HAPPY GUT Blog

How to Incorporate Culinary Herbs and Spices into a Happy Gut Pantry

As the summer months come to an end, most of us are still trying to squeeze what we can out of the long days before the fall months arrive. Flowers are still in bloom and gardens are probably delivering late-season harvests.

This is a great time to consider saving some fresh herbs that you started growing in your happy gut garden or collected from a local farmer’s market or grocery store.

Incorporating herbs as a staple in cooking and food preparation can improve your meals in many ways. You’re boosting the nutrition of your meals while incorporating seasonal eating. More importantly, these herbs highlighted below can benefit your gut health!

Herbs and spices take your dishes to a whole new level when it comes to flavor. They’re often overlooked and instead, food is loaded with sodium, additives, and preservatives for taste. These are not necessary and come with negative side effects.

Check out four of my favorite culinary herbs and spices that I always keep on hand. I’ll also give you some pointers on how to use them regularly and store them properly.  This way, they can be part of your Happy Gut Pantry year round. You’ll also receive a separate recipe that highlights herbs and spices to try out this month

Keep reading and stay tuned for my next Happy Gut recipe!

Rosemary

This pungent and hardy herb is native to the Mediterranean. (1) The perennial is commonly used during winter months as a popular seasoning in stews or main dishes. However, this plant can grow fabulous in a summer garden and should be used at all months of the year due to its benefits.

Rosemary contains B vitamins and a compound that can promote brain health and function. (2)  In addition, rosemary has traditionally been used to support the immune system. About 70 percent of your immune cells are held in your microbiome. Supporting immunity is key to optimize gut health and vice versa. (3)

I personally like to use rosemary with any sort of roasted vegetable. Especially carrots, parsnips, radishes or sweet potatoes. A fun spin is to infuse your water with it. This makes a great way to stay hydrated in the hot weather!

Turmeric

This spice has gained a lot of popularity recently. Turmeric’s deep golden color signifies its powerful healing benefits. In our society, turmeric has mostly recognized for its ability to reduce inflammation. However, this spice has been used for many years, mostly in Ayurvedic and Chinese tradition. It was known as a remedy for liver and digestive issues. Turmeric was also used to treat infections, skin issues, and wounds. (1)

Using turmeric can also promote a balanced gut. Clinical studies show that turmeric can reduce gut inflammation and improve leaky gut. Bloating, gas, and heartburn can be terrible issues and cause suffering to many. Turmeric to the rescue! It has been shown to improve these symptoms.

There are lots of ways to utilize this powerful spice aside from a typical curry dish. Try adding some to eggs, a smoothie, or salad dressing. This makes it easier to consume on a regular basis, especially if you are experiencing gut issues. Pair it with a pinch of black pepper and a healthy fat for optimal absorption.

Check out my personal salad dressing that I like to enjoy on a regular basis. You gain the benefits from the turmeric for gut health, but the fiber from the veggies is perfect for a healthy gut too.

Turmeric and Chive Salad Dressing

3 servings

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs apple cider vinegar

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp turmeric powder

¼ cup fresh chives, chopped

Blend all ingredients together, store in an airtight glass jar in refrigerator and use throughout the week.

Mint

This beautiful herb is often cursed for its invasive properties when grown in the garden. However, the abundance can be used in many recipes or to make a soothing tea due to its health benefits. This herb has antibacterial, antiviral and incredible antioxidant action. Mint may be overlooked in culinary use but more commonly used in toothpaste, chewing gum or beauty products.

I suggest keeping mint handy in your kitchen, especially because of its ability to fight inflammation in the body due to its antioxidant properties. For many years, mint has been used for stomach issues including flatulence and indigestion. It may also reduce the negative effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and relax the digestive tract. (4)

Cilantro

Cilantro is a fabulous herb, used popularly around the world. Flavorful and unique in taste this herb is used in many different dishes. Cilantro is vibrant in color and rich in nutrition. Among its nutrients, this herb contains vitamin A, C, E, potassium, and magnesium.

Cilantro has powerful healing benefits that have been used for years. Today, it still holds popularity for its medicinal effects. Cilantro can be used as a detox agent. It can bind to toxins and heavy metals to help clear them from the body. Due to its antioxidant profile (vitamins A, C, and E), cilantro has the ability to fight inflammation and oxidative stress.

Specifically for gut health, cilantro has been used to treat GI issues such as nausea and an upset stomach. Interestingly, cilantro can also fight bacteria and fungus, both of which can create an imbalance in the gut microbiome.  

Drying out Herbs

Drying out seasonal herbs is key to having these on hand year-round. You can purchase dried herbs on the shelf, but if possible, opt for seasonal and organic fresh herbs. I’ve provided you step-by-step instructions on drying out your herbs this summer.

Step 1

Simply wash and dry, then bundle together with string.

Step 2

Hang upside down for a few days or until fully dried. It’s easiest to use a tack or hook.

Step 3

Grab a mason jar or old glass jar you may have lying around and label with the herb name.

Step 4

Once the herb is dry, discard any stem and pick up dried leaves. Gently break down the leaves with your fingers in a bowl. Once the leaves are crushed, add to the jar and store in your pantry.

These dried herbs have an incredible flavor that lasts all year! In addition, this can actually save you money as opposed to purchasing dried herbs and spices. It’s a win-win!

 

For more healing herbs to add to your pantry, check out a list below. Slowly start stocking up and experimenting with these different flavors. They are a wonderful addition to your Happy Gut Pantry!

  • Basil
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Cumin
  • Fenugreek
  • Ginger
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Sumac

Citations

1.Malone M, Tsai G. The Evidence for Herbal and Botanical Remedies, Part 2. J Fam Pract.2018 January;67(1):E1-E9

2. Chan A. L. (2012, Feb 27). Rosemary Brain Benefit: Study Shows Link Between Herb Chemical And Brainpower. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/27/rosemary-brain-memory-18-cineole_n_1304250.html

3. Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical and Experimental Immunology, 153(Suppl 1), 3–6.

