Gut health is so hot right now -- and if you’re up on the trend, you might have heard of your microbiome.
It’s very similar to the party thrown in Bio-Dome except Pauly Shore may not be invited to this one. Let's dive into why our gut is like the party in the 90s blockbuster hit (alright, so it received just under a 2/10 on Rotten Tomatoes but it’s a classic nonetheless).
Your microbiome and gut is the party host of trillions of organisms that influence your mood, energy levels, immune system, hormones, and if not tended to properly, can even lead to autoimmune disease.
Research is showing that the health of our gut is directly related to how susceptible we are to getting sick and also what goes on in our brain. The gut and brain are connected by the vagus nerve and communicate via this nerve “highway.”
In fact, 90% of serotonin, the “happy chemical,” is produced in the gut and is just one of the numerous biochemical messengers dictating our mood and behavior that our microbes impacts.
This community of microbes and bacteria in our digestive system is called the microbiome. The microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria that make up 70-80 percent of the immune system.
These party goers regulate our digestive system, metabolism, and immune system. Even though they are tiny in size, they’re kind of the head honchos of the body -- they call the shots.
These bacteria not only run the show but the little guys have minds of their own and actually influence our own minds.
We have good bacteria and bad bacteria. The good bacteria (probiotics) are the kind of guys you want to be around- they eat well, they’re positive, fun and will protect you. The bad guys are the kind of guys that try to convince you to go out drinking all day and night and order a pizza for breakfast. You know that guy, (maybe it's you!).
Let’s talk cravings -- believe it or not, these bacteria influence what you crave. The more you eat foods like sugar, burgers, breads, processed junk food - the more the bacteria that loves those foods craves them. They then send signals to your brain that say, “Hey- we gotta have some more of that!”
Thankfully, the opposite is true - the more we feed our good guys plant foods, fiber rich foods and variety of fresh colorful foods - the more those guys will crave that food and signal to your brain to think, “Keep those fibers coming!”
So yes, you read that right. Your bacteria are quite literally telling you what to and what not to eat.
These fiber rich foods are prebiotics, which are the foods your probiotics (the good guys) munch on. These are indigestible fibers that allow the good guys to proliferate and thrive. So the more you feed the good guys with the right kinds of foods, the more they reproduce and keep your body and mind healthy.
The good news is, the more you add in the foods your healthy bacteria crave, the more you will crave them too. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be one big sweeping dietary change, unless you motivated to do so.
We like to keep it simple around here so we’re all about adding in these prebiotic foods bit by bit and starting small.
So how do we do this? Here’s a list of foods that your healthy bacteria love and ways to incorporate them now.
1. Sneak bitter greens into your existing meals
Bitter greens are nutritional powerhouses. They cleanse your system, purify your blood, are high in fiber, eliminate acne, and improve bowel function. The high fiber content in bitter greens also help to eliminate waste through the digestive tract (which leads to glowing skin).
Bitter greens also promote natural detoxification of the liver, which detoxifies the blood and balances hormones while regulating cholesterol.
Bitter greens are excellent at metabolizing fat as well, and you know we love healthy fats, so they are a perfect choice to pair with avocado in a salad, sautéed with coconut or avocado oil, or blended into a smoothie with a nut butter.
You can sneak these greens into your existing meals by sautéing and adding them into pastas, soups, chillies, stews, or blending into smoothies or sauces. By eating them on their own in salads or as a side, you can actually help curb sugar cravings!
These greens include:
- Dandelion greens
- Turnip greens
- Amaranth greens
- Mustard greens
2. Garlic is more than vampire repellent
The most preferred way your healthy bacteria eats garlic is when it's raw. You’ll keep your healthy guys dancing while warding off vampires all at the same time! Just kidding- it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming amount, but raw garlic is not only a wonderful prebiotic but it can treat colds, infections and boosts digestion.
Crush or mince one (or two or three if you’re brave) clove and whisk into a simple salad dressing with balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, with dried finely chopped parsley and red chili pepper flakes. Raw garlic is also fantastic in homemade hummus, pico de gallo, babaghanoush, white bean dip or guacamole.
3. Don’t be afraid of jicama
Raw jicama is a gut garden super fertilizer. Mix up your carrot sticks with this white versatile, crispy tuber. It’s almost like a savory apple, making it a great vehicle for a dip. Try it with a squeeze of lime for a citrus-y snack. Dice finely and add to a pico de gallo. Cut into thin strips or matchsticks and make a slaw with cabbage and carrots or add at the end of cooking a stir fry for a fresh crunch. If you are buying fresh and wanting to enjoy raw you’ll want to cut the skin off and slice vertically.
Sometimes, all we’re looking for is a good crunch so to avoid the mindless chip eating, buy jicama the next time you’re shopping and fill your fridge with a good for the gut snack.
4. Go for the green - unripe banana
Add in green bananas into your smoothies for a top notch fiber source. Under ripe bananas contain more resistant starch (fiber) and less sugar. The more ripe a banana becomes, it’s glycemic load increases and becomes more digestible fiber. We want non-digestible fiber because that’s what the good guys munch on!
Add green bananas to your smoothie with a healthy fat (like 1 tbs of almond butter), a big handful or two of leafy greens, hemp seeds (great protein source), almond milk, blueberries or strawberries, a dash of cinnamon (stabilizes blood sugar) and call it a day!
Leave a comment below on which type of good guy, party-lovin' foods you're going to start incorporating into your diet!