According to The World Health Organization, wellness is defined as “a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In my opinion, I think this a pretty good description of wellness but it’s not for everyone. […]
This is a very simple recipe and doesn’t have exact measurements because it depends on how sweet and spicy you want to make it! Preparation: Mix raw cashews in a bowl with raw honey and cinnamon (I used about 2 tbsp of honey). Mix until […]
Vegan Pesto Recipe:
- 1 1/2 cups of fresh basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 1/2 tbsp of nutritional yeast
- 1/3 cup of raw cashews
- 6 tbsp of olive oil
- 1.5 tbsp of lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp of oregano
- sprinkle of cayenne powder
- salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour over pasta or use as a dip!
Recipe for Fudgy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies: 2/3 cup of almond flour 1/2 cup of pure cocoa powder (you can use cacao instead if you’d like) 1/2 tsp of cinnamon 1/4 tsp of sea salt 1/4 tsp of baking soda 1/2 cup of coconut sugar […]
Recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins: 1 cup of oat flour 1 cup of gluten-free flour blend ( I use this brand) 1/2 tsp of baking powder 1 tsp of cinnamon 1/4 cup of coconut sugar 1/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk 2/3 cup of […]
What is ‘gut health’?
When people talk about their “gut health,” it’s usually referring to the gastrointestinal tract, not your beer gut and how you can make it disappear! Haha. But in all seriousness, it’s no surprise nowadays that our gastrointestinal health is crucial to understanding our overall human health. In a nutshell, the gastrointestinal tract transports food from the mouth to the stomach, which converts it to an absorbable form in the small intestine so you can properly nourish yourself and use those stored nutrients as energy.
Recently, there have been countless studies that show that the GI system has an even more important and complex job than it has been previously studied. It’s been linked to other numerous aspects of health that have nothing to do with digestion, from immunity to emotional stress to chronic illnesses, including cancer and Type 2 diabetes.
This is an incredibly vast topic and if I go into every detail and study that was done on the microbiome then this blog post might be a thousand pages long! So I will just go over the basics. Why do I mention the microbiome when talking about “gut” health? The microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria that also consist in the form of fungi, parasites, and viruses. These microbes are mostly found in our digestive tract, specifically the small and large intestines. The microbiome is sometimes labeled as a supporting “organ” because of its key roles in promoting daily operations of the human body. Everyone has an entirely unique network of microbiota that is originally determined by one’s DNA. We are first exposed to microbes as an infant during delivery through the birth canal and through the mother’s milk. At this point, the microbes that infants are exposed to are dependent on the mother’s microbes. As time goes on, environmental exposures and diet can change one’s microbiome to be either beneficial to health or place one at greater risk for disease. Isn’t it crazy how bacteria can determine SO much of our current and future health issues?!
Specific types of bacteria have been linked to lower the immune system in certain individuals. Some of these bacteria create a greater risk of asthma and allergies, chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and diabetes. Gut health has also been linked to anxiety and depression, also known as the “gut-brain connection.”
What alters our gut health?
- The food we eat plays such an important role in the bacteria that is present in your gut. High amounts of processed foods and not enough fiber, vegetables, and fermented foods (if you can handle them) can definitely play a role in the stability of your overall gut health.
- Babies delivered vaginally have been shown to have more of a diverse group of bacteria than babies who were delivered by C-section.
- Our environment plays a role as well. If you were more exposed to germs and bacteria, you most likely have a more established gut filled with healthy gut bacteria. All the more reason for your kids to play outside!
- Use of antibiotics throughout your life can drastically kill off healthy bacteria in your gut, altering your gut health in the long run.
What to look out for
You don’t need to record every single bowel movement or stomach cramp you have, however, becoming mindful of how you feel and your overall immune system should give you an idea of the status of your gut health. Bloating, gas, diarrhea, stomach pain or nausea are all direct signs that something in the gut isn’t working as it should. If these symptoms remain constant, you may need to consult with your doctor or nutritionist.
How to maintain your gut health
It really always goes back to the basics when trying to maintain proper gut health. Eating a balanced diet that’s rich in vegetables, whole grains (if tolerated), fruits, nuts, and less processed foods, getting good sleep, drinking plenty of water, and exercising are the first steps for maintaining a healthy gut. (Not just a healthy ‘gut’ but overall health as well!) Some people find it helpful to try an elimination-type diet to pinpoint what may be affecting their gut negatively (foods such as dairy and gluten). But everyone is different, so finding what fits your needs is also important.