4. McKay DL,  Blumberg JB.A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.).Phytother Res. 2006 Aug;20(8):619-33.5. Bhanoo, S. N. (2011, August 29). Coriander Oil Is Found to Kill E. Coli, Salmonella and MRSA. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/30/science/30obcoriander.html 

6 Strategies for Happy Gut-Approved Summer Gatherings

If you’re like me, you love the relaxed, carefree ambiance of spending long summer days with family and friends. Many of these gatherings take place around the grill with food. You want to enjoy yourself, of course, while still maintaining a healthy gut during these celebrations.

Perhaps you’re attending a family cookout, hanging out with your friends at the beach, or hosting your own picnic. Regardless, the occasion ideally includes delicious food that makes everyone happy and supports gut health.

Being gut healthy during summer gatherings doesn’t need to be complicated. If you’re hosting your own, add some of my favorite dishes (check out my Lime & Sweet Potato Fish Tacos recipe) that will earn raves. If the get-together happens at someone else’s place, bring your own dish!

I’ve found these six strategies help me and my clients navigate any summertime gathering with grace and pleasure.

Be Prepared

This one can make or break any gathering. It can mean the difference between maintaining a Happy Gut or really slipping from your plan. 

Whenever you head to a party or host one, you never know when you’ll get the chance to eat or if all the options will be right for you. The best thing to do is be prepared.

Have a snack with protein and fat before you go. This way you aren’t suffering from a low blood sugar attack once you arrive and pick the wrong choices loaded with sugar.

If you’re hosting, keep a bowl of raw mixed nuts nearby to keep your blood sugar stable and prevent overindulging.

Stay Hydrated

With all the fun going on and spending time outdoors in the heat, it’s easy to forget to consume water or become dehydrated from the sun.

If you choose to have an adult beverage, dehydration will hit you a lot faster and you’ll probably be feeling the effects the next day. Be sure to sip on water throughout the celebrations.

Even better, skip the alcohol and try carbonated water or flavor a pitcher of water with fresh herbs and cucumber slices. This is a great alternative to juice and soda as an eye-catching fancy spin on a traditional drink!

Eat Colorful Foods

Summertime provides ample opportunity to get more plant foods into your diet. If you’re attending or hosting a party, bring a colorful green salad with plenty of vegetables or a fruit dish with berries. This way, you’re eating great and participating in the festivities.

Ditch the Sugar and Additives

Many colorful foods at summer parties are loaded with sugar, gluten, dyes, and artificial colors. During the moment, it seems fun and carefree. Sugar and gluten disrupt the balance of the microbiome, and food additives can toxic to your body.

Occasionally indulging is fine, but keep it within reason. A seasonal and organic berry salad is your best option. Plus the fruit is exceptional this time of year and you can usually support a local farm with your purchase.

Be Mindful with Portions

Yes, avoiding the endless main dishes and desserts can be a challenge. I totally get it! That’s why it’s important you stick to mindful eating habits even in big party settings like this.

When you fill your plate, try to eat slowly and savor the delicious and healthy options you have chosen. Eating slow and mindfully will improve your digestion as well.

Once you’re done, wait at least 20 minutes to see if you’re still hungry. It can be much more tempting to reach for a second plate when the buffet is nearby. Distract yourself and leave the area. The food will be there if you’re hungry later!

Keep Moving

Most of us sit during the day staring at screens. Summer gatherings give you the chance to enjoy the outdoors and escape the office for the day!

Being in nature can do wonders for your stress levels, gut health, and improve happiness. In fact, stay active on the holiday. Bring a soccer ball or a volleyball to the party and get a fun game going. Put down your cell phone and be present!

I’m fond of picnics and hanging out by the beach. What’s your favorite type of summer gathering? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.

Lime & Sweet Potato Fish Tacos Recipe

Here’s a simple, satisfying twist on fish tacos that’s perfect for the Fourth of July or any summer occasion where you want to throw together a portable, delicious meal without too much hassle.

While I love fish tacos, the corn and gluten in most traditional versions wreck an otherwise-healthy meal.

Easy swap: Trade the shell for a crunchy, nutrient-packed lettuce wrap. (Just make sure the type of lettuce is strong enough to support the ingredients.)

I’ve created a delicious variation of fish tacos by combining wild-caught fish with creamy avocado and – here’s the twist – antioxidant- and flavor-rich sweet potatoes.

The crunchy Boston bibb lettuce that highlights these delicious, wholesome ingredients.

Altogether, these fish tacos pack an impressive fiber wallop while providing optimal protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in the wild-caught white fish.

Major nutrients and flavor: Win-win!

These fish tacos are as easy to prepare and assemble as they are to eat. Guaranteed to be a big hit at your next gathering.

 

Lime & Sweet Potato Fish Tacos

WF SF DF GF

Serves: 4

Ingredients

8 oz. wild-caught white fish

8 Boston bibb lettuce leaves

½ cup sweet potatoes, sliced thin

2 tbs avocado oil

Juice from 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1 avocado, sliced lengthwise

⅓ red onion, diced

Sea salt and pepper

 

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a baking dish, add fish and drizzle with 1 tbs avocado oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Step 2

In a skillet, over medium heat add remaining avocado oil. Saute sweet potatoes for 7-10 minutes or until soft and slightly crispy.

Step 3

When the fish is done, flake and mix with red onion, sweet potato, and lime juice.

Step 4

When you are ready to serve, add a spoonful of the mixture onto a lettuce leaf, top with 1-2 avocado slices and enjoy.