• The bestselling author says the key to eating less is eating well. (Joe Sarah)
How to keep cravings in check and boost your mood - plus great recipes.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

27 Mar 2019 - 2:02 PM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2019 - 4:47 PM

As a TV presenter and science journalist, Michael Mosley is across the latest medical research and discoveries, regularly putting his body on the line in his quest to advance our understanding of health and nutrition.

But in other ways, he's just like the rest of us. He hates Brussels sprouts and has a weakness for a bar (or whole block) of creamy milk chocolate.

"Do I give in to guilty cravings? Oh yeah," Dr Mosley tells SBS. "Just not as often."

"I still have the odd bar of milk chocolate, except I try and buy small ones, and it’s really difficult if I can see the big one there for a pound and this one is there for 90p and this one is about a quarter of the size.

"But I now know myself well enough to know if I buy the big one I’m not going to eat just one square, I’m going to eat the whole bloody thing. So when I do give in, I kind of do so knowing my own weaknesses."

After everything he's learned, he has developed strategies for keeping those cravings in check - and feeling better for it.

In his book, The Clever Guts Diet, Dr Mosley investigates the impact your gut bacteria has on both cravings and mood - with some fascinating findings. 

Warm your belly with pumpkin porridge from the new book, which includes recipes by his wife, Dr Clare Bailey. 

 

Remove temptations

If you get invited around for afternoon tea to the home in Berkshire, England, where Dr Mosley lives with his wife, GP Clare Bailey, you won't be asked "One lump or two?"

"We don’t have sugar in the house," Dr Mosley says.

As someone with a sweet tooth, Dr Mosley says controlling his cravings is all about removing temptation. 

"You have [to have] some rules. We don’t have crappy food in the house because if we did I’d eat it," he says, laughing.

"I don’t add sugar to anything these days. But I do sometimes have the odd donut or slice of cake. Once upon a time I would have happily had a donut every day. These days I have to find an excuse to have it. And mainly we just don’t have it in the house." 

Start your day with these recipes from Mosley's new book: gluten-free breakfast bread and quick chia jam. 

 

Sugar is the enemy of a healthy gut

While Dr Mosley says he's tried out sugar-free months, his aim is a little more realistic - allow yourself the occasional treat, but make it a rarity.

He says the hardest part in conquering a craving is the first little while, thanks to the microbes in your gut. 

"Some [microbes] thrive on sugar, others love fat. The more sugar you feed the sugar eaters, the more they want," he writes in The Clever Guts Diet.

"They are not like a friendly dog, hanging around waiting gratefully for whatever comes their way. They are fighting for life. They will do anything to give themselves the edge.

"All you have to do (and I don't underestimate how tough this can be) is keep away from the thing you crave and hopefully the cravings will reduce as those microbes die off."

Australians eat about 14 teaspoons of sugar every day.

In unfortunate news for sweet tooths everywhere, "there’s very little to be said for sugar, apart from the fact it tastes rather nice," Dr Mosley tells SBS.

"I think there’s pretty good evidence some of those cravings are driven by the bacteria in your gut, the microbes in your gut, that basically like the stuff.

Junky food is more likely to produce a biome that wants more junky food. And we know that a lot of processed food have emulsifiers in them, and some elulsifiers seem to be pretty damn bad for your gut bacteria.

"So one way of countering that is kind of starving them out a bit."

Eat yourself happy

Those microbes in your gut have a lot to answer for - they also affect your mood.

In his book, Dr Mosley quotes Dr Athena Aktipis, from the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, who has put forward a convincing case that microbes influence how much we eat, what we eat, and our emotions. "Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behaviour and mood through altering neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good," Dr Aktipis said. 

Dr Mosley says his best recipe for boosting your mood would be to turn the Mediterranean diet - based on lots of vegetables, fruit, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, fish and full-fat yoghurt - which also helps create a diverse biome.

Your gut problem is not all in your mind
Dr Michael Mosley reveals how your guts can affect your mood, your weight and your general health.

"I cannot guarantee that they will make you happy and jolly, but that’s where the science lies - there’s a lot of emerging science which shows that eating those sorts of foods will help boost mood," Dr Mosley tells SBS.

"And exercise. And also stress management, mindfulness and things like that. We know all those things are hugely important for reducing stress, anxiety, bad sleep. Bad sleep in turn is a real mood killer. It gets you in this terrible vicious cycle where you’re sleep-deprived, so you eat junk food, and then you feel bad about it, so you eat more junk food, so you put on weight, and you feel terrible, so you sleep worse.

"All of this stuff is intertwined. And all of it is treatable. All of it is preventable. Nothing works for absolutely everyone, but this is the best that I think science can tell you at this moment in time." 

Up your colour count: Serve this walnut and capsicum dip from Mosley's new book with a rainbow of veg. 

 

A good tip for healthy gut eating? "One simple rule is colour - try to put as many colours on your plate as possible. And ideally more than one colour, and ideally not beige," Dr Mosley says.

"When you go to the supermarket look for vegetables which are different colours because they'll give you different benefits - they have different chemicals in them and they have different phytonutrients in them."

More from Clever Guts
Pumpkin porridge

Put a warm glow in your belly and set you up for the day with this grain-free bowl. 

Quick raspberry chia jam

A delicious fruity low-sugar jam which is wonderfully quick and easy to make. 

 

The Clever Guts Diet by Dr Michael Mosley with Tanya Borowski and Dr Clare Bailey (Simon & Schuster Australia, pb, $29.99). Catch Michael Mosley on Insight in Gut Feeling as he talks about gut health and the microbiome, now available on SBS On Demand. Insight has also shared another recipe from Clever Guts here

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