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Rocky Gorge WellNews March 2024

Rocky Gorge WellNews March 2024

March is National Nutrition Month

Welcome back from Winter! Now that we’ve sprung forward, let’s look at ways to boost our overall vitality by peering into the astonishing hidden world inside our bodies.

Nutritional Nuggets: Our Microbiome

Do you have a gut feeling that, despite your good intentions, you’re not getting the most out of the nutrients you consume? Consider some of our ideas to nourish your microbiome and learn about the important benefits of probiotics and prebiotics. No matter how much healthy food and supplements you consume, optimum absorption is key.

What is the microbiome?

Our bodies coexist with 100+ trillions of mostly beneficial or benign bacteria – microbiota – (as well as viruses and fungi) which colonize us beginning at birth. Each of our microbiomes is unique.

Our microbiota inhabits our skin, our mucous membranes, our intestines and other internal organs, and even our belly buttons. Simply put, it consists of all organisms in our bodies that are not us – at least 40% of our body weight. That’s right: a substantial number of the cells we haul around every day do not even share our DNA!

Our beneficial gut flora is called that for good reason. They play significant roles in our biological functions. Byproducts of their biochemical actions supply nutrients, essential for digestion and absorption of food nutrients. Gut floras secrete chemical signals in what’s known as the gut-brain axis. Science journalist Michael Pollan suggests that the “increase in autoimmune diseases in the West may owe to a disruption in the ancient relationship between our bodies and their ‘old friends’” — the microbes we coevolved with.

Gut microbes influence metabolism. A less diverse microbiome can predispose some people to obesity and related underlying diseases. Just this month, the FDA allowed yogurt producers to claim that their products may help prevent Type 2 diabetes. Sometimes referred to as “the second brain,” the gut’s connection to mental and cognitive health has received much scientific attention. Elizabeth Pennisi notes that “people with autism and mood disorders, for example, have deficits of certain key bacteria in their guts.”

Pollan points out that “our resident microbes also appear to play a critical role in…modulating our immune system.” Harvard School of Public Health notes that “Microbiota stimulate the immune system, break down potentially toxic food compounds, and synthesize certain vitamins and amino acids…key enzymes needed to form vitamin B12 are only found in bacteria, not in plants and animals.”

The decline in humans’ gut microbe diversity and resulting health issues may be the result of the substantial the increase, over the last century, in consumption of low-fiber processed diets and the overuse of antibiotics.

So how do we boost our gut health? By paying attention to the dietary support of probiotics and prebiotics.

What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

  • Probiotics are foods that naturally contain the beneficial microbiota – our good guys – that inhabit our bodies. There of dozens of types of microbiota, many of which belong to the lactobacillus family.
  • Prebiotics are essential in feeding our gut flora. They are found in plant-based foods high in oligosaccharides, soluble, and insoluble fiber. While not directly nutritional to our needs, we need them to feed our good guys.

Probiotic Food Sources

Fermented products that are abundant in live cultures are:

  • Apple cider vinegar – raw, unpasteurized only, with “the mother”
  • Buttermilk
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Pickled vegetables, kimchi, and sauerkraut (unpasteurized)
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt

Supplements: Choose products that contain live cultures, found in the refrigerated section of natural foods stores.

Prebiotic Food Sources

Plant-based foods that contain resistant starches, inulin, and pectin, including:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Fruits, especially apples, blueberries, nectarines
  • Herbs (raw, fresh), such as mint, nettles, chives
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seaweed
  • Vegetables, especially asparagus, mushrooms, boiled potatoes, yams, onions, leeks, garlic, chives
  • Whole grains
  • Raw honey

Tasty, Easy Probiotic and Pre-biotic Treats

On the Sweet Side: Yogurt Salad Bowl

To 2 cups of plain yogurt or vegan cultured product of any preferred fat content (full, low, or nonfat) add any or all of the following:

Fresh fruit: berries, chopped cantaloupe, apples, stone fruit (peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines), or other fresh fruits.

¼ cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans – crushed or whole)

1 tablespoon seeds (sunflower, pumpkin)

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds

2 tablespoons raw honey (optional)

Fresh mint (optional)

On the Savory Side

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki is a creamy yogurt-based condiment from the Mediterranean region. A tangy complement for lamb and salmon dishes, falafel, and veggie patties, it’s also a great dip for pita chips and veggies or used as a salad dressing.

Two cups of plain full fat yogurt, reduced fat Greek yogurt, or vegan cultured product

1 finely chopped or grated unpeeled English seedless cucumber. Drain out the moisture for 30 minutes, squeezing the cucumbers.

1 teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1-3 cloves of minced garlic

Minced fresh mint or dill to taste (optional)

Salt and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

We hope that this information helps open your mind to the remarkable benefits of pre- and probiotics for overall health.

Please reach out to Abby with any questions regarding this subject or to learn about our services. See our 2024 Calendar of Classes to find the perfect fit for your Spring regimen! These sessions are offered in-studio or virtually. Think Spring!