‘The Clever Guts Diet’ by Dr Michael Mosley discusses the importance of the gut microbiome and how the diversity and numbers of bacteria in our gut are vital for our immune system, metabolism and mental health.
‘The Pioppi Diet’ by Dr Aseem Malhotra and Donal O’Neill describes the health benefits of the diet and way of life of people living in the Italian village of Pioppi which results in healthy longevity. A key conclusion of Dr Malhotra, a cardiologist, is that heart disease is not caused by a diet high in saturated fats but rather a diet high in refined carbohydrates. This type of diet results in insulin resistance and chronic inflammation which are the causes of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Both diets are similar in that they advocate a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, oily fish, nuts, lean meat, eggs, some dairy and fermented foods. The Clever Guts diet particularly recommends sources of fibre for promoting good gut bacteria. The Pioppi diet recommends a daily intake of 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil as one of the healthiest foods for your heart. In both, sugar, processed food and refined carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta should be eliminated but thankfully both identify the health benefits of a glass of red wine and a piece of dark chocolate.
Herbs and spices are very important in the diets. Those recommended include garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, thyme and basil. In the Clever Guts diet, turmeric is identified as good at inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria and directly protects the wall of the intestine whereas the key role for turmeric in the Pioppi diet is its anti-inflammatory action inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins.
The aim of these diets is to prevent ill health and the need for drug treatment. Dr Malhotra states that ‘Prescription medications are the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer’. Herbal medicines can play a crucial role in preventing drug treatment and improving the health benefits of these diets. Herbs taken as teas and tinctures have larger amounts of the active compounds than in food and offer a wide range of beneficial actions. Those that specifically support the benefits of these diets include improving digestion, gut flora, immune function, circulation and control of blood glucose.
These books provide a new consensus on the foods we should be eating to ensure good health and prevent disease. Herbs are a key to this as both part of our diet and as our medicine.