I think our ancestors would be pretty surprised at how fermented foods seem to have all but disappeared from our dinner plates.
You hear about gut health all the time–leaky gut and other such 21st century maladies. Eating fermented foods is one key to making sure your gut has a chance to heal. That’s because the fermented foods I’m talking about contain “food” for the good guys in your gut that you want to feed–the stronger the army, the faster battles are defeated and ultimately, the war is won.
History Shows Us Why Cooties Are Important
Since nearly the dawn of time, humans around the world have been fermenting their food before eating or drinking it. Wine was being made at least eight thousand years ago. Milk fermentation has been happening since around 3000 BC and folks have been eating leavened bread since around 1500 BC.
Our grandmothers made sauerkraut and pickles via lacto-fermentation (using salt) where today we use vinegar. They used wild yeast (sourdough) to leaven their bread. Those types of fermentation provided us with probiotics, replenishing the good bacteria in our bodies.
Too “Clean”, Too Sanitized
Today, almost everything we eat is pasteurized.
We use antibacterial soap to get rid of “all” the dirt and germs and drink chlorinated water.
We take antibiotic drugs for every little thing, oftentimes, when we really don’t even need to.
Imbalancing Act: The Symptoms
Most of us have an imbalanced level of bacteria in our guts and that can make us sick and compromise our immune systems.
The symptoms for an imbalanced gut include:
- Indigestion–your digestive capabilities are compromised when you don’t have everyone on your team. This is why fermented foods are so important–they feed the good guys!
- Upset stomach–when your balance is off, you’re likely to feel it and your stomach let’s you know in a number of ways.
- Sleep issues–from insomnia to waking up in the middle of the night with an inability to go back to sleep. Serotonin is made in the gut and without adequate serotonin, your sleep is impaired. The ability to create serotonin is in direct proportion to the health of your gut.
- Skin issues–from acne to eczema, these are signs of a leaky gut. Some practitioners point to all inflammatory skin issues as leaky gut being the root cause.
- Autoimmune disease–researchers are finding new evidence on the impact of gut health and the immune system. An unhealthy gut is inflamed and can alter the proper function of the immune system. And when you consider that most of your immune system resides in the gut, it’s imperative you’re feeding it right.
Fermented Foods To The Rescue
Adding fermented foods to your diet will help restore those levels of healthy bacteria and it will do wonders for your well being.
Here are some good reasons to eat fermented foods:
- Improved digestion. Eating fermented foods is sort of like having it already partially digested before it hits your stomach. That allows your body to take the good out of the food without doing so much heavy lifting. When you improve digestion, nutrient absorption is naturally improved as well.
- Vitamin boost. When you ferment foods you boost their vitamin content, especially with fermented dairy products like kefir.
- Gut health. You need good bacteria in your gut to avoid yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance and lots of other nasty things. Eating fermented foods can help strike the right balance.
- Flavor. Why do we like drinking wine with our cheese and eating sauerkraut on our hotdogs? Because it’s delicious, that’s why! Fermented foods are healthy and delicious.
Fermenting food is inexpensive, requiring very basic ingredients, salt and mason jars and it helps to preserve foods for a long period of time.
To get more fermented foods into your diet, drink kombucha (a fermented tea you’ll find at Asian markets) or kefir. Eat naturally fermented condiments that you buy at the store or make your own at home. Kim chi, sauerkraut, salsa and pickles are all examples of fermented condiments you can easily make yourself.
Here’s a different recipe for Fermented Apple Pear Sauce:
Fermented Apple Pear Sauce
Combine all ingredients in your food processor and process until as smooth or as chunky as you like your sauce. Add more water if you need it seems too thick or has trouble being pureed.
Transfer to a jar, leaving an inch between the sauce and the top of the jar.
Seal jar tightly with a lid and store in a warm place for at least 3 days.
Taste it and when it suits you, transfer to the fridge.
Don’t forget, you can add probiotics to help out tremendously!
