– Lee Holmes
In the wellness blogging sphere and health world, there tends to be a fear of dessert. Of course, everyone’s aware of the raw treat’s era, but that’s about where we’ve stopped when it comes to ‘healthy’ desserts.
I want to tell you a big wellness secret: we don’t need to succumb to endlessly chewing on raw brownies or bliss balls to be healthy. Health is all about moderation, not deprivation. You are allowed to eat dessert; in fact, I encourage you to do so. While we eat nutritious food to keep our bodies thriving, we need dessert to keep us sane!
If you’re looking for desserts to have on hand for any and every occasion and ones that can actually boost your gut health, I’m going to share four of my favourites for you from my book ‘Supercharge Your Gut’.
Pan-fried Pineapple with Mint and Coconut Yoghurt
If you love fruity sweetness for dessert, you can’t go past my Pan-fried Pineapple with Mint and Coconut Yoghurt. After cooking up a storm of a main meal, my philosophy about dessert is simple: the simpler, the better. However, simple doesn’t have to mean a couple of cut-up, depressed old strawberries or a boring bowl of name-brand vanilla ice-cream. If you’re ready for a dessert that’ll take your taste buds to paradise and beyond, it’s time to hone in on one of my favourite fruits, the mighty pineapple. Now, I know pineapple can look a little intimidating from the outside but trust me when I say this: it’s most definitely worth the fight.
The versatile and low-fructose pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory digestive enzyme known as bromelain – the one that makes your tongue feel a little bit fuzzy after eating too much of it. Digestive enzymes are a vital tool when trying to maintain or rebuild gut health. They help break down larger molecules of food into more easily absorbed particles and so, are essential for good digestion and nutrient absorption. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to break down our foods properly. Through a whole range of complicated digestive processes, these enzymes break our food down into amino acids, fatty acids, cholesterol, simple sugars and nucleic acids.
In cases of leaky gut, digestive enzymes can help take the stress off the gastrointestinal tract and counteract the enzyme inhibitors that are found in nuts, seeds, beans, potatoes and lentils. People who have age-related enzyme insufficiency, leaky gut, liver disease, Crohn’s disease and other digestive diseases may require digestive enzymes in the form of supplements. However, certain foods, such as our wonderful pineapple, can naturally enhance digestive enzyme production. Bromelain can also help fight inflammation, assist in nutrient absorption and aid digestion. This means it’s a perfect ingredient to include if you’re experiencing any pain, tenderness, redness or indigestion. Did you know that pineapple has been used as a natural remedy for indigestion and allergies for centuries?
While fresh pineapple is obviously delicious, when it’s pan-fried, it’s seriously next level. I’m talking caramelised and gooey in the best way possible. Cooking pineapple will also help break down the tough cell walls of this fruit, making it easier to digest all of the goodness and nutrients.
Pan-fried pineapple pairs perfectly with probiotic-rich coconut yoghurt. Probiotics are high in anti-bacterial properties, which help us grow the friendly bacteria in our guts. While this is useful for everyone because we all want sparkly-clean and functioning guts, it’s especially important for those who’ve taken an antibiotic for a winter flu or other ailment. Probiotics can help get your gut back into great shape after antibiotics and even reduce antibiotic-related diarrhoea and constipation. Other factors that dismantle microbial diversity include acid-blocking drugs, stress, modern environmental toxins, chemicals in our water supply, pesticides on our food, using antibacterial soaps and cleansers, and the rising preference for planned caesarean sections, which can actually negatively impact our future generation’s microbial biodiversity.
However, there is some good news! We CAN help increase our microbial diversity by eating a wholefood, organic, varied and colourful diet filled with delicious foods that include a range of probiotics. Probiotics are necessary for aiding digestion and helping with absorption of important nutrients to produce serotonin, the happiness hormone. But I mean, how can you not be happy when my baked pineapple recipe makes you feel like you’re sitting under a cabana in Fiji, drinking a Pina Colada and getting caught in the rain?