Probiotics and fermented foods are also a great way to maintain gut health. Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics because they contain live bacteria. If tolerated, you can experiment with foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and pickled vegetables. *However, if diagnosed with SIBO or any other gastrointestinal issue such as IBS or IBD, please consult with your doctor or licensed nutritionist as too much live bacteria can do more harm than good in these individuals.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Let’s start with prebiotics. Prebiotics are foods that are non-digestible that stimulate the activity of probiotics in the gut microbiome. Prebiotics are naturally found in bananas, garlic, onions, dandelion greens, asparagus, and certain fibers such as resistant starches and inulin.
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria found in foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. Speaking of kefir, if you don’t like creamy textures, I highly recommend trying a carbonated kefir by Kevita®, they are super tasty!
Probiotics are also available in supplement form. However, there have been studies that showed the negative effects of probiotics in certain individuals which didn’t actually help change their gut microbiome for the better. More research is still being done to show if probiotics alone can help with certain GI issues. Moral of the story: try to get your nutrients from food first and if you feel you need added nutrients, (in this case bacteria), then consult with your doctor or nutritionist to help you find a good probiotic supplement with no added processed ingredients and/or fillers.
As we now know, gut health is SUPER important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There is so much that is still unknown regarding the microbiome and starting with the basics can be your best bet. Experimenting with new recipes that include vegetables, nuts, fiber, and fermented foods can be exciting! Try out my new kimchi zoodle recipe as a start and I have a gut feeling you won’t be disappointed.
Komaroff, A. The gut-brain connection. Harvard Health Publishing.
The Microbiome. The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health.
Shreiner, A., Kao, J., Young, V. (2016). The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology. 31 (1), 69-75.
Tsai, Y., Lin, T., Chang, C., Wu, T., Lai, W., Lu, C., Lai, H. (2019). Probiotics, prebiotics amelioration of diseases. Journal of Biomedical Science. 26 (3).
Tuohy, K., Probert, H., Smejkal, C., Gibson, G. (2003). Using probiotics and prebiotics to improve gut health. Therapeutic focus. 8, (15), 692-700.
Recipe for Kimchi Zoodles:
- 2-3 cups of zoodles. ( I use the spiralizer attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer to make my zoodles)
- 1 cup of spicy kimchi ( I use this brand)
- 1/2 cup for of liquid amino ( different than the coconut
aminosI usually use. This brand has more of a salty taste and less sweet with no coconut flavor. I use this brand). It pairs great with this recipe!
- 4 carrots – peeled into Julienne strips or just using a peeler and continuously peeling the carrot down to its bone. This creates beautiful noodle-like carrots.
- 1 tsp of Thai chili sauce (optional) this is for added flavor. If you are allergic to fish, DO NOT use. It has anchovies in it. *
- I added chicken breast to mine. This is optional as well. *
- 1 tsp of coconut oil
Start by making your zoodles with your spiralizer and cutting your carrots the way I listed above. Put the zoodles and carrots in a bowl and set aside.
Next, if making this dish with chicken, heat up your pan with coconut oil and place your cut up chicken into that pan until cooked.
In a separate pan, add your liquid
Serve right away and enjoy! I enjoy eating this either hot or even cold the next day as leftovers.
Recipe for Almond Butter Fudge S’mores Bars 2 cups of gluten-free graham crackers (pulsed in a food processor) I use this brand 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil 1/2 cup of creamy almond butter 1 cup of melted cacao butter (I use this brand ) […]
Recipe for Healthy Chicken Teriyaki: Ingredients: 1.5 pound of chicken breast (I use the breast that are already sliced in strips. My favorite brand is called “Coleman” and it is organic. 1/2 cup of Coconut Aminos (you can buy this here) – Coconut Aminos is […]
Intermittent fasting has become such a popular topic (and conversation starter!) in the health and wellness world. What exactly is intermittent fasting? What are the benefits? What should I do before starting this new way of eating? Read below for more answers!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is a specific eating pattern that consists of scheduling your meals to be eaten in certain time frames. For example, the most common eating pattern is 16/8. This means you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8- hour time frame throughout your day. Let’s say you eat breakfast at 10:00 am, then you would have to stop eating by 6:00 pm and would fast for the next 16 hours which would lead you back to 10:00 am the next day. Some people take it up a notch and do 18/6 which means you only eat within a 6-hour time frame and fast for 18 hours.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food. The fed state starts when you begin eating and lasts a few hours as your body digests and absorbs the food you just ate. When you are in the fed state, it can be hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high. About 8-12 hours after that timespan is when you have entered the fasted state. It is much easier for our bodies to burn fat in the fasted state because insulin levels are low.
2. Blood sugar balance
In patients who have Type 2 diabetes, some studies suggested that intermittent fasting can play a positive role in helping with glucose intolerance. There have been both experimental and clinical studies that show intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity and glucose control along with decreases in body weight. The long-term effects of intermittent fasting on glucose control and diabetes complications are largely unknown.
3. Can help with weight loss
Short term fasting can increase your metabolic rate which will help you burn more calories. Plus, eating within a certain time frame helps you to plan your meals appropriately which leads to less snacking in between meals and late at night.