The summer in full-swing, it’s time to start stock piling these abundant summer veggies for the cooler days ahead.
If you live in a part of the world where fresh local veggies are a summer luxury, you want to take advantage of Mother Earth’s bounty at this time of year. Even if you live in a climate that’s warm and sunny year round, you want to stock pile items when they’re in season – at the peak of their freshness – so you can enjoy them when they are in shorter supply.
Here are some ways to get the most out of some common summer veggies that are known for taking over gardens!
These summer squashes are prolific. When you grow zucchini you better like it because those plants are pretty serious producers. Zucchini is an extremely versatile food (we will be featuring it in a post later this week so watch for that!) which can be enjoyed sliced into a stirfry, grated into a meatloaf or shredded and baked into a chocolate cake or a batch of muffins. I like to add zucchini to my stirfrys for as many meals as possible and I cook some into relishes and salsas, but I also grate my zucchini and freeze it in one cup portions to have for baking, soups and pasta sauce.
Besides the obvious suggestion of canning your tomatoes or making them into salsa, did you know you can also freeze them? Just toss your tomatoes in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. Take them out as you need them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce or chili.
I like to freeze beans rather than canning them, mostly because that way they keep their nice green color. Wash your beans, snip the ends and cut them into 2-inch pieces or leave them whole. Blanch them by putting them in boiling water for about 3 minutes, and then put them in an ice bath for 3 minutes before placing them in the container you’ll be freezing them in. I use plain old freezer bags.
I don’t like to waste a single leaf of this green miracle vegetable! Fresh spinach is fabulous in salads but salad from the garden can be frozen and used in smoothies, sauces and all kinds of other dishes all year long. Simply wash your spinach (a couple of times) to remove dirt and bugs. Spin it as dry as you can and then stuff it into freezer bags to take out as needed. You don’t need to thaw it before using it.
If you have more beets than you know what to do with but you can’t stand them pickled, did you know you can freeze them? Cook a big batch of beets then put them in an ice bath. When they’re nice and cold, peel off the skins and slice them. Put them in freezer bags and away you go!
Warning! Peppers lose their crunchiness after they’ve been frozen and thawed, but they keep their flavor. Frozen peppers are best suited for cooked dishes where the crunch isn’t important. To freeze peppers, simply slice them how you like and freeze in bags!
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S., averaging annually around 1 out of every 5 female deaths. That statistic applies to women of color as well as whites, American Indian, or Alaskan Native. Statistically, only Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women die from cancer more than heart disease.
Heart Disease Targets Women MORE Than Men
The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease, and in the U.S. around 1 in 16 women age 20 and older have it.
That’s ONE in 16 women over the age of 20!!
However, whenever we hear about heart disease, heart attacks, and general death statistics related to the heart, it seems that most people generally think of men and not so much about women. As it turns out, heart disease actually kills more women than men every year.
Symptoms Of Heart Disease Or A Heart Attack Can Be Different For Women
One of the reasons may be that the symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks are different for men and women, so women don’t seek out medical assistance as quickly. Some women have no symptoms while others have some of the more commonly known ones:
- Angina – dull and heavy or sharp chest pains or other discomfort
- Pain in the back or upper abdomen
- Pain in the throat, neck, or jaw
While these symptoms may occur during regular daily activities or while resting, there are other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, indigestion, upper body discomfort, and fatigue. Sounds like just another day for mothers and office workers, right?
In fact, since most women over 60 years old are not likely pregnant, these symptoms may be indications that you are having a heart attack.
If you have heart palpitations, a feeling of fluttering in your chest, your heart is beating irregularly and that is known as arrhythmia.
Swelling of the feet, legs, ankles, neck veins, or abdomen? Do you feel unusual fatigue or shortness of breath? You may be experiencing actual heart failure.
If you have any of these symptoms and especially if you know that you are at risk, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
How Do You Know If You’re At Risk?
Pay attention to the most common risk factors for heart disease and be honest with yourself.
