I’m Neil Young, an exercise and healthy lifestyles specialist based in the Surrey Hills. Right now I’m working with For Earth’s Sake to bring some of the shop produce to life with delicious recipes that you can source entirely in store. I’m also adding on nutritional info and insights on the key ingredients.
Last time out (see November 2020 blog post) I took you on a trip through some of the evidence that high fibre foods like beans and lentils can help us to keep the body weight down. This was through bulking-up our food, wrapping up some of our calories with complex starchy foods so that they pass straight through us, and by putting the brakes on our consumption by making sure that fats, carbohydrates and proteins are detected lower down in the gut, thus triggering satisfaction signals to be sent to the brain.
The benefits of fibre for weight management don’t end there though and there are more positives related to what is known as the Gut Microbiome. For the last 15 years our understanding of what happens to food in our gut has dramatically improved through advances in medical research. We now know that there are around 39 trillion (yes, that says trillion) microbes in the gut, weighing around 2kg. That’s as heavy as our liver, which makes many doctors refer to the gut microbiome as the organ we didn’t know that we had.
Each of us has between 300 and 1,000 different varieties of bacteria in our gut microbiome, with the combination of species changing all of the time based on what we eat. This mix of different varieties impacts on several aspects of health, which I will cover in future blog posts, but for now I will keep the focus on weight management.
When we eat high fibre foods our gut bacteria feed on them and produce organisms called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have influences on our blood glucose regulation (an important factor in weight management) and our satiety hormones (the hormones that tell us when we are full and that should stop eating). In his book Fibre Fuelled, Dr Will Bulsiewicz highlighted a study in which people ate the same number of calories of either bread or lentils at lunch. The lentil eaters showed better blood glucose control after the meal, which is a common finding, but when everyone ate the same bread-based dinner later on the lentil group again had less of a blood sugar spike. This is the bacteria in the gut, which have been empowered by the fibre-rich lentils, producing SCFAs to keep that glucose under control hours later.
So, how about a lentil-fuelled this time? This red lentil and spinach dahl is my take on a dish from a Mowgli Street Food restaurant that I visited in Liverpool. Mowgli are all over the north and midlands, but they haven’t yet expanded to the south east. You'll have to go to Oxford at the moment to sample their really innovative and simple Indian food. Fortunately, there’s a cookbook for all of us keen home chefs!
You can find out more about Neil Young and Healthy Life Neil by visiting healthylifeneil.co.uk or following Neil on Instagram @healthylifeneil.
Red Lentil & Spinach Dahl
This very simple recipe will make 4 servings of the dahl as an accompaniment. To make this dahl into a main meal, add 2 x 400g tins of chickpeas 5mins before you fold in the spinach or simply serve with boiled brown rice.
Feel free to try your own spice combinations, because everyone likes different spices, right?
● 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
● 200g dried red lentils
● 350ml boiled water
● 1 tbsp vegetable oil
● ½ tsp turmeric
● ½ tsp chilli powder
● ½ tsp asafoetida
● 1 tsp cumin seeds
● 1 tsp black mustard seeds
● 200g fresh spinach, chopped
● Small handful fresh coriander, chopped
● Juice of ½ a lemon
● Salt to taste
● Heat a wide-based pan over a medium heat.
● Add the vegetable oil and heat for 1min then add the seeds and spices and fry for 2mins.
● Add the tomatoes, lentils, and water.
● Bring to a simmer and keep it there for 10mins until the lentils have softened.
● Squeeze in the lemon juice.
● Fold in the chopped spinach and stir until it has wilted into the lentils.
● Season with salt to taste.
● Serve topped with the chopped coriander.
All of the ingredients can be purchased from For Earth’s Sake. Each serving costs around £1.50 as an accompaniment or around £2.00 as a main meal. Here the list of what to add to your basket:
● 2 x 400g tins Suma chopped tomatoes
● 200g split red lentils (refill)
● From the herbs and spices refill section:
○ Chilli powder
○ Black mustard seeds
○ Cumin seeds
● Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil (refill)
● 2 x 400g tins Suma chickpeas (optional)
● Organic brown basmati rice (optional, from refill)