4. MAY help build testosterone for SOME men (but will not magically turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger, sorry guys).
There are studies that show no difference in luteinizing hormone levels in men whether they have fasted or not. Luteinizing hormone is what stimulates the male sex hormone testosterone in men and triggers ovulation for women. According to a study investigating how short-term fasting affects the pituitary- testicular axis in obese and non-obese men, it was found that testosterone production was far less in the obese group. The study was done under GnRH elicited LH response after an overnight fast, and a second IV after 56 hours of food deprivation. In the obese group, there was a 26% increase in LH, however no corresponding testosterone response. The non-obese group had shown a 67% increase in LH with a corresponding testosterone response of 180% (Röjdmark, S.). This was just ONE study and a lot others show no difference in testosterone levels. Fasting isn’t the only way to help with elevating testosterone. If you feel you need to elevate these levels, consult with your doctor or licensed nutritionist.
Potential downside to intermittent fasting
1.There’s no strong evidence that fasting adds health benefits beyond any other weight-loss strategy.
Just like any other weight loss strategy out there, you have to find what works best for YOU. If you are feeling sick while trying an intermittent fast, then maybe it isn’t best for you. Your body might benefit from other healthy lifestyle changes.
2. You can create or worsen a preexisting eating disorder
Intermittent fasting can be a possible trigger for certain people who previously had an eating disorder or are still recovering from one. This extreme regimen of eating is NOT for everyone and can lead these individuals to overeat, which can create guilt, shame, and other problems that only become worse over time.
3. Intense exercise may be a no-go especially on longer fasting days
Food is what fuels us. If that is taken away for longer periods of time, the body then uses other storage forms of energy (carbs then fat) in order to perform at its potential. So, going for a run or doing a HIIT exercise on an empty stomach can burn more fat than if you ate before that workout in some people, not all. However, when glycogen (storage form of glucose) is in short supply, your body then turns to breaking down protein (your muscles’ main energy source). So while intermittent fasting may help shed more fat, you may also lose muscle too. If you’ve ever tried to get through a rigorous workout with a growling stomach, you know that can be annoying and tough. If your glycogen or blood sugar levels are low, you will feel weak If you don’t have enough energy to really power through during workouts and your fat-burning and muscle-building results will start to decline.
In this case, if you were to exercise on an empty stomach, keep things light. Try some low-intensity cardio like going for a walk, using resistance bands for a few minutes, a slow jog, or gentle yoga. Save your high intensity workouts for after you have eaten.
Tips BEFORE starting this type of meal plan
1.Consult with a LICENSED health professional. Whether that is doctor, a Registered Dietician, or Licensed Nutritionist. This is a serious matter just like any other dietary plan and should be monitored (especially if you have any type of disease, diabetes, or hypoglycemia). Please, PLEASE don’t rely on a podcast, blogger, or uneducated information being spilled out at you. Do your research first.
2.Become aware of your diet as it is right now. Is it full of sugar, fast food, and zero vegetables? Start by fixing your food choices first and opt for healthy organic meats and fish, tons of vegetables, fruits, and LESS processed foods before diving into a specific meal plan.
3.If you are pregnant, nursing, or thinking of becoming pregnant, consult with your doctor FIRST. Fasting while pregnant or nursing is certainly NOT recommended.
4.Last but certainly not least, try intermittent fasting only if you want to! There is no RIGHT way to eat and no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to nutrition. So if you want to try a meal plan like this for specific reasons and have consulted with your doctor, then go ahead and try it! But if it makes you miserable and you feel sick from doing it, then STOP and go back to eating healthy food regularly throughout the day.
In a nutshell
Try your best to always listen to your body and see what it needs. Some people need to eat more regularly throughout the day and that is totally FINE. The benefits of intermittent fasting are great and have really changed some people’s lives. But it isn’t for everyone. Do what makes you happy and just eat REAL food.
Halie, M., Mraz, M. (2018). Intermittent fasting and prevention of diabetic retinopathy: where do we go from here? American Diabetes Association
Harvard health Publishing. (2017). Not so fast. Pros and cons of the newest diet trend.
Patterson, R., Sears, D. (2017). Metabolic effects of intermittent fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition. 37, 371-393.
Rod mark, S., Asplund, A., Rossner, S. (1989). Pituitary-testicular axis in obese men during short term fasting.
Shenfield, B., Aragon, A., Wellborn, C., Krieger, J., Somme, G. (2014). Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise.
Recipe for Spicy Zucchini Cornbread 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill cornmeal 1 1/2 cup of gluten free all purpose flour 1/4 tsp of baking soda 1/2 tsp of baking powder 1 egg 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk 1 large zucchini (shredded, drained, and […]