Some are medical conditions, based on heredity (family history of heart issues?) and many risk factors are personal lifestyle choices:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical exercise or activities
- Being obese or overweight
- High cholesterol
- Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy
- Pregnancy complications
- Mental stress and depression
- Family history of heart disease
Whether you have any of these risk factors or just want to reduce the chances of having heart disease, there are many things you can do:
- Quit Smoking – Easy to say and tough to do, but there are many remedies and tools on the market to assist you and if you don’t smoke now, don’t start.
- Annual Physicals – When you are visiting your doctor you can discuss getting a standard blood test for cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption – Try to limit yourself to no more than one a day. Everyone might like a glass of wine with dinner and during a game you might end up with more than one or two, but on a regular basis that will definitely raise your risk factors.
- Check Your Blood Pressure – There are no obvious symptoms for high blood pressure and if uncontrolled it can lead to heart disease, so check it regularly. Many pharmacies have stations for a quick check.
- Make Healthy Food Choices – If you look at a national map of heart disease in this country you will see the heaviest concentrations around the southern states, Midwest, and southwest, where diets high in unnatural fat are prevalent. Eating more fish, chicken, pork, or having a meatless meal once or twice a week will help, and reduce your fried food intake. Get familiar with olive or avocado oils for your salads and cooking, which are far better and healthier than corn or canola oils.
- Take Aspirin – Doctors often recommend that women over 65 years take a daily 81-milligram aspirin if their risk of digestive bleeding is low and their blood pressure is controlled. If you are at risk and under 65 it may also be helpful or stroke prevention, but discuss this with your doctor and don’t do it on your own.
- Take Fish Oil – But be careful. Many fish oil supplements are dirty, damaged oils and won’t give you the support you’re seeking for cardiovascular health. (Here’s a clean one.)
- Manage Stress Levels – There are a few ways to manage stress in natural and healthy ways, from meditation to yoga to Tai Chi and other exercises. Find your zen.
Keep in mind that you are not alone if you have been diagnosed with heart disease and it can be easily managed if you commit yourself to eating properly and living a healthy lifestyle.
Our bodies are filled with bacteria, and in a healthy body we can have around 40 million of those little critters floating around, mostly in our intestines.
However, we also may have a fair share of bad bacteria at any given moment and they can contribute to sickness and disease, so it is important to take steps in keeping a healthy balance by keeping the bad guys in check, and that primarily comes down to what you put into your body.
Diversify Your Diet
The bacterium in your gut includes hundreds of species, each with a different purpose.
That means they need different minerals and other nutrients to thrive and that comes down to a diverse diet, so eating a diverse range of foods is crucial. The more diverse your diet is the more diverse your microbiota will be, and that is a very good thing.
It is interesting to note that the people in rural regions of South America and Africa actually have more diversity in their gut microbiota that people in the US and Europe.
The western diet is far too dependent on fat and sugar, and it is estimated that around 75% of the food in the world is produced from only 5 animal species and 12 plants, so getting more adventurous and trying new whole foods will help expand your gut health.
Fruits, Veggies and Beans
Like mom and dad always told us–”Eat your vegetables!”
But don’t forget the legumes and beans–if you tolerate them.
The best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiota are fruits and vegetables because they are high in a type of fiber that cannot be digested by your body. However, certain bacteria in your gut can digest fiber, so their growth is stimulated. And of course, legumes and beans are also high in fiber.
Some of those high-fiber foods that are good for your gut bacteria include:
Broccoli, whole grains, certain beans (white, kidney, pinto), lentils, green peas, raspberries, artichokes, and chickpeas.
There have also been studies done that indicate a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent the growth of bad bacteria that cause diseases.
Bifidobacteria are considered beneficial to the human body because they can enhance gut health and help prevent intestinal inflammation.
