Happy Gut Kitchen

5 Ways to Maintain A Healthy Heart and Happy Gut

 

February brings a lot of attention to the heart. Maybe you’re celebrating with your sweetheart, lending a loving hand to someone in need, or shaping up to protect your own heart.

Aside from Valentine’s Day, February is nationally recognized as Heart Health Month.

That’s important because heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in men and women. One in every four deaths each year is due to heart disease. (1) February is a great reminder to give our hearts more love and care.

We can give our hearts more TLC through nutrition and lifestyle changes. As you know, gut health is important to total body wellness, and that includes your heart. 

Your gut microbiome helps protect against foreign invaders like unwanted bacteria and fungus. But because of stress, environmental toxins, and poor diet, your gut microbial balance can shift towards an unfortunate abundance of unwanted bugs.

This dysbiosis can contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD). (2) Conversely, CVD risk factors like sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition choices, aging, and obesity can all contribute to a leaky gut due to initial intestinal inflammation.

Once the lining becomes inflamed, certain bacterial metabolites will circulate throughout the body and can increase the development of CVD.

These 5 simple but powerful strategies can help you cultivate and maintain a healthy gut and heart any month of the year. 

Step 1: Eat Fiber-Rich Foods At Every Meal

Most American diets are low in fiber. That’s unfortunate because dietary fiber supports gut and heart health. Fiber specifically reduces the risk of CVD by removing risky cholesterol particles from the bloodstream and also regulates insulin levels. (3) Your healthy gut bugs also lover fiber. 

Some easy ways to easily get more fiber:

– Add 1 cup spinach to a smoothie

– Saute 1 cup swiss chard  or other leafy green with eggs

– Enjoy a beautiful salad of mixed greens at lunch with protein

– Try my delicious gut healing soup

– Roast a pan of broccoli and cauliflower as a side dish with dinner

Step 2: Eat More Beets Every Week

Beets and their greens hold incredible health benefits. More specifically, their anti-inflammatory benefits make beets ideal for heart and gut health. Studies show that just drinking beetroot juice can improve blood pressure! (4)

Step 3: Add A Spoonful of Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a delicious aromatic spice that can be used in many cuisines that provides quite a heart-healthy punch.

In fact, cinnamon can help to improve blood sugar and insulin levels, along with blood pressure, triglycerides, and even type 2 diabetes. (5)

Adding cinnamon to your diet is a great way to eliminate the sugar that can disrupt the normal gut flora and trigger cravings for more sugar.

Some easy ways to get more cinnamon:

– Added to your morning coffee

– Mix into a smoothie

– Mix into your favorite nut butter

– Add to a savory protein dish

Step 4: Enjoy A Handful of Walnuts Daily

Nuts and seeds come packed with good fats, vitamins, and minerals along with high fiber content. Walnuts particularly are very high in omega-3 fats that support heart and gut health.

Incorporate a ¼ cup of raw walnuts daily. You can eat them by the hand or with these ideas:

– In a smoothie

– Chopped on a salad

– Mixed in a trail mix with dark chocolate

– Crushed on

Step 5: Dial Down Stress Every Morning

How often do you feel stressed, in a panic, or anxious throughout your day?

Many Americans live with near-constant worry, burnout, and stress. Your gut and heart take the brunt of these repercussions. In fact, depression and grief can increase inflammation and your risk for heart attack and stroke. (6)  

Before you start your busy day, try to set aside reflection and self-care time. Some ideas to help manage feelings of anxiety and stress:

– Take a walk as the sun rises.

– Journal

– Read affirmations

– Spend time in prayer or meditation

– Listen to music

– Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea in silence

 

Citations

  1. Heart Disease Fact Sheet|Data & Statistics|DHDSP|CDC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm
  2. Battson ML, Lee DM, Weir TL, Gentile CL. The gut microbiota as a novel regulator of cardiovascular function and disease. J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Jun;56:1-15.
  3. Erkkilä AT, Lichtenstein AH. Fiber and cardiovascular disease risk: how strong is the evidence? J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2006 Jan-Feb;21(1):3-8.
  4. Eggebeen, Joel et al. “One Week of Daily Dosing With Beetroot Juice Improves Submaximal Endurance and Blood Pressure in Older Patients With Heart Failure and Preserved Ejection Fraction” JACC. Heart failure vol. 4,6 (2016): 428-37.
  5. Zare R, Nadjarzadeh A, Zarshenas MM, Shams M, Heydari M. Efficacy of cinnamon in patients with type II diabetes mellitus: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Clin Nutr. 2018 Mar 11. pii: S0261-5614(18)30114-6.
  6. Rice University. “For the brokenhearted, grief can lead to death.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2018.

Gut-Healing Sweet and Spiced Soup

WF GF DF SF

Serves: 2

Gut-healing wintertime essentials when you maybe ate one too many holiday cookies and drank too much eggnog?

One of my favorites is soup.

Really, to get your gut back on track any time, I love nutrient-rich soup.

And this easy-to-make, delicious recipe hits the spot with essential nutrients and fantastic flavor.

Nourishing bone broth forms this soup’s base to heal the gut lining, while sweet potatoes offer fiber to feed your healthy gut bacteria. Ginger and turmeric support your immune system and dial back inflammation. 

This savory, satisfying soup makes a perfect starter or whenever you need warm, satisfying nourishment.

