Stella Magazine

Smiling on the inside

OK, talking good digestion isn’t sexy. But it’s the best way to improve your health – and it’s easier than you think, as Eve Kalinik tells Amy Bryant.

‘Everything in moderation sounds boring but, really, if every food is available to you then you don’t feel drawn to boredom or frustration,’ says Eve Kalinik, the nutritional therapist who with her new cookbook has set out to feed the body and mind – without implementing a punishing regime. And she’s starting with the gut. ‘Rather than eliminating food groups, which can leave the gut depleted of beneficial bacteria, I’d rather my clients understand what food can give them. We all tend to circle around the same kinds of food with our meals, so we can certainly increase our repertoire.’

This means introducing more fermented foods, home-made stock, unpasteurised cheese and traditional sourdough into our diets – things to support and diversify the gut microbiome. And, Kalinik tells me, ‘While processed and refined foods aren’t great in excess, that doesn’t mean that you can never have a Mr Whippy ice cream.’ Alcohol isn’t completely off the cards either (try the gin and kombucha cocktail in the book, or her chic drink of premium sake with organge-blossom water and pomegranate molasses, for ‘a tipple once in a while’).

Kalinik, who tells me she improved her own digestion this way, after suffering from a series of kidney infections in her early 20s, knows that the approach many of us take is ‘all or nothing’, and advises that we don’t ‘go from eating zero sauerkraut to devouring a whole jar’. It really is about moderation, then, and mindfulness. ‘Stress management is a big part of my nutritional practice.’ She says. ‘I see people who are constantly living in a fight-or-flight mode. We need to think about how we are eating – perhaps have breakfast at home instead of at your desk. And try to eat without electronic devices around you. This will immediately slow you down and encourage you to chew your food.’ Rest and digest is her mantra – with our long hours at work and food often eaten on the go, ‘It’s no wonder the gut simply can’t keep up,’ she says.

Kalinik’s sauerkraut recipe harks back to the food her father cooked when she was a child (of Polish descent, he was ‘forever fermenting things’), and her mother’s traditional pickles. She uses it to lift the most ordinary of dishes, such as poached eggs on toast or basic salads, each time harnessing ‘one of nature’s most abundant sources of probiotics’. Kefir and kombucha complete the fermented trinity frequently referenced throughout the book, but the majority of dishes use easy-to-come-by ingredients – cauliflower, celeriac, mushrooms, nuts, flaxseed. Adding cooled, cooked potatoes and cooled lentils to a salad can be one of the easiest ways to boost your levels of beneficial prebiotics, says Kalinik. Who’d have thought it?

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‘Be Good to Your Gut’ by Eve Kalinik is publishes by Little Brown (£20)