are well mixed.  Add the beans, cooked spring onions, feta cheese and parsley to the eggs and stir.

Brush the edges of the ovenproof dish with the remaining olive oil and pour in the egg and bean mixture. Place in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time check the bake is browning evenly and turn the dish around if needed. 

Remove the bake from the oven when it has set and is golden brown all over. Allow to cool a little before slicing into squares and serve with a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.

Alternative serving suggestion

Button mushrooms, or sliced courgettes can be used instead of baby broad beans in this recipe. Just sauté them lightly before adding to the egg mixture.

Chopped chives can be substituted for parsley.

Cooking tips

  1. Line the bottom of the oven proof dish with baking parchment if you want to turn the bake out of the dish and cut it into slices.
  2. Many recipes call on the cook to remove the outer skin from broad beans however the skins are a good source of dietary fibre. The skins of young frozen broad beans are tender enough to be eaten.
  3. Use fresh, young broad beans instead of frozen if you can. They are easy enough to grow.
  4. Slices of this bake would also be perfect for lunch or served as part of a picnic.

Recipes to help you love your gut – Super Quick Buckwheat Noodles with a Creamy Green Pea & Kale Sauce

Recipes to help you love your gut – Vegetarian/vegan

This is a fabulous, quick comforting noodle dish made using soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) served with a vivid bright green sauce made from kale, peas, basil and a little garlic. There are two versions. The vegetarian version adds Parmesan cheese to finish the sauce. The vegan version adds nutritional yeast as an alternative to Parmesan cheese.

The recipe contains nine different plant foods including black pepper, olive oil and buckwheat. Research has shown that the number of plant types in a person’s diet plays a key role in the diversity of the gut microbiome (the number of different types of bacteria living there). People who eat more than 30 different plant types per week have a more diverse range of bacteria living in their gut than those who eat 10 or fewer types of plants per week.[6]

Preparation – 15 minutes. Cooking time – 10 minutes. Serves 4



Carefully toast the pistachio nuts in a hot frying pan until they are just beginning to brown. Remove from the heat and roughly chop ready to sprinkle over the finished dish.

Place the peas in a large pan of boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. Add the shredded kale to the water during the last 3 minutes of cooking. The kale needs to wilt and become tender for this sauce but should not be overcooked. 

Drain the peas and kale and return the cooking water to the saucepan and top it up with boiling water ready to cook the noodles.

To make the sauce: Place half the cooked peas, cooked kale, crushed garlic, 3 tablespoons (30g) Parmesan cheese (or 2 dessertspoons of nutritional yeast), olive oil, half of the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of cooking water into a blender.

Blitz the sauce for 30 seconds until smooth. At this point taste the sauce and adjust the flavour, adding a little more lemon juice, Parmesan cheese or cooking water for a smooth consistency.

Return the sauce to a small saucepan and add the reserved peas and keep warm over a very low heat.

To cook the noodles: Bring the water used to cook the vegetables up to boil and throw in the noodles. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles briefly under cold water to rinse off the starch which can cause the noodles to stick together. Quickly dip the washed noodles in a bowl of boiling hot water to reheat and drain once again. 

Divide the hot noodles between four warmed bowls and pour over the green sauce.

Finish the dish with a sprinkling of chopped pistachio nuts, reserved grated parmesan cheese/nutritional yeast, lemon zest and a pinch of black pepper.

Alternative serving suggestion

Use wholewheat spaghetti instead of soba (buckwheat) noodles. Add florets of broccoli or chopped fine beans to vary the texture and taste of the green sauce.

Toasted pine nuts, hazel nuts, almonds, or cashew nuts can be substituted for the toasted pistachio nuts in this recipe.

Cooking tips

  1. For perfectly cooked hot, soba noodles it is important to cook them for exactly 5 minutes; briefly rinse them in cold water to remove any starch that can cause them to clump together and finally dip them in a bowl of hot water to bring them up to serving temperature. You can get ahead with this recipe by cooking soba noodles in advance and reheated in boiling water just before serving.
  2. Use pre-shredded kale to speed up the preparation for this recipe. Otherwise, if using whole kale leaves, remove the woody stem before shredding.
  3. If you have a steamer, cook the kale and peas over the noodles while they are cooking.

Recipes to help you love your gut – Pan-fried Salmon with Celery, Sweetcorn and Olive Salsa

Fillets of salmon are quick to cook and provide key nutrients for a healthy diet. In this recipe the pan-fried salmon is served with a colourful vegetable salsa scattered over the top.

This recipe contains 10 different plant derived ingredients all of which are beneficial to a healthy gut microbiome.[7]

Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which are known to benefit the health of the gut in three main ways. Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on the type and abundance of gut microbes. They also play a key role in the gut immune system which helps to defend the body against infections and, they are involved in the regulation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) produced in the large intestine which are vital for keeping the wall of the gut healthy.[8]

The inside of each kernel of sweetcorn is almost pure starch but it is surrounded by a cellulose husk which cannot be completely broken down by the human gut. As the kernels travel through the gut, the starch is squeezed out and digested but the husk will pass though the body into the stools. The time taken for sweetcorn to appear in the stools after eating is an indication of gastrointestinal transit time. The passage of food through the gut can vary according to age, diet, emotional state and health status but as a rough guide should be somewhere between 24-36 hours.[9]

Despite the incomplete digestion of the sweetcorn kernel, it is a valuable source of dietary fibre.

Preparation – 15 minutes. Cooking time – 15 minutes. Serves 4



Check each salmon fillet for any small pin bones and remove. Drizzle the salmon with approximately half a tablespoon of olive oil, and a twist of ground pepper.