Not only does coconut yoghurt add to the gut-healing goodness of the recipe, the creaminess of the yoghurt cuts through the sweetness of the pineapple in all the right ways. This combination of classic summer flavours, pineapple, and mint and coconut yoghurt is sweet, creamy, rich and plain old delicious. Trust me, everyone will be saying crème br-who? by the time they get their hands on this gut-friendly indulgence. This dish is best served warm with some creamy coconut yoghurt and zesty lime.
You will need
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
- 6 pineapple wedges, skin removed
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 250 g (9 oz/1 cup) coconut yoghurt
- Mint leaves, to garnish
- Melt the coconut oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat.
- Add the pineapple, drizzle with the lime juice and cook for 4–5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
- Serve warm, with coconut yoghurt, garnished with the mint and lime zest.
Apple Cider Gummy Bears
If you’re trying to add more apple cider vinegar to yours, your kids or your neighbour’s diet, but can’t stand the taste, you may want to give my gummies a whirl.
Apple cider vinegar is good for our health. It can help tackle cold and flu, tame troubled tummies, ease a scratchy throat, control blood sugar levels and even boost weight loss. It has beautiful probiotic enzymes to help balance gut bacteria, improve nutrient assimilation and balance pH levels.
When I’m talking about apple cider vinegar, I mean the real thing. NOT the sweetened and sparkly apple ciders kids are drinking these days. The REAL variety of apple cider vinegar is unfiltered and contains the ‘mother’ of all ingredients – the mother! Most apple cider vinegars available have had this crucial ingredient removed and are heavily processed, so make sure you find one that’s got it all intact.
I’ll be the first to admit it, while apple cider vinegar sounds great for our health, it isn’t usually the most palatable of ingredients to kids (and pretty much everyone else out there too… if your friend says they LOVE apple cider vinegar, they’re probably lying). This is why I’ve combined it with a gut-healing guru, gelatine, and some natural apple juice to make these gummies yummy and good for the tummy!
Gelatine does all the heavy lifting when it comes to gut health! It helps to seal the lining of the gut that’s often been opened by various factors such as poor diet and stress. Gelatine can also improve the strength of our digestive system and enhance the secretion of gastric acids to help us break down food, making it easier for us to absorb all the nutrients we’re eating! If you’re trying to improve your bowel movements, gelatine is your gut ninja as it absorbs water which keeps the digestive tract running with fluid and so, promotes good intestinal transit time and healthy bowel movements.
If you’re ready to have some seriously devoted healthy gummy fans, you have to give my Apple Cider Gummy Bears a try.
Makes about 12
You will need
- 250 ml (9 floz/1 cup) apple juice (no added sugar)
- 60 ml (2 floz/14 cup) apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons powdered gelatine
- In a small saucepan, warm the apple juice and vinegar over medium heat.
- When it starts to bubble, remove from the heat.
- Sprinkle the gelatine on top and whisk briskly until dissolved. Strain.
- Pour into teddy bear moulds, or other moulds of your choice, or into
a small lined baking tin. Refrigerate for 1–2 hours, or until set.
- Turn out of the moulds, or cut into small squares to serve. The gummies will keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer for 1–2 weeks.
- Supercharged tip
To make Aloe Vera Gummies, replace the vinegar with aloe vera juice. For Vegetarian Gummies, simply heat up 350 ml (12 floz) aloe vera juice in a saucepan, add 1/2 teaspoon agar-agar flakes or powder and stir to dissolve. Continue stirring for a couple of minutes. When the mixture starts to boil, remove from the heat, add some liquid Stevia, vanilla extract, chopped mint or whatever spice you like — even berries would be nice! Pour into an ice-cube tray. Top with shredded coconut if you like, then refrigerate for about 1 hour, or until set.
Fig, Hazelnut and Goat’s Cheese Tart
This tart is the perfect bring-along if you are invited to dinner and want to contribute a dessert with some wow factor. The roasted crunchy hazelnuts intermingle beautifully with the soft sweetness of roasted figs and a tangy edge of creamy goat’s cheese. Yum! Figs are also considered an aphrodisiac, so you know you’re in for a good time.