Bifidobacteria can be increased through the consumption of foods like almonds, pistachios, apples, artichokes, and blueberries.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermentation is a metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic substrates through the action of enzymes. In biochemistry, it is narrowly defined as the extraction of energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. (Wikipedia definition)
Those carbohydrates that are converted are usually sugars, which are turned into organic acids or alcohol by yeasts, microbes, or bacteria.
Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha.
While some of these dairy products may not be tolerated well for some, but they all add good bacteria and kefir may possibly improve tolerance to lactose. The casein however, remains in tact.
Yogurt is among the most common foods on the list and like many of them is rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that can benefit gut health. While people who eat yogurt regularly appear to have more of this beneficial bacteria in their intestines, they similarly have a lower level of Enterobacteriaceae, a harmful bacteria associated with a number of chronic diseases and inflammation.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people avoid eating yogurt because they are lactose intolerant, yet a number of studies have shown that eating yogurt can actually improve lactose intolerance in both adults and infants.
Greek yogurt seems particularly helpful and kefir is similar in form and substance. However, many of the flavored, fruit yogurts also contain high levels of sugar, so the healthiest yogurts are generally the natural variety made with only milk and bacteria mixtures, referred to as “starter cultures”.
And again casein, a common protein found in dairy, is still an issue even after undergoing fermentation.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
One way to look at this topic is to begin with understanding that Mother Nature probably does it better than man, and artificial sweeteners are really just man-made replacements for sugar. Numerous studies have found that they can negatively affect the gut microbiota.
One study of aspartame, a controversial sweetener in diet sodas and the like, found that in rats it reduced weight gain (not lost weight, just reduced the gain), but it also impaired insulin response and increased blood sugar!
Those rats that were fed aspartame also had higher clostridium and enterobacteriaceae in their intestines. Those harmful bacteria, when present in high numbers, are associated with disease, and another study had similar findings for both mice and humans, showing negative effects on blood sugar levels.
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are essentially “food” that feed the probiotics.
They promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut.
They are generally fiber or complex carbs that can’t be digested by human cells, but certain bacterial species can break them down and use them for fuel.
While many fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain prebiotics, they can also be found on their own.
And then there is resistant starch.
Resistant starch is one source of prebiotics and is not absorbed in the small intestine (it resists digestion), so it passes into the large intestine where it is broken down by the microbiota.
Good examples of resistant starch include oatmeal, potatoes, rice and green bananas. It has been shown that cooked and cooled rice and potatoes have even more resistant starch.
These prebiotics have been found to promote healthy gut bacteria, including bifidobacteria, and have also been beneficial for people with certain diseases.
As an example, certain prebiotics can reduce insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol levels in people who are obese, so these results suggest that prebiotics may reduce the risk factors for many diseases associated with obesity, including diabetes and heart disease.
If you’re good with eating natural whole grains, beans and legumes, they’re wonder sources of a lot of fiber, however it is best to soak them well and fully cook them to remove lectins and anti-nutrients.
Raw potato starch and potatoes that are cooked and then cooled are other good sources, so load up on that potato salad instead of a hot baked potato to get the most resistant starch out of your taters.
Green bananas are better for resistant starch than ripened bananas because as they ripen they convert the starches into simple sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose, so eat them within a few days of purchase to maximize your intake.
Eat More Plants
No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but by reducing your meat intake and eating more fresh plant foods you can improve your gut bacteria and likely lose weight in the process.
Different types of intestinal bacteria are promoted by each food group and those who have a lot of veggies in their diet tend to have healthier gut flora, likely due to more fiber content.
Eat Foods Rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols act as antioxidants and may protect against some common health problems and possibly certain effects of aging. They tend to protect cells and body chemicals against damage caused by free radicals, which are reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in the body.
Free radicals are like rust on a bike left out in the rain–they cause damage to your body.
Reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and oxidative stress are just some of the benefits from polyphenols. Like resistant starches, they resist digestion in the upper intestine and are therefore digested later by gut bacteria in the colon.
