Happy Gut Kitchen

Planting a Happy-Gut Approved Summer Garden

Planting vegetable garden

Summertime is creeping up! Kids are antsy to be out of school, the sun shines brighter, and you’re probably trying to become healthier as you shed your bulky winter wardrobe and enter swimsuit season.

Among my favorite warmer-weather ventures include visiting a local farmers market or roadside produce stand for seasonal fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich plant foods.

Eating locally grown, seasonal foods creates more mindfulness about your day-to-day food choices while supporting the local economy and fostering community.

Buying from your local farmers and speaking with growers also creates lasting friendships that build trust around the food you eat and feed your family.

This year, my goals include taking that philosophy one step further by creating a garden. Planting a summer garden makes a great hobby, provides physical activity, and dramatically improves your gut health.

Garden-garden food has a completely different nutrient profile than mass-produced fruit and veggies that positively impacts your microbiome.

Unfortunately, things like urbanization, spending less time in nature, and increased sanitization have negatively impacted the gut. Daily life stresses out and subsequently alters your microbiome.

Farming methods have also changed as poor land management, mass production, antibiotics, and pesticides lower the quality of the soil. (1) Poor-quality soil depletes essential nutrients in vegetables and fruits.

Farmers often use glyphosate for conventionally grown food. This pesticide contains high antimicrobial properties, killing off unwanted weeds while allowing a plant to grow.

That’s good for manufacturers but bad for you. Glyphosate’s high toxicity and antimicrobial properties negatively affect overall human health. Glyphosate can reduce absorption of micronutrients, impair metabolic pathways,  negatively impact digestion, and alter microbiome balance.

Studies show this pesticide can also contribute to obesity, autism, memory impairment, infertility, depression, and even cancer. (2)

Simply put, food grown with pesticides often comes loaded with toxins but fewer nutrients. That’s why I want you to consider a summer garden, free of pesticides and other toxic substances!

Organic soil is loaded with beneficial gut bacteria. In fact, one teaspoon of organic soil contains millions of microbes. These soil microbes provide essential nutrients for the plants, which they can uptake through their roots. (3)  

This process yields nutrient-dense foods with higher antioxidant levels, vitamins, and minerals. Seasonal foods also contribute to a healthy microbial diversity.

You needn’t make gardening a full-time hobby (who has time, anyway?) to get these benefits. My strategies for planting a summer garden to eat seasonal, organic, and homegrown include:

Start Organic

When you embark on creating your garden, make sure you purchase organic seeds and soil. You can even purchase worm castings, which contain essential minerals and stimulate plant growth.

Keep it Simple

Your garden doesn’t have to be elaborate. Start with a few potted herbs or plants. Fresh herbs offer numerous health benefits while seasoning main dishes and salads.  

Make this a Stress-Lowering Activity

Gardening can relieve stress. Working with the plants and having physical contact with the earth can reduce inflammation in the body and promote relaxation. That feeling of pure bliss can promote a Happy Gut!

Eat the Dirt

Instead of soaking and scrubbing garden-picked food, gently wash it. A little leftover dirt and microbes will do your gut good!

Have Fun

Have fun with your garden or potted plants! Join a club or have the family get involved. Community and laughter are all important parts of healing the body and gut.

Make Smart Buying Choices

If you can’t have your own garden, these alternatives can also provide you fresh, organic, seasonal, locally grown food.

Local Co-Op: Co-Ops offer local and seasonal foods in your community.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Purchasing a CSA share allows you the option to enjoy high-quality food that is grown close to home.

Farmers Market: More cities have these nowadays. I love hitting up my Farmers Market in Manhattan on a Saturday morning!

A garden provides a perfect way to get closer to the ground (literally and figuratively). Research shows people who live near farms and nature are healthier than individuals who live in urban areas. (1)

No matter where you live, you can incorporate nutrient-rich seasonal food. If these options are a big stretch for you and your household, refer to the Environmental Working Group to learn about the worst- and least-pesticide loaded produce. Their guide can help you make the most informed decisions about what foods you should buy organic.

To jumpstart your journey to a better gut and overall health right now, check out my Quick Start to a Happy Gut.

