Spring is slowly creeping in. If you’re like me, you’re sighing with relief that the short, cold winter days are drifting as the new season is upon us. Taking a pause to reflect and transition to this new month can benefit your mind and body. Oftentimes, a detox, spiritual practice, or spring cleanse can help shed weight or emotional distress.
March is National Nutrition Month. I love to highlight this because it’s a friendly reminder to re-center and ground yourself. This may be a gentle push regarding your New Year’s Resolutions that got put on the back burner as well.
I am also here to share how you can improve your gut health during National Nutrition Month, while saying “so long” to the winter blues and the added weight or bloat that might have come with them.
I am excited to give you some of my favorite go-to options to help you get back on track with your gut health and overall wellness. Trust me, I get that you’re busy. Maybe you’re guilty of ordering take out most nights or ghosting your personal trainer for fear of facing that workout. When life gets the best of me, I always have tools that get me back to feeling grounded and staying resilient during chaotic times.
With these five strategies, you can hit the ground running and kick off National Nutrition Month the right way!
When we hear the word “stress” most of us tense up or think of the main stressors in our lives. Stress is a part of life and can even be beneficial in moderate amounts (such as with exercise).
Stress can also lead us to crave bad foods, disrupt the microbiota, weaken the immune system, cause weight gain… The list can really go on and on. Combating stress and creating resiliency is incredibly important to lead a healthy life day-to-day and help you to overcome the losing battle to stress.
One simple and FREE strategy is deep belly breathing. Breathing is something like drinking water. We all know how important it is to drink water daily, but how many of us overlook it as an important component to health and well-being? Taking time throughout the day to breathe is similar.
Try to incorporate deep belly breathing before each meal. This can help to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system via the vagus nerve and get your body out of the fight-or-flight mode. This contributes to all the stress imbalances mentioned above.
In addition, belly breathing can promote proper digestion and increase nutrient absorption at meal time with the release of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. It’s one thing to be eating healthy and a completely other ball game to actually be absorbing everything you’re putting in your mouth!
Even better, this can be done anywhere and only takes a few minutes. Before you eat, inhale through the nose as you stick the belly out and count to four. Hold the breath for four counts and exhale through the nose and pull the belly in for four counts. Repeat this for one to two minutes. Then begin eating, chew your food thoroughly and enjoy your meal in the present moment.
Green Tea Daily
The benefits of green tea are really astounding. The high amounts of polyphenols in green tea can reduce the severity of chronic health conditions. In particular, these compounds can be protective against stroke, heart attack, diabetes, blood pressure, insulin resistance, and overall systemic inflammation.
These polyphenols have been shown to play a favorable role in the composition of the gut microbiome. Specifically, the beneficial bacteria will metabolize the polyphenols into bioactive compounds that have health benefits for the entire body.
Starting the day off with a cup of organic green tea can be a soothing, healing and a delicious way to jump-start your day! I recommend one to two cups earlier in the day to avoid any caffeine consumption close to bedtime. (1)
Eat Living Foods
In most instances, the American diet is loaded with foods that are packaged and could sit on a shelf for days, months, or even years without changing form!
Eating foods with living bacteria can promote better gut health and promote colonization of beneficial microbes. When good bugs are thriving, this can have a positive impact on metabolism, along with reducing overall inflammation.
More specifically, foods that contain live strains of lactobacilli can also improve the severity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and reduce the colonization of harmful bacteria strains that may promote inflammation and chronic diseases. (2)
I suggest adding one to two tablespoons of fermented foods to your diet daily. This can be a super easy addition, just by taking one spoonful at a time. For instance, try adding sauerkraut to a salad, kimchi mixed with scrambled eggs or dairy-free yogurt to a smoothie!
Most Americans don’t eat enough bitter greens. In fact, you probably won’t find them highlighted at your grocery store, but they are truly a hidden gem. However, they have been eaten and used as plant medicine for years in many cultures.
In terms of gut health, these bitters support the production of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and flow of bile. Like mentioned above, these are essential for proper digestion of nutrients.
Because of their ability to support digestion and high fiber content, these bitters can help to promote better bowel movements. In addition, their high fiber profile and bitter flavor can help to curve cravings of sugar and other processed foods.
Take a look at some of the options below and how you can start incorporating bitters into your daily meals this month.
Pair a delicious bitter salad and deep belly breathing at meal time for amazing gut benefits. My favorite greens include:
We hear so much about cutting out carbohydrates in order to lose weight and to address other health conditions. While this is true, it doesn’t mean you have to ban carbs from your diet totally. The key is to pick the right carbohydrates! This can make a huge difference.
For instance, incorporating resistant starch foods can have a positive impact on your metabolism. Because these starchy foods are also packed with fiber they do not spike blood sugar and insulin levels after meals like other processed carbs. These foods are also high in fiber, so they act as prebiotic/resistant starch foods.
They essentially feed the beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut and allow them to thrive. The fiber will also keep you fuller longer and can decrease your sugar cravings or urge to nibble on sweets.
Interestingly enough, carbohydrates can also promote restful sleep at dinner time. Cooked and chilled sweet potatoes (an incredible resistant starch food), contain key vitamins and minerals that act as precursors to neurotransmitters that can soothe you into a deep sleep, such as melatonin and serotonin.
Take a look at some options below that you can incorporate to your diet this month. Start replacing these with any packaged or processed cookies, crackers, or snacks that could be sabotaging you from a healthy body and gut.
Resistant Starch & Carbohydrate Foods to Enjoy:
Cooked & chilled sweet potatoes
Cooked & chilled oatmeal
Cooked & chilled legumes
1.Fraga CG, Croft KD, Kennedy DO, Tomás-Barberán FA.The effects of polyphenols and other bioactives on human health. Food Funct. 2019 Feb 12.
2.Alvaro E, Andrieux C, Rochet V, Rigottier-Gois L, Lepercq P, Sutren M, Galan P, Duval Y, Juste C, Doré J.Composition and metabolism of the intestinal microbiota in consumers and non-consumers of yogurt.Br J Nutr. 2007 Jan;97(1):126-33.