To make the salsa. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a non-stick frying pan and add the salad onions, celery, and pine nuts and cook gently for 5 minutes or until the pine nuts and onions just begin to brown. Add the sweetcorn, olives, chilli, lemon zest and parsley and heat though. Remove the cooked salsa from the pan and set aside. 

Place the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Place the salmon skin side down in the hot pan. Cook until the skin of the salmon is crisp. Turn the salmon fillets over, reduce the heat and cook for a further 3-4 minutes depending on how well cooked you like the salmon. 

Place the salmon on four warmed plates and spoon the salsa over. Finish the dish with a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Alternative serving suggestion

The salmon would be lovely served with the drizzle of creamy green pea and kale sauce (see Super quick buckwheat noodles with creamy green pea and kale sauce recipe).

The salsa would be a great accompaniment to other fried or baked fish such as mackerel and cod.

This dish would be lovely paired with mashed sweet potato.

Cooking tips

  1. Prepare all the ingredients in advance so that this dish can be cooked quickly and put on the table in minutes.
  2. Chopping the vegetables up small means they will cook quickly.
  3. When cooking salmon keep a keen eye on the middle of the fillet which turns opaque when the salmon is cooked through. 

Recipes to help you love your gut – Baked Sweet Potatoes topped with a Chorizo, Black Beans, Lime, Coriander & Basil Dressing

Small sweet potatoes bake quickly if they are cut in half. The baking concentrates their flavour and makes their starchy inside soft. In this dish their attractive orange coloured flesh is topped with a delicious mix of spicy beans, sliced chorizo and the zingy flavour of lime and coriander.

This recipe contains a kaleidoscope of colourful vegetables and contains a whopping 10 different plant foods. Herbs, spices, and vegetable oils all count when it comes to feeding the gut microbiome (the number of different types of bacteria living in the gut). Scientists are encouraging us to think of our microbiomes as a garden, and the fibre and phytonutrients from plant foods as a fertilizer that keeps the microbiome nurtured.[10]

Research has shown the diversity of the plant foods in the diet is key to a healthy microbiome regardless of whether meat is eaten or not.[11]

Preparation – 15 minutes. Cooking time – 25 minutes. Serves 4



Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas mark 7. Scrub the sweet potatoes and dry them with a paper towel. Cut each potato in half lengthways. Place the potato halves on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and toss to ensure each half of potato is covered in a film of oil. 

Now place the cut side of each potato face down on the baking tray before placing the tray in the oven for 25 minutes.

As the potatoes are cooking warm a drizzle of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chorizo until it begins to crispen. Add the sliced salad onions, diced red pepper, garlic, chopped tomatoes and half the chilli to the pan. Continue to cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Add the drained black beans to the pan and mix well. Finally, add the lime juice and most of the chopped coriander, reserving a little for serving.

After 25 minutes, insert a sharp knife into each sweet potato to check it is cooked. Remove the potatoes from the oven and turn the cut side upwards. Draw a fork over the surface of each one which will help to hold the topping. Divide the bean mixture between the potato halves. Serve with a bowl of crème fraiche topped with the reserved chopped coriander and chilli.

Alternative serving suggestion

Black eyed beans are sometimes easier to get hold of than black beans and they work equally well in this recipe.

Cooking tips

  1. Sliced salad onions cook faster than regular onions and can be useful when you need to cook a meal quickly.
  2. Sweet potatoes bake more quickly than regular potatoes. Use the same sized sweet potatoes so they cook at the same time.

Recipes to help you love your gut – Baked Mixed Berry Pudding with a Coconut and Almond Crumb topping

A simple, quick to prepare baked fruit pudding with an unusual topping. Ground almonds are mixed with chopped dates, eggs and a little non-dairy fat to make a not too sweet, soft crumb crust. The flavour of the berries is complimented by a pinch of ground cardamom rather than loaded with added sugar. 

Berries contain naturally occurring sugars (mainly glucose and fructose), vitamins (A, C, E and folic acid) and minerals. They also contain colourful phenolic compounds that are broken down by the gut bacteria into smaller molecules that help to regulate populations of healthy gut bacteria. The fermentation of phenolic compounds in the large intestine may help to reduce inflammation in the gut through the regulation of the gut immune system. These compounds may also have a role in preventing colon cancer by regulating cell growth and cell death.[12]

Preparation – 15 minutes. Cooking time – 20 minutes. Serves 4



Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the fruit in an ovenproof dish measuring approximately 25cm by 20cm. Sprinkle over the ground cardamom seeds.

Mix the non-dairy fat and eggs together with a fork. It may look a little lumpy but that is okay. Stir in the ground almonds, dates, baking powder, coconut shavings and pumpkin seeds into the egg mixture until well combined. Dot the mixture on top of the defrosted berries. Spread with a fork as best you can. It does not need to look perfectly even. Bake the pudding for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

Alternative serving suggestion

Use seasonal fruit such as sliced rhubarb, plums, blackberry, apple and peaches instead of frozen fruit.

Cooking tips

  1. There are several types of cardamom and they taste different. Make sure to use ‘green’ cardamom. Cardamom pods are easier to find than cardamom seeds. To remove the seeds from green cardamom pods; simply crush the whole pods, remove the seeds and then grind in a pestle and mortar. 
  2. Use butter instead of non-dairy fat if preferred.
  3. Grinding whole almonds rather than using ready ground increases the fibre content of ground almonds. They would work perfectly well in this recipe.

From Dr Joan Ransley for Love Your Gut Week (20-26 September)
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