How can we easily change the gut microbiota in a “more favourable” way? Is there any solution to reduce my feelings of hunger? What could be a natural solution to reduce my munchies in the evening? Start your day with a ritual devoted to feeding your gut microbiota!    Nicolas Rousseau (dietitian, nutritionist, scientific writer) interviewed Prof. Patrice D. Cani about how to make his Microbes4U© smoothie recipe potion. 

Prof Cani, why did you start preparing kefir-based smoothies? 

Prof. Cani: “Good question! As I trained as a dietitian and nutritionist before training as a researcher specifically on the gut microbiota, I always analysed my meals, my dietary habits and eventually what the nutrients that I am ingesting are. I like cooking special recipes or choosing food items for their specific nutritional values. I never count calories! I always focus my attention on the nutrients and the molecular mechanisms by which they can influence my body and my health. For me, this is the major issue”.  

Do calories not really matter? 

Prof. Cani: “Nowadays we know that to maintain health—besides genetics, physical activity and energy intake—there are many other factors that contribute to the regulation of our metabolism. The quality of the nutrients that we are ingesting is far more important than simply the calories that they are bringing. We all know that some saturated fatty acids contribute to the development of cardiometabolic disorders, while some others such as omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (in oily fish and flaxseeds for example) reduce cardiometabolic risk factors. This is a simple example!”  

“Every day, I try to compose my diet in order to as much as possible cover nutritional needs, and even far beyond, because I do believe that the classical nutritional recommendations do not yet include what I consider to be recent breakthroughs in the field of nutritional and medical sciences. As a matter of fact, it is still inconceivable to discuss feeding our gut or our microbes! It is not yet commonly accepted that the gut barrier function can be largely influenced by nutrients and gut microbes even in apparently “healthy” situations. For further details, read my adventure regarding my favourite bacteria: Akkermansia muciniphila.

What I am trying to do is to capture the best nutrients and the best natural ingredients that will boost my microbiota, my digestion and my immunity, and that will contribute to maintaining my gut barrier function as much as possible, along with curbing hunger pangs.  

What does this mean in practice? 

Prof. Cani: “I will give you more details later on. But first, let me give you the list of the nutrients that I am focusing on: dietary fibres, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, provitamin A, different types of polyphenols, essential amino acids and last but not least, a cocktail of natural beneficial microbes. I guess you would have won by betting on fibres being the first item, but as you can see there are many other buddies”.   

Is that this “microbial cocktail” or the fibres that you call the Microbes4U© effect? 

Prof. Cani: No! This is not a “simple” cocktail of microorganisms or dietary fibres which is providing all the aforementioned nutrients. I prepare a mixture of selected seeds, nuts, fresh fruits, dried fruits, fruit extracts and milk kefiri. It is by mixing all these items that I can enrich my diet with many interesting nutrients. Everything is calculated, and almost nothing is left to chance in my choices. Besides the key nutrients, my aim is also to keep me feeling fuller for longer and eventually keep my hunger at bay. But theories are easy!  

I have a feeling that you are going beyond the status quo? In the end, this is a personal experience, isn’t it? 

Prof. Cani: Thank you for this observation. I’m not sure if I am going beyond the status quo or if I am simply applying my own 20 years of experience in the field of nutrition and gut microbiota. But in any case what I am obviously doing is guaranteeing the daily ingestion of carefully selected nutrients that will contribute to feeding our own gut microbes, such as dietary fibres, exopolysaccharides (kefiran) but also polyphenols that may also act as prebiotics (i.e. changing the gut microbiota) as strong modulators of energy metabolism (i.e. increased energy expenditure) and of oxidative stress (e.g. lower cell damages). This mix will also contribute to maintaining an appropriate gut barrier function, along with helping the immune system, controlling blood glucose and cholesterol, improving digestion and reducing appetite. Another interesting point is the digestibility of this dairy product: the lactose is transformed, the proteins are also partially broken down into peptides and amino acids. Altogether this can help people reluctant to ingest cow’s milk to introduce it in their diets. 

Amazing and surely yummy! Can you share the ingredients of your “magic” potion?  

Prof. Cani: The recipe is rather simple, as well as the preparation: you only have to mix all the ingredients in a good blender!  

Ingredients for the smoothie (one serving): 

  • 300 ml of kefir 
  • half a banana (not too ripe) 
  • 25 g or a handful of a mix of raw nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts) 
  • a teaspoon of chia seeds.
  • 2 teaspoons of flaxseeds  
  • one tablespoon of goji berries 
  • one teaspoon of Camu Camu powder 
  • one teaspoon of spirulina 
  • Fresh (if in season) or frozen fruit such as blueberries (25-30g), or strawberries (3-5 pieces, depending on the size) or figs (2-3 pieces). 

Preparation of the smoothie: 

Mix all the ingredients with a blender at maximum speed for 45 seconds to 1 minute. This will not only help you to ingest all these superfoods, but also to break down the nuts and the cell walls of the seeds to fully release their nutrients in the smoothie without affecting their quality.  

The smoothie must be consumed immediately after preparing it and not stored in the fridge. Not only because you want to enjoy the benefit of all the nutrients but also because the release of different fibres will make the mix progressively thicker and harder to drink…  

A careful selection of healthy nutrients indeed! But also a major source of sugars…    

Prof. Cani: “Yes, this is correct. Numerous and various sources of good lipids, polyphenols, antioxidants, fibres, magnesium, vitamins C, E, & A, selenium, calcium, and many other nutrients. In this way, you also contribute to getting your Five a Day! Finally, when you think about the quantity of sugars, it is very limited and you should bear in mind that you are ingesting natural sugars together with fibres leading to a lower glycaemic index. Don’t forget also that the primary sources of (added) sugar in our diet are sweet products!” 

Does this smoothie speed up your metabolism? 

Prof. Cani: This is not rocket science… But I have to say that similar effects have been reported by many of the users of my smoothie preparation. For instance, a better control of appetite sensations and fewer munchies, loss of body weight or at least a reduction of the waist circumference, as well as less bloating despite the huge quantity of fibres. I will not comment on its effects on regulating intestinal transit…. 

All these effects do not only materialise because of the specific selection of the food items containing many useful nutrients, but they are also explained by their synergistic effects. This is exactly what I call the Microbes4U© effect: a perfect alchemy of nutritious and healthy ingredients. You feed your microbes, you take care of your gut barrier, you reduce your intake of snacks, all your organs work better, your liver is “cleaner” and ultimately you feel better… Sometimes, dreams come true…