Gut Health: What is it & why it matters.

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The human gut microbiome is complex and powerful in impacting our overall health – in a good or bad way depending on how we treat it. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, as well as heart & brain health, boosted mood, healthy sleeping patterns, and an effective digestive tract.

The term gut microbiome refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.

Signs your gut might be out of whack:

  • Digestive Issues
    • Gas and/or bloating
    • Constipation
    • Irregular bowel movements
  • Mental Issues
    • Like depression, anxiety, and brain fog
  • Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies
  • Unintential Weight Gains
    • Or struggles managing a healthy weight
  • Chronic Unmanaged Stress
  • Skin Problems
  • Trouble Falling into a Deep Sleep

Ways to improve your gut health: 

  • Improve Eating habits (see below section)
    • Monitor consumption of prebiotics and probiotics
      • If it is a struggle to get enough in your normal diet, consider taking a supplement (address this with your doctor to make sure it is a healthy option for you)
    • Consider food intolerances that upset your gut
  • Stay Hydrated
    • Attempt to get in a recommended amount of water for your body weight
  • Implement a Consistent Sleep Pattern
    • Going to bed and waking up at the same times will help your body & digestive system fall into a flow
  • Reduce Stress
    • This is easy said than done but consider areas of your life that are more stress inducing and consider how you can change this.

A happy gut means a healthy feeling body. A diet rich in immune-supporting probiotic & prebiotic foods will fuel your gut with what it needs for your microbiome to thrive. Probioctic foods contain “good” bacteria or live cultures that are found naturally in your gut. Prebiotic foods nourish the probiotic foods in your digestive tract.

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Probioctic Foods:

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Fermented Foods
    • Kimchi
    • Kombucha
    • Olives
    • Pickled Beets
    • Pickles
    • Sauerkraut
    • Soybeans
  • Grains
    • Sourdough Bread

Prebiotic Foods: 

  • Fruit
    • Berries
    • Bananas
    • Tomatoes
  • Veggies
  • Grains
    • Barley
    • Flaxseeds
    • Oatmeal
    • Wheat
  • Legumes
    • Beans
    • Chickpeas
    • Lentils

Beginning a journey to improve your gut might take a bit, so be patient. Implementing a healthy diet and reducing your stress won’t heal a gut in a day but will begin to detox the gut microbiome of toxins.

But please keep in mind this isn’t an overhaul either! Like I always like to say, life is a balance of healthy habits and periodic indulgences. We want to incorporate healthy habits in our lives so that WE. FEEL. GOOD. but what also feels good…. a fudgy brownie with vanilla ice cream. So definitely implement new healthy habits into your life but don’t deprive yourself!

Stayed tuned for a Morning Routine for a Happy Gut later this week!

Favorite Berry Smoothie.

You can’t go wrong with a good smoothie. I enjoy the fact that you can cram in a ton of good fruits & veggies into one glass. Also there is such a variety that there are endless opportunities for a new flavor every day. 

Over the years, I’ve definitely done my fair share of experimenting with different concoctions of smoothies and have nailed down my favorite blend of ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I still do some new mixing every now and then to keep things spicy but this is, for sure, my tired and true smoothie recipe that I keep coming back to and it hardly ever fails that I don’t have these ingredients on hand. 

I prefer to blend my smoothies in a Nutribullet (not sponsored but wouldn’t mind being ;). It’s the perfect kitchen gadget to blend everything in one cup and then drink straight out of that same cup. Who doesn’t like less dishes? I also like to use my Nutribullet to blend my homemade Ranch Dressing.   (Not going to lie, I do have my eye on a Vitamix too).

Ingredients: 

  • Frozen Berries 
    • I prefer a blend of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries but also grab blends with mango, banana, and peaches often.
    • Make sure to check the back of the package for any added sugar. Unnecessary ingredients are sometimes added to make the berries sweeter – but we don’t need that 😉
  • Spinach 
    • I add about a cup
  • Banana 
    • For creaminess
  • Plain Greek Yogurt
    • About 2-3 scoops 
    • For creaminess
  • Coconut Flakes
  • Chia seeds & Flax seeds
    • I use the Barlean’s mix which can also be found at most Sam’s Club locations
  • Vanilla Protein Powder (optional) 
    • I prefer NG Nutritions brand & it looks like they now call the flavor ‘Vanilla Ice Cream which sounds absolutely delicious. 
      • This brand does contain 2g of sugar per scoop
  • Almond Milk
    • I add this last and fill the cup up to about an inch below the rim

Enjoy this yummy treat as a mid-afternoon snack on a hot afternoon or as a breakfast replacement on those rushed mornings!

Let me know your thoughts after you try this delicious drink & if you make any substitutes to make it your own. 

Fudgy Avocado Brownies.

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I’ve been on a strong produce kick lately. I’ve been gathering a ton of avocados, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini lately and going crazy in the kitchen with concocting a load of new favorite dishes. The other night before I was about to head out of town for a few days, I had one lone avocado left to eat up before I left. I was over avocado toast and didn’t feel like adding it to my dinner dish that evening and decided to give avocado brownies a try.

I honestly don’t think I can say that I’ve had an avocado brownie before! Is that strange? I feel like this dish is quite popular? Or did I just miss this trend? So this was going to be an experiment. But the experiment turned out to be pretty darn tasty!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Avocado or 2 med./small avocados
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
  • 1/2 Baking Soda
  • 1/2 semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a glass square pan.
  • Mix all ingredients in a medium-size bowl.
  • Pour mix into the pan and cook for 25 minutes.
  • Let cool & enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Cookies.

These cookies have been my favorite treat for years! I have a strong obsession with the combination of orange and cranberry that I discovered in College and I honestly can’t get enough. Since moving into my new apartment, I don’t have all the baking ingredients and am not the biggest baker but wanted a sweet treat yesterday and decided it was worth a trip to the store.

These cookies are definitely an indulgent but if you do have the option to substitute the flour for almond flour and sugar for stevia.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 Orange peel (grated)

Directions:

  1.  Preheat over to 350 degrees
  2. Combine sugar, butter, and egg in a bowl and mix until creamy.
  3. Mix in flour, baking powder, and baking soda. If content is too dry, add a small amount of melted butter. The mixture might be crumbly, but should be able to roll into small balls.
  4. Stir in cranberries and orange peel.
  5. Shape cookies into one inch balls and place on cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes until edges start to turn slightly dark brown. Don’t over bake.
  7. Cool for 1 minute.
  8. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies.

If I’m going to splurge on treats this season it’s going to be homemade caramel puff corn or these new buttery salty cookies I found in a small deli in San Francisco a few months ago. It was my first time attempting baking these myself today and for the first pass I believe they turned out pretty darn yummy.

We’re about to host a cookie swap so these cookies are my contribution and I’ll follow up with the crowd comments!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • Optional: melting chocolate

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until it starts to caramelize. It should smell nutty and you will see brown bits at the bottom of the saucepan.

3. Pour the browned butter into a medium bowl and stir in brown sugar and vanilla.

4. In a small bowl, whisk flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and combined.

5. Let cool to room temp and then scoop tablespoon size balls onto cooking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and lightly press into top of cookie.

6. Bake for ~10-15 minutes or lightly golden brown. Don’t overlook or cookies become dry.

7. If desired, melt chocolate and drizzle on top of cookies.

8. Let cool & enjoy!