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)
One of the biggest needle movers when it comes to bumping up your nutrition, weight loss and just plain feeling great is starting your day off with a smoothie.
I’ve been a fan for years–and raised my children on smoothies, too.
However it is you break your fast–whether it’s early in the morning, or later on (because you’re intermittently fasting), smoothies have the ability to really uplevel your nutrition intake in a powerful, super absorbent way.
Let me explain–
In a fasted state, our bodies can burn the fat that has otherwise been inaccessible during a “fed” state.
That’s why I recommend going at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast–easy to do, just dump the nighttime snacking.
So when your first meal of the day is a liquid meal, you’re giving your digestive system a break and an easy to digest meal that is readily absorbed.
That means the nutrients present in the smoothie are going to impart a high impact on your mitochondria, quell those pesky cravings and help you navigate the rest of the day–in control!
When you add in resistant starch (like our FiberMender), you’re adding volume for longer term satiation AND you’re adding gut healing into the equation.
FiberMender, made from the konjac root, expands to 100 times its size! When you see the teeny tiny scoop in the container, you can appreciate what I’m talking about.
The resistant starch in FiberMender gives your microbiome the food it needs to feed the good guys in your gut–this is important because in the “gut wars” happening inside of you, you want the good guys to win!
Grace Liu, PhD says, “The fibers extracted from the konjac root pulp mimic our gut lining and can increase adiponectin, a hormone that’s high when we’re lean and burning fat efficiently.”
Not only that but when you combine the fiber with protein (Perfect Paleo Protein) and throw in some fat (hello avocado my old friend), you’ve taken a gigantic step into completely upgrading your health by switching on the fat hormones you want operating, and switching off the ones you don’t want active–this is huge when you’re dealing with the dreaded muffin top.
Most women I know “of a certain age” are battling middle aged belly fat that comes home to roost as our estrogen goes down with perimenopause, menopause and ultimately post menopause.
Thanks a lot, right?
It’s a battle, but one we can win when we’re smart with our food (watch those carbs and sugar), utilize educated tactics such as intermittent fasting and having one liquid meal a day like protein/fiber rich smoothies to get your appetite under control, feel full longer, control your glucose levels and give you an additional nutritional advantage by making sure it’s packed to the top with nutrition.
Here’s my current favorite smoothie that packs a nutritional punch and keeps me full for up to 5 hours!
Quadruple Green Smoothie
Throw everything together in your blender of choice and let ‘er rip! Serve immediately--enjoy!
We have 3 flavors of Perfect Paleo Protein, a collagen based protein that I’ll talk about in another post.
We have FiberMender in the store as well (new shipment, grab it now, it goes fast!).
We have Just Juiced Veggies as well–in limited quantities.
NEXT: Read Smoothie Power, Part 2 (Protein)
Good gut bacteria is a hugely underrated benefit for your physical well-being.
Did you know that there are roughly 450 or so different species of bacteria right now sitting in your gastrointestinal tract? If you put all of those little critters on a kitchen scale, they’d add up to about three pounds. Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems like a significant enough population to be concerned about! We need to be sure that at least 85% of those bacteria are in the helpful bacteria court—the probiotic side of the equation.
Those probiotics activate T-cells (the cancer fighters) and trigger a multitude of immune system reactions throughout your entire body. Your body is counting on 15% or less of your intestinal flora to be pathogenic, so it’s up to you to do what you can to keep things balanced in the optimal way.
Not convinced yet that you need to be getting more probiotics into you? Read this list of reasons why I recommend eating probiotics and supplementing with them, and then decide!
*Reverse ulcers. Probiotics can actually reverse IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and ulcers. If you’ve had a gut inflammation of any kind, get probiotics into you asap.
*Weight loss. Recent research shows that certain strains of probiotics, (lactobacillus in particular) actually helps to prevent belly fat!
*Immunity boost. Probiotics may help prevent colds, allergies and flu.
*Better breastmilk. If pregnant women and nursing mothers take probiotics, studies show mom’s breast milk has enhanced immune protection for baby, but remember to work with your practitioner on what’s best for you.
*Relief from GS symptoms. If you’re suffering from gluten sensitivity (GS) or celiac symptoms, you may find relief from probiotics being added to your diet.
*Beat the yeast. A healthy balance of probiotics in the system may help prevent yeast infections.
*Prevent cancer. Probiotics help to nourish certain enzymes in the body which may help to reduce tumor production in your body.
*Fight GMOs. We have such a corrupt food supply right now that GMOs are in the least suspected places. If you eat any non-organic meat or processed foods containing GMOs, you are consuming antibiotics. The intake of these foods kills healthy bacteria in the gut so you have to consume probiotics to ensure balance is restored. A doctor by the name of Natasha Campbell-McBride famously cured her son’s autism by restoring healthy probiotic levels in his body, thereby relieving inflammation in his body. The diet she developed is known as the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet and it is followed widely throughout the United States and Canada.
So how do you get all the probiotics you need?
One way is eating fermented foods which are teeming with probiotics. Some types of fermented foods include: • kimchi • miso • kefir • sauerkraut. Easy foods to add to your diet, although you won’t get all the strains your body possibly needs.
Secondly, you can take a supplement–with all the benefits from doing this one thing, I cannot for the life of me, understand why you wouldn’t.
If you haven’t tried our ProActive Probiotic, it’s time to take action. ProActive Probiotic is a stable (no refrigeration needed–this is huge) formula with four researched strains designed to help you lose weight and achieve optimal gut health–check it out.
Late Summer Berry Bee Pollen Smoothie
This delicious and FILLING smoothie is just what you need to kick off these hot summer days! When it's so dang hot, it's hard to have the motivation to cook - enter: SMOOTHIES. Smoothies are magic. It's no secret we LOVE and ADORE smoothies, so much so we even developed our own ridiculously delicious and actually-good-for-you protein powder! Give this recipe a try and see how creamy and sweet and mildly tart this meal in a glass is!
In a blender, pour half the nut milk.
Then add remaining ingredients (banana through protein powder).
Pour remaining nut milk on top, secure lid onto blender, and blend until smooth.
If too thick, add more nut milk. If too thin, add more frozen berries until you get desired consistency.