If you are not a dessert person, or tend to skip out on dessert out of fear of unhealthy foods, think about the 80:20 approach. By sticking to your nutritional values 80 percent of the time, you will be able to say yes to the chocolate cake at a birthday party or, let’s say, an unfiggetable fig, hazelnut and goat’s cheese tart at your friends’ dinner. Who wants to say no to delicious spaghetti made by Italian nonna’s at a delightful restaurant on the Amalfi coast because of the calories? Absolutely nobody. There are some food opportunities that can’t and shouldn’t be turned down. Don’t be the killjoy. Instead, allow yourself the space to occasionally stray away from your regular nourishing eating habits and don’t take life too seriously! Life is all about balance.
Embodying this attitude will give you a lot more freedom in social situations facing food. Indulging twenty percent of the time won’t do any harm if you are otherwise healthy.
The act of consuming food should never make you feel anxious, captive or worried. A supercharged life emphasises food that is enjoyed and savoured. Once we are in this space, we are able to walk to the unforced rhythms that come with a common-sense attitude towards food and a balanced approach to eating. Letting go of a rulebook approach to eating will bring you a sense of freedom, but still allow you to commit to food choices that equate to vibrant health and longevity – and a life fully lived. That is the ideal space to be.
You will need
- 55 g (2 oz) hazelnuts, roasted and chopped, plus extra to serve
- 2 sheets gluten-free shortcrust pastry
- 55 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
- 50 g (1 3 4 oz/ 1 3 cup) coconut sugar
- 1 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 egg
- 150 g (5 1 2 oz) goat’s cheese
- 10 figs, halved
- Rice malt syrup, for drizzling (optional)
- Rosemary sprigs, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor.
- Carefully lay the pastry sheets side by side on the prepared tray overlapping them slightly and pressing down on the join.
- Press around gently with a knife to mark a 2 cm ( 3 4 inch) border without going all the way through.
- Fold the edges over along the score mark.
- In a medium bowl, mix the butter, ground hazelnuts, 2 tablespoons of the coconut sugar, and the cinnamon and egg, working it into a paste using a fork.
- Spread over the pastry, keeping the border clear.
- Crumble half the goat’s cheese over the tart.
- Arrange the figs on top, then crumble over the remaining goat’s cheese and scatter over the extra hazelnuts.
- Sprinkle the remaining coconut sugar over the top.
- Bake for 12–15 minutes, until the pastry is puffy and golden.
- Serve topped with a drizzle of rice malt syrup and garnished with rosemary, if using.
Share in a feast with your loved ones and bring this for dessert! This tart from Supercharge Your Life is a delightful addition to any gathering, dinner, potluck and picnic. I hope you love it as a much as I do!
Baked Papaya with Lime & Coconut Yoghurt
Finally I want to share with you a zesty and refreshing source of digestive enzymes to boost gut health and start the day with a fruity twist.
You are going to love my Baked Papaya with Lime and Coconut yoghurt. Because it is so easy to make, tastes delicious and is super good for the gut. Fruits that are rich in antioxidants and fibre are not only good for you, but can really help when it comes to dealing with gut issues. I’m using papaya because it is particularly great for anti-bloating. It can help aid weight loss and even fight cellulite. It is also handy for encouraging digestion and can help alleviate constipation.
You will need
- 1 large papaya, cut in half, seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 250 g (9 oz/1 cup) coconut yoghurt
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place the papaya on the baking tray. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and lime zest, and drizzle with the lime juice.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the papaya is lightly coloured.
- Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool down.
- Serve with the coconut yoghurt.
Note: You can add some lime slices to the baking tray to caramelise them, and then squeeze the juice over the papaya just before serving. I hope you enjoy these four gut-friendly desserts. The good news is, unlike most desserts out there, they won’t leave your tummy tied up in knots. Now that’s dessert with benefits.
Lee Holmes is a holistic nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef and author of the bestselling Supercharged Food series, which includes Eat Your Way to Good Health; Fast Your Way to Wellness, Heal Your Gut and the 2018 follow-up, Supercharge Your Gut and many more. She runs a four-week ‘Heal Your Gut’ program, a two-day a week ‘Supercharge Your Gut’ program and a 6 week ‘Fast Your Way to Wellness’ program on her website and has a range of gut-friendly powders and blends on her other website called Supercharge your gut.