As we enter the winter holiday season and the vast amounts of food typically involved in celebrating these holidays, I thought it would be a great time to talk a bit about nutrition and gut microbiome!
Most chronic diseases are rooted in increased inflammation and, correspondingly, the immune system‘s inability to keep itself in balance. We don’t want the immune system too weak, which makes us more prone to infections; nor do we want it too strong, which leads to increased inflammation. Like Goldilocks…we want it just right! Most inflammation begins in the gut, so the more we can optimize our nutrition and microbiome, the healthier we can be.
Here are some of the essential factors to optimize the intestines and control inflammation:
- Intake of fermented foods. The wider the variety the better, as different foods have different types of flora. Probiotic supplements can be used as well, but food sources are best. Check out: 15 Fermented Foods for a Healthy Gut and Overall Health.
- Consume plenty of fiber. Insoluble fiber serves as pre-biotics, the food that helps our intestinal flora grow. Eating a variety of food sources is always best, but fiber supplements are available if the goals are not met by the diet. A great resource for this is: 7 Reasons to Get Prebiotics in Your Diet — Plus the Best Sources
- Eat your fruits and veggies. Different colored produce have different phytonutrients, so eat all the colors of the rainbow! Aim for at least 5 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruit a day. A serving is the amount that would fit in the palm of the person’s hand who is eating it, so the amount is smaller in children.
- Minimize added sugar. Added sugars include honey, maple syrup, and juices. Try to keep added sugar to under 25 grams per day. Sugars become fructose, which is pro-inflammatory. When fructose is consumed as part of fruit or vegetables, it does not have the same negative impact because of the fiber and other nutrients in the whole fruit. Smoothies are good, but juicing alone is not.
- Avoid processed foods, pesticides, and herbicides as much as possible. Eat clean, organic food whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group’s annual Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists of foods are great resources in prioritizing your shopping list. And as a general rule, if you cannot pronounce an ingredient…..is it really food?!