As you all know, research into a healthy gut is something that really interests me (I've spoken a bit about gut health basics on the blog before) so when I first read this month's Recipe ReDux topic I was pretty excited. There are so many recipes that came to mind that I could try out. After a lot of thought, I decided to stay away from the fermented foods route, as much as I love kefir, yoghurt, and kombucha, and chose to make this soaked amaranth porridge with a twist.
Why on earth would I choose to soak amaranth before cooking it? And how does it have anything to do with a happy gut? All grains contain something called phytic acid (sometimes referred to as phytate), which happens to bind with minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc in the GIT and prevents their absorption into the body. When we soak grains, it allows enzymes in the grains to ‘wake up’ and break down phytic acid. This vastly improves the nutrients available to us when we eat the grains. Now although it’s not necessary to soak grains all the time (believe me, I know that it takes a bit more effort than normal), soaking grains can also make them a bit easier for the body to digest and not put as much strain on a sensitive GIT. Soaking your grains will leave your gut feeling healthy and happy.
They have been lauded as the greatest constipation cure by housewives throughout the ages, but do plums really do the gut any good? Well, a study conducted by Attaluri et al. (2011) aimed to determine whether treatment of constipation with dried plums worked better than treatment using psyllium, a commonly prescribed fibre supplement. They found that treatment with dried plums resulted in a significantly greater improvement in constipation symptoms and an increase in the number of ‘softer’ bowel movements when compared with the psyllium treatment. When researchers followed up on these patients, it was found that patients stopped using dried prunes and that their constipation symptoms went back to normal.
How does this work?
The laxative effect of dried plums is most likely due to a combination of the sorbitol (14.7g/100g), dietary fibre (6g/100g), and polyphenols (184mg/100g) that they contain. Sorbitol, like another common sugar alcohol Xylitol, acts as an osmotic laxative by drawing water into the colon and holding onto it thus resulting in softer, less ‘dry’ stools. Depending on its form, dietary fibre provides bulk for stool to help things get moving through your GIT or it dissolves in water to become a smooth, viscous gel that helps things move through the GIT a bit more smoothly. It’s worth noting that although the laxative effects of sorbitol may be desirable when one is feeling really constipated, they can induce pain and bloating in individuals with IBS if consumed in larger doses.
Dietary Fibre and a Healthy Gut
All of the main ingredients used in this recipe contain different types of dietary fibre, which are all so good for our gut:
- Chia seeds are really high (37%) in fibre, mainly in the form of soluble fibre
- Plums also contain predominantly soluble fibre, which is able to dissolve in water to become viscous and gel-like in the gut that passes smoothly through the colon
- Amaranth contains mainly insoluble fibre, which provides bulk for your stool and acts a bit like a brush that sweeps through the bowels, picking everything up as it travels along the colon.
Now we know that dietary fibre is really good for us for many reasons, one of which is the fact that it feeds the bacteria found in our colon. The composition of bacteria found in our gut is easily influenced by the type and the total amount of dietary fibre that we consume. In fact, changes in the composition of the gut microbiota in response to a change in dietary fibre composition, source, and
How does fibre alter our gut microbiota?
The composition of bacteria found in our gut is easily influenced by the type and the total amount of dietary fibre that we consume. In fact, changes in the composition of the gut microbiota in response to a change in dietary fibre composition, source, and amount can actually take place in the gut in under one week! This is because different bacterial species are better equipped to break down and utilise different substrates. One of the most important compounds produced by bacterial species from fibre in the gut is butyrate, a SCFA that acts as the main energy source for our intestinal cells and plays a role in regulating the cell turnover in our colon, promoting a healthy gut.
Remember to head over to the current Recipe ReDux page to check out some of the other gut-healthy recipes from other bloggers!
Total time: 30min (excluding soaking)
To soak the amaranth:
- 1/2 cup amaranth
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp apple cider/other vinegar
For the porridge:
- Soaked amaranth (see above)
- 1/4 cup oats
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
For the jam:
- 2 Tbsp sugar/honey
- 125 ml water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 4 ripe plums, depitted and chopped into rough chunks
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds
The morning before:
- Soak ½ c amaranth in 1 c water with 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar added to it. Cover the bowl, place it on the countertop and leave it to sit for 12-24 hours.
To prepare the porridge:
- Drain and rinse the amaranth. Add it to a small pot along with the oats, milk, water, cinnamon, and honey (optional).
- Bring to the boil, decrease the heat and leave to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir every now and then to prevent the amaranth from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- After 15 minutes place the lid on the pot, remove from the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
To make the jam:
- Place the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and chopped plums in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat.
- Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Try to mash the plums as they soften to release their juices.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chia seeds. Cover the pot and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Stir everything together one more time before pouring the jam into a sterilised jar.
- Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
 Egli, I., Davidsson, L., Juillerat, M.A., Barclay, D., Hurrell, R.F. (2002). The Influence of Soaking and Germination on the Phytase Activity and Phytic Acid Content of Grains and Seeds Potentially Useful for Complementary Feeding. Journal of Food Science. 67(9), 3484-3488.
 Attaluri, A., Donahoe, R., Valestin, J., Brown, K., Rao, S.S.C. (2011). Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 33(7), 822-828.
 Scott, K.P., Duncan, S.H., Flint, H.J. (2008). Dietary fibre and the gut microbiota. Nutrition Bulletin. 33(3), 201-211.