Some good sources of polyphenols are: Red wine (Yay!), dark chocolate and cocoa (double Yay!), broccoli, blueberries, onions, almonds, green tea, and grape skins (or red wine!).
The next time you are drinking your favorite red wine, think about all those beneficial changes in your microbiota that are associated with lower levels of triglycerides, heart disease, and inflammation.
Take a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, which exert a specific health benefit when consumed, and may aid in fighting off inflammation and heart disease while aiding in the production of good gut bacteria.
Keep this in mind especially if you are on medications like anti-biotics that intentionally destroy all bacteria in general, so restoring your healthy gut as soon as possible is really important when it has been compromised like that.
For more about our two different, pharmaceutical grade probiotics, click here and here.
We’ve discussed protein, fiber and now we’re going to discuss fat.
These three components are critically important in each meal, but especially important for your first meal (I’m suggesting you keep it a liquid meal for quick absorption and easy digest-ability).
Like I said, each of these three components play crucial and important roles in your smoothie–to review the reasons why and the science behind the first two I already blogged about, protein and fiber, I suggest you go back and read part 1 & part 2.
Now the first thing I want you to know about fat is that it is not evil, even though the low-fat folks out there would have you believe it is. This is outdated information that should have never been out there in the first place. 30+ years later, this misinformation is still bandied about as “science”.
If you’ve believed the low-fat mythology that has plagued the wellness world, I understand! I was there too, and as a matter of fact, I was taught this while attaining my certification, despite the fact that the science is clear how dietary fat benefits the body.
Fat (good, healthy fat–we’ll outline that in a minute) is responsible for the health of your brain, heart, hormone balance and function and provides fuel for your entire body.
To be clear, there are certain fats that you want to avoid, especially trans fats.
If you’re eating a whole foods based diet (whatever way your body is telling you to eat), you’ve likely already cleared the deck of such processed foods like margarine, hydrogenated oils of any kind, most vegetable oils (chemically extracted, highly heated and essentially a trans fat), shortening, microwave popcorn, deep fried anything and (no surprise) fast food.
Healthy fats include nuts, butter, avocados, real expeller pressed olive and avocado oils, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, chia seeds and dark chocolate–yes, CHOCOLATE!
Besides the metabolic functionality of fat in your diet, healthy fat also works with protein and fiber to provide satiety in your smoothie. This is critical–you don’t want to down a nutrient-rich smoothie only to be grabbing a snack an hour later. This is a setup for failure–your smoothie hasn’t done its job if you’re hungry!
Fat gives you the ability to stretch out the time between your meals AND helps you to find hunger again if you’re trying to break the habit of snacking and grazing all the time.
Watch how long you can go between meals once you start adding fat back into the mix–it’s amazing and something I’ve personally experimented with.
Once I started adding half a small avocado to my smoothie, I could go from just 3 hours of not being hungry to 5 or even 6 hours!
This is how I “found hunger” again, too. I have to confess to you that years ago, I used to advise people to eat 6 small meals a day to keep your sugar levels up–the hypothesis was so you didn’t feel hunger.
Made sense to me so that was my advice.
However, this 6 small meal a day practice came about because bodybuilders (read: big men) who needed (wait for it…) 7 to 8,000 calories a day (!) couldn’t get the calories they needed in just 3 meals, thus they figured it out with 6.
Somehow, the wellness world bought into this concept.
I will admit, it worked for awhile (not at the 8,000 calories a day level!) but there came a point where it didn’t. I don’t think I ever felt hungry for a few years following this 6 meal a day plan and after awhile, I began gaining weight even though everything was the same.
There are two reasons for this–first, your body adjusts to anything so it’s critical (especially for women past a “certain” age) to change it up and keep your body guessing. I do that now and will sometimes flip my smoothie and have it for “dinner”, just for this purpose of keeping my body guessing.
Second thing is that keeping your blood sugar levels up all the time messes with ghrelin and leptin, your hunger hormones.
Ravenously hungry? That’s ghrelin (the gremlin) stirring the pot and making you want to eat all the time.