Citations

  1. Tasnim, N., Abulizi, N., Pither, J., Hart, M. M., & Gibson, D. L. (2017). Linking the Gut Microbial Ecosystem with the Environment: Does Gut Health Depend on Where We Live? Frontiers in Microbiology, 8, 1935.
  2. .Samsel, A., & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology, 6(4), 159–184.
  1. V. (2015, December 15). Organic Farming Improves Soil Health. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from http://www.ofrf.org/news/organic-farming-improves-soil-health-1

 

 

The Nutrient-Powerhouse Nut You’ve Never Heard About (till Now)

Ever wondered what a mix between peanuts and cashews would taste like (without the gut problems and other issues associated with peanuts)?

Then you’ve got to try baru nuts.

I recently met the founder of Barùkas, which make these fantastic nuts, and they truly lived up to their hype. Their inspiring story about bringing this new superfood to the states made me curious about these nuts, and one taste converted me.

Baru nuts are non-genetically modified (GMO) and gluten-free. Among their many benefits include:

Healthy Fats

Baru nuts come packed with healthy fats to keep you satiated. Skip the high-carb snack foods loaded with sugar and opt for this gut-friendly alternative.

Protein

A serving of baru nuts has an impressive 7 grams of protein. (To put that into perspective, one egg also contains about 7 grams of protein.) Talk about an easy source for long-lasting energy throughout your day. (1,2)

Fiber

Fiber is essential for a healthy gut and daily elimination. Adding baru nuts into your meals allows for an easy and tasty way to incorporate 8 grams of fiber daily.  (1)

Antioxidants

Baru nuts are loaded with antioxidants to support your immune system and reduce inflammation. (3)

Micronutrients

Each serving contains vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium, vitamin E, and calcium. Most foods have become depleted of trace minerals and vitamins because of our modern-day farming methods. (1)

Organic

Baru nuts contain no chemicals or pesticides. (1) Minimizing your toxic burden food can benefit your microbiome and overall health. With baru nuts, you don’t have to worry about exposure to harmful chemicals or making sure its stamped with the organic seal.

Sustainability

Overall, baru nuts provide an amazing nutrient profile to support gut and overall health, but I was also inspired by their commitment to wildlife preservation and sustainability.

The entire life cycle of the baru serves a purpose and has a huge impact on its surroundings. The trees of the baru nut grow wild in the Cerrado, a region in Brazil. The small nut that falls from the tree has a tremendous impact.

Modern-day agriculture has threatened the Cerrado, negatively impacting baru nuts. Trees have been cut down and deforestation is a major threat to the nut, other species, and communities in the area. Due to changes in the agriculture system and underdeveloped region, residents struggle to find work. (1)

Fortunately, with increased interest about baru nuts and their many health benefits, trees are being preserved and local people have jobs. (1)

You’ll feel good while also feeling good about helping others and the environment.

Baru nuts are an excellent addition to a salad or smoothie. They mix well with other nuts and dark chocolate for a quick snack or dessert.

As a special offer to my readers, you can get 15% OFF your first order with the discount code HAPPYGUT. Just visit here to purchase baru nuts and start enjoying the goodness.

If you’re like me, you’ll be blown away by how amazing these nutrient-packed nuts taste. Let me know what you think in the comments below or on my Facebook page!

 

References

  1. Barukas. Retrieved from http://www.superlife.com/barukas/#1498902309079-337837b8-2dd9
  2. Fernandes DC, Freitas JB, Czeder LP, Naves MM.Nutritional composition and protein value of the baru (Dipteryx alata Vog.) almond from the Brazilian Savanna. J Sci Food Agric. 2010 Aug 15;90(10):1650-5.
  3. Almeida EM, Martins SA, Marin F, Barretoda M, Adriana C,  Fustinoni M, Sandra L, Arruda F. Consumption of baru seeds [Dipteryx alata Vog.], a Brazilian savanna nut, prevents iron-induced oxidative stress in rats. Food Res Int. 2012 Jan; 45(1): 427-33.

How Bitter Foods & Herbs Can Relieve IBS + Heal Your Gut

Besides welcoming spring, April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month. This becomes the perfect time to learn more about IBS along with incorporating Happy Gut strategies to heal this condition.

Running to the bathroom, gastric distress, living in extreme discomfort, and other symptoms shouldn’t be part of your daily routine. These are not normal problems.

Signs of IBS include diarrhea, stomach pain, constipation, and general changes in bowel movements. Emotional and psychological stress often accompanies these and other digestive issues as you, say, panic that you won’t have a bathroom nearby after a big meal.

