Megan Rossi, Ph.D., R.D., has been curious about gut health from a young age. While studying nutrition and dietetics in college, she sadly lost her beloved grandmother to bowel cancer. The experience spurred her to dig deeper into gut health research in her studies—she went on to get a Ph.D. in gut health—and help people overcome the social taboo of talking about our bowels. “The gut has so much power and potential, and by nourishing and caring for it, people can improve their lives in very real and often surprising ways,” she says. In 2017, she set out to share information and her research on social media to reach a broader audience as The Gut Health Doctor, which she continues today. Her new book, Love Your Gut (The Experiment, 2021), is half cookbook, half lifestyle guide to all-around gut health with gut-health assessments, advice on navigating food intolerances and more than 50 recipes to support healthy gut bacteria. We caught up with her to learn more.
Megan Rossi’s Banana, Fig & Zucchini Breakfast Loaf
1. If you have a family of meat lovers, try adding canned lentils to dishes. Start with adding one-third can of lentils to replace some meat; many people won’t even notice. Even in a stir-fry, instead of chicken or pork, add lentils. Don’t underestimate canned mixed beans.
2. Don’t be afraid to add a little extra sprinkle of some herb or spice to your recipes. You can’t really go wrong; do one shake and then taste. Herbs and spices contain polyphenols, which feed the gut bacteria.
3. Mix up ingredients. It’s easy to get stuck eating the same things on repeat. Instead of always having pasta for dinner, why not try quinoa? Mix up vegetables in your recipes, too, because each plant contains different chemicals that feed different gut bacteria.
More on Gut Health:
What Is the Gut?
“If we think of it physiologically, it’s a nine-meter-long tube that delivers food from entry to exit. Along that nine meters lives 70 percent of our immune system,” she says. “We know that people with a better gut have a better immune system.” In her book, Rossi includes an immune assessment. “The assessment gives readers an opportunity to determine where their immunity is at and strategies to implement and then reassess. It’s a way to quantitatively measure how making small changes can make big impacts on things like immunity.”
Gut Health and COVID
“There is some exciting research coming out on COVID and gut health,” says Rossi. “Recent research highlighted that people who are seriously unwell with COVID are missing some of the key gut bacteria. It’s not that having good gut health prevents COVID, but it reduces the risk of becoming seriously unwell.”
Gut Health and Cooking
“There is a big myth out there that you have to have a restrictive diet to have good gut health, when it’s the opposite,” says Rossi. “The science is about diversity, particularly when it comes to plants. One of the key predictors of gut health suggests the more different types of plants you consume, the better,” she notes. “You have a community of bacteria in your gut, so if you nourish it with a good variety of foods, the bacteria will be happy.” That said, Rossi loves white chocolate, which doesn’t necessarily nourish her gut bacteria, so she came up with a recipe at Easter time to make it healthier—and to gift to friends and family. “My Prebiotic Chocolate Bark (see next page) takes five minutes to make and contains ingredients like dried mango and pistachios with prebiotics and extra-virgin olive oil and dark chocolate with polyphenols that feed the good gut bacteria.”