Satiated? You can go 4 to 6 hours between meals?
That’s leptin’s role to keep your metabolism working optimally–leptin keeps your appetite down, but it can’t work if you’re eating constantly!
The secret sauce for keeping leptin doing it’s job and giving ghrelin the boot is to increase your consumption of healthy fat, adequate protein and fiber in each meal, but especially in the first meal of the day.
And this again, is why I recommend a liquid meal with a mindfully, nutrient-dense smoothie.
Here is my current smoothie recipe, with short explanations for each ingredient:
Green Squared Smoothie
Place everything in a blender and let ‘er rip! Serve in a glass and enjoy!
Buy the supplements here:
Perfect Paleo Protein
Just Juiced Veggies
In my first Smoothie Power blog post (which you can read here) I shared with you the wisdom behind breaking your fast with a liquid meal (AKA a smoothie).
In Part 1, I dug into the fiber component of our powerhouse smoothies–it’s a favorite of mine because I’ve enjoyed the benefits of FiberMender for a long time: great digestion (you know what I mean by that), being comfortably full without being bloated enabling me to go up to 5 hours without having to snack and of course, the gut healing qualities in our FiberMender and how that translates in the weight loss department.
There are 3 components to a powerhouse smoothie that will insure satiety, deliver remarkable nutrition and keep your body in check.
Those 3 things are protein, fat and fiber.
Today I want to talk about protein.
The science is abundant: protein (specifically collagen) is one of the most important nutrients for metabolic function and is necessary to build every cell in our bodies.
Protein is crucial, especially for women who want to build lean muscle, maintain or lose weight and keep functionality and mobility a part of their lives–post menopausal women need a little more protein than they when they were younger.
One recent study showed that 20 grams of protein in the morning for women, (35 grams for men) created actual changes in brain chemistry–changes in hunger hormones specifically that resulted in the ability to stay in control of eating throughout the rest of the day.
Lean muscle (we all want muscle–especially the kind that looks good in a sleeveless blouse) is built through the proper understanding and consumption of protein. Without adequate protein, your body will use what available protein it has for deep metabolic healing and function– to heck with your arms!
Collagen is responsible for forming your body’s skin, muscle, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. As we age, we lose our ability to manufacture a sufficient amount of collagen–supplementing with collagen (specifically in a drink for instant access) makes this a non-issue.
Not only is collagen a needle mover for aging skin, it’s also helpful for those dealing with acne–extra collagen means extra help in correcting skin issues.
It’s critical for healing, too. And quite necessarily, your needs for more collagen go up if your body is in a healing crisis. This is why I also recommend drinking tons of bone broth for anyone going through illness or recovery from surgery or an accident.
The body replaces damaged muscle and skin tissues every 4 months anyway, why not replace those tissues with healthier, more vibrant cells?
Collagen (protein) is very slow to digest (that slows down gastric emptying and keeps you full longer) and requires work by the body to break it down. This increases the amount of calories and heat the body has to use to make it happen–again, another boost to the metabolism.
All of these reasons are why we formulated Perfect Paleo Protein–it’s collagen based protein powder that works within to get you all these benefits I just discussed. I’ve seen it myself after taking it for several years now–my skin looks young and vibrant and I feel great!
I am in the middle of a business trip that I sandwiched a few days of vacation in between. During this trip, I’ve brought my travel blender and am doing my own smoothie challenge. I’ll be sharing my morning smoothie with you on Facebook–if the wifi cooperates that is!
The goal is to take advantage of the liquid meal’s bioavailability as the first meal of the day, the most important meal that breaks my fast–and yes, I’ll be doing intermittent fasting some days–maybe not all, but certainly some.
I’ll also be availing myself of the gym at the hotel–this might be a vacation/business trip but it’s an opportunity too, to take advantage of this beautiful setting on a beach and stay on track.
NEXT: Read Smoothie Power, Part 3 (Fat)