 

Ingredients

1 medium sweet potato

1 cup bone broth (homemade or Kettle and Fire)

½ cup full fat coconut milk

⅓ cup macadamia nuts

2 tsp fresh ground ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbs pumpkin seeds

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

⅓ cup Daiya dairy-free cheese, crumbled (optional)

Sea salt and pepper

 

Instructions

Step 1

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake sweet potato for about 45 minutes or until fully cooked.

Step 2

When sweet potato is done, allow to cool and peel the skin.

Step 3

In a blender, mix the sweet potato with coconut milk, bone broth, macadamia nuts, ginger, and turmeric.

Step 4

Reheat on stove top and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Step 5

Pour into bowls and garnish with pumpkin seeds, cilantro and crumbled Daiya cheese.

Photo by Cayla1 on Unsplash

5 Ways to Reset Your Health in 2019

 

New Year becomes the time when many people set goals and try to break less-than-stellar habits. For most people, this is the time to leave behind unhealthy trends and hit the total-reset button.

Health goals are among those changes. Statistics show that 45 percent of all new year’s resolutions include weight or getting into better shape. (1) In other words, about half of all resolutions include creating a healthier lifestyle!

You probably have your own health-related reset for the new year. While completely overhauling your health can feel overwhelming, I want to provide five strategies that can streamline the process and make optimal health more manageable. No matter where you are with your health goals, you can start these right now.

Strategy #1: Eliminate Inflammatory Foods

Your diet becomes crucial for a health reset. When I say diet, I don’t mean depriving yourself, counting calories, or eating bland foods for the rest of your life.

Instead, you’ll want to minimize foods that cause inflammation in the body, disrupt your microbiome balance, and contribute to weight gain. Inflammatory foods can even impact your mood and sleep.

For the next 30 days, eliminate these foods. (I suggest keeping them out long-term, but life happens, so don’t be hard on yourself if you indulge.)

  • Gluten and all whole grain products
  • Dairy
  • Sugar in its many forms
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Alcohol
  • Processed and packaged snack items

I talk more about why you want to eliminate these foods in my book Happy Gut. Deprivation isn’t on the menu: There are plenty of gut-supporting foods you can enjoy that help you lose weight on my plan.

Strategy #2: Get Great Sleep

Sleep is by far one of the most important habits when it comes to longevity, weight loss, and good health. Yet, so many of us compromise on it because of our lifelong to-do lists. Or maybe we feel so stressed out, we can’t shut off our brains to sleep.

It’s very challenging to lose weight and sustain healthy habits without optimal sleep. Not sleeping enough raises cortisol levels and can even increase cravings. Lack of sleep and increased cortisol can also promote insulin resistance. In fact, researchers found that lack of sleep decreases insulin regulation by 33 percent. (2)

Aim for a solid 7 – 9 hours each evening. Have the lights out ideally by 10 p.m. to ensure that you have restorative sleep. Try to use the hour before bed to wind down and relax so that you can easily ease into a sound sleep.

Strategy #3: Eat Less Often

While the six-meal-a-day philosophy has been believed to help promote weight loss and health goals, I suggest taking the complete opposite approach. Give your body time to rest between meals. Aim for two or three highly nutritious meals daily and give your body at least 12 hours to rest between dinner and breakfast.

This approach, called intermittent fasting, helps regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. When insulin levels are in check, you lose weight and keep it off more easily. You also dial down hunger and better manage satiety hormones: When your hormones are out of whack, you tend to overeat and have more cravings.

Strategy #4: Reduce Blue Light Exposure

In our society today, we can create a completely artificial atmosphere at 3 a.m. if we want to. (If you’ve been to Vegas, you know what I’m talking about!) The natural light cycle doesn’t affect when we can complete tasks. This can be both a curse and a blessing.

While turning on a light any time can be convenient (like if you need to brush your teeth before bed), access to lighting 24/7 has its downfalls. Being able to create an artificial environment so that you can work deep into the night on your laptop through glowing blue light is not great for your body.

For one, exposure to blue light can increase the likelihood of insulin resistance. Participants in one study were asked to eat their meals in front of bright light in the evening hours. The research confirmed that this exposure to light later on in the day negatively impacted metabolism and increased the risk of insulin resistance. (3)

Try to follow the patterns of natural light the best that you can. Spend time outside in natural light in the morning hours for improved metabolism. Reduce your artificial light environment in the evening the best that you can. Opt for a real book and use a salt lamp or other forms of amber lighting in the evening.

Strategy #5: Love Your Gut

The health of your gut is crucial to your weight. Obesity goes hand-in-hand with microbiome imbalances. Among its havoc, undesirable gut bacteria can create inflammation that directly impacts insulin levels, inevitably creating or exacerbating weight gain.

Give your gut some love! Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods and leafy greens, eliminate the foods that I mentioned above, and be sure you take a high-quality probiotic. I’ve outlined a comprehensive, simple-to-implement plan to heal your gut and lose weight in Happy Gut.

Here’s to making this year your healthiest, highest-frequency life! And don’t let the calendar dictate your health. Remember you can start living a healthier, happier life on any date.

Citations

United States – New Year’s resolution for 2018 | Statistic. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/378105/new-years-resolution/

Brazier, Y. (2015, November 04). Sleep well to avoid insulin resistance. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/301721.php

Urbina, E. (2018). A New Study Delves Into How Blue Light Affects Your Metabolism. [online] Chronobiology.com. Available at: https://www.chronobiology.com/new-study-delves-blue-light-affects-metabolism/ [Accessed 20 Dec. 2018].