I’m all about setting positive intentions around food and my latest aim is to include more gut-healthy foods into my daily routine because the health of our gut affects our overall health in really big ways which I’ll explain. Gut health aside, this Citrus Ginger Beet and Apple Salad that is made with Farmhouse Culture’s Fermented Ginger Beets is divine. Slightly sweet and deliciously tart and tangy, this healthy recipe that I created on behalf of Farmhouse Culture, is easy to make and perfect for the season. Plus, you can save the ginger beet juice and use it to pickle perfectly pink hard-boiled eggs (instructions in the recipe notes). You’re going to love it.
The Basics of Gut Health
Did you know that a large part of our immune system lives in our gut? While there is still a lot to learn on the subject, researchers are beginning to understand the relationship between these healthy bacteria and our overall health. Among other things, our microbiome promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection and regulates metabolism, mood and digestion. That’s a lot of big responsibilities, right!? Add to that all of those pesky GI symptoms, like bloating and constipation, that we’ve all experienced from time to time and we have even more motivation to get our digestion working properly.
What’s my Microbiome?
Each and every one of us has a unique bacterial ecosystem living within our body and gut called a microbiome. The microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that play an important role in our overall health and immune function.
These are the same microorganisms that we often hear referred to as “healthy bacteria” and that’s for good reason. These healthy bacteria, or probiotics, have many important roles including but not limited to:
- Protecting us from harmful bacteria and viruses
- Hormone production
- Aiding in the digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Controlling our moods and cognitive health
- Helping repair damaged tissues and injuries
Considering the many roles healthy bacteria play in our overall immune function, it makes sense that many diseases have been linked to imbalances in our microbiome, also called dysbiosis. Here are a few ways imbalances can occur.
- Diet high in processed foods including refined grains and sugar
- Excess use of medications and over-the-counter drugs, especially antibiotics
- Environmental toxins
From allergies and autoimmune diseases to depression and diabetes, we are learning that a healthy gut is one of our best defenses against disease.
How Can I Promote Good Gut Health?
What and how you eat plays an important role in proper GI function. So does adequate sleep and doing the best we can to reduce stress through mindfulness practices. Here are 4 ways to reset your digestion all the while caring for yourself in a truly meaningful way.
Slow Down. Chew your food.
Digestion starts in our mouth which is why it is so important to properly chew our food. During the chewing process, digestive enzymes are released in your mouth, helping to breakdown the food prior to it entering your stomach. As you can imagine, large pieces of undigested food are more difficult to digest, thus causing an array of GI symptoms including cramping and bloating. Adequate chewing also helps to slow you down thus decreasing the chance that we will overeat.
Try this: take a bite and note how times you tend to chew your food. For many people it can be as few as two to three. Challenge yourself to chew each bite 10-15 times, especially for difficult to digest foods like animal proteins and raw vegetables.
Winter Tip: Cooked vegetables are easier to digest and more appropriate to eat during the cooler months of winter. If your digestion is sluggish, cooked veggies will always be a better choice than raw.
Clean Up Your Diet.
Nutrition recommendations are not one size fits all so it’s important to tune into the way different foods make you feel. A common practice that is used to determine food sensitivities is an elimination diet. Think of it as an experiment of sorts. You remove a number of foods from your diet for a period of time and then add them back, one-by-one, better understanding how each food makes you feel. During this time, and as often as you can moving forward, challenge yourself to eat more whole foods and lots of vegetables. Whole foods are more nourishing than their highly processed counterparts plus whole foods are lacking in additives and preservatives that may exacerbate your GI symptoms. Vegetables are extremely nutrient dense and they contain prebiotic fiber, which supports the healthy bacteria in your gut. It’s also a good idea to reduce or remove added sugars from your diet as they are inflammatory. Excessive intake of sugar can promote the growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast in your gut.
Try this: for two weeks, remove added sugars, gluten, grains, dairy, alcohol, caffeine and heavy spices from your diet. If vegetables are causing GI upset, consider cooked over raw as they are easier to digest. At the end of the two weeks, notice how you feel. Gradually reintroduce each food, one at a time, each week or few days. If your symptoms flare up, it is best to avoid or limit your consumption of that food until your digestion improves.
Adequate hydration plays an important role in GI health and while we all understand the importance of drinking water, did you know that how you drink is important too? Ancient health practices like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine recommend drinking warm or room temperature water opposed to iced water as it is more hydrating and supportive of our organ systems. To promote adequate hydration it is also recommended that you sip on water between meals, versus with meals, and to avoid guzzling.
Try this: start your day by sipping on warm water, with lemon if you would like. When consumed on an empty stomach, warm water helps to gently wake up digestion and hydrate your system.
Repopulate your gut.
One of the best ways to support the good bacteria in your gut is to consume fermented foods and cultured foods like:
- Plain or Low-Sugar Yogurt
- Fermented Vegetables
Try this: have a serving of Farmhouse Culture fermented vegetables or krauts each day or take a gut shot. One gut shot provides your microbiome with over 10 billion CFUs of probiotics, and your taste buds will thank you too!
Citrus Ginger Beet and Apple Salad
- 1 package Farmhouse Culture Fermented Ginger Beets, drained, set juice aside (available in the refrigerated section of grocery store)
- 1 granny smith apple, diced
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the honey, olive oil, orange juice, zest and cilantro. Add the apple and toss to coat. Add the beets and gently fold into the mixture to prevent the red color to bleed onto the apples too much.
Note: in a seal-able container, submerge 4 hard-boiled eggs in 1 cup of the residual ginger beet juice or ginger beet gut shot. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
This post was created in partnership with Farmhouse Culture. All company partnerships are in line with my food and nutrition values. I only promote brands I would personally use. All opinions expressed are my own.