You’re not alone if you have IBS. In fact, 10 – 15 percent of Americans struggle with this condition. (1) That number could actually be much higher, considering that many people haven’t been officially diagnosed with IBS.

As its name implies, IBS is a syndrome or a cluster of symptoms, and we don’t have a definitive test to diagnose this digestive disorder. Instead, you’ll want to pay close attention to your specific symptoms, diet, and external stress to better understand what triggers or exacerbates IBS.

Several factors can trigger IBS, and they all begin in your gut. Your microbiome is a complex environment of bacteria strains. Ideally, you should maintain a balance of beneficial bacteria to fight off invaders such as fungi, parasites, and other bad bugs. An imbalance between good and bad bacteria can adversely impact your gut.

Numerous things contribute to those imbalances, including:

  • Processed foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (pasta, cereal, bread, bagels)
  • Medications
  • Emotional stress
  • Environmental toxins

These imbalances can manifest as gut conditions including leaky gut. In fact, the symptoms of leaky gut show up as IBS. (To learn more, check out my blog post on leaky gut syndrome.) Addressing underlying causes of these imbalances can create relief from your IBS.

That’s where Functional Medicine comes in. This approach treats the individual as a system—like a symphony orchestra. Any underlying imbalance in one part will be felt throughout the entire system.

The focus then, becomes identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the problem and bringing them back into harmony.

The first place to restore balance comes from the end of your fork: Food becomes powerful medicine to heal IBS and so much more. In fact, a number of Happy Gut-approved foods can reduce your pain and symptoms to help you live a life free from IBS.  

The Bitter Solution

Bitters make a great but often-overlooked way to alleviate IBS symptoms and heal your gut. Bitter-tasting herbs and foods have been used in many cultures for years to support digestion and alleviate symptoms of IBS. The bitter taste stimulates receptors in your gut that rev up the digestive juices. (2)

Bitters support production of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and bile flow: All crucial to optimally digest your food and absorb nutrients. Among their benefits, bitters can help normalize bowel movements and improve digestion.

In Chinese medicine, practitioners sometimes use bitters to balance the liver and gallbladder meridians. The liver and gallbladder are associated with agitation and anxiety. (In fact, bilious means “bad-tempered.”)

If you feel irritated, bothered, and anxious, add bitters to your next meal to help balance out your liver/gallbladder Qi meridians. You may find bitters create a calming effect on your internal angst.  

Incorporating Bitters

There are a few ways you can add bitters. One is to take a tincture of bitter herbs before or after meals. You can also incorporate bitter foods as a dish at the dinner table.

Bitter greens make a great side dish or main salad, and they come packed with fiber, magnesium, as well as vitamins A, K, and C. These leafy greens are nutrient powerhouses to help heal your gut and alleviate symptoms of IBS.

Bitters also promote detoxification. Dandelion greens, for instance, are powerful liver-kidney cleansers. You can even drink dried dandelion as a tea.

Visit your local farmers market or grocery store to add bitters to your diet this spring! (3) This list can help you get started:  

  • Arugula
  • Beet Greens
  • Broccoli Rabe
  • Dandelion Greens
  • Escarole
  • Endive
  • Radicchio
  • Radish Greens

Bitter is Better

Many foods in the American diet are what we call hyperpalatable: Loaded with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat to make us crave more. These foods exacerbate symptoms of gut problems including IBS (especially gluten and sugar) and contribute to weight gain.

If you’re new to bitter foods or herbs, you might not find them pleasant tasting initially. Keep using them: Over time you will become accustomed to the flavor.

Adding more bitter foods can expand your palate and reduce cravings. When you season bitter foods, they make delicious dishes.

If you’re curious to incorporate more into your meals, try my Happy Gut recipe that highlights bitter leafy greens as a delicious dish for your meals. Learn more about this amazing recipe here.

If you’re struggling with IBS or other gut issues, I’d love to give you more support with my Quick Start to a Happy Gut

Citations

1.About Us. (n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2018, from https://www.aboutibs.org/ibs-awareness-month.html

  1. McMullen, M. K., Whitehouse, J. M., & Towell, A. (2015). Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2015, 670504.

3.Valussi M.Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties.Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Mar;63 Suppl 1:82-9.