15 Weeks of More
Week 8: Feed Your Good Bugs
If you've followed along on social media then you know I've been eating and hiking my way through Greece over the last week. I am back in New York and the jet lag has hit hard! I'm talking going to sleep at 6pm and sleeping through the night. I am not sure how to avoid that, so here we are with a Monday email coming to you on a Tuesday.
This week's topic is all about the good bacteria that lives in your gastrointestinal tract. Most of us don't think about bacteria as being "good," but I promise you - it is! Before we get into this interesting topic, please take a minute to reach out with any questions or to share your experience with 15 Weeks of More so far. I would love to hear from you.
Week 8: Feed Your Good Bugs
Our bodies are filled with bacteria and in fact, we have more bacteria than we do cells. The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health puts estimates of 10 to 1 for bacteria to human cells. This bacteria lives on our skin, in our lungs, in bodily fluids, and in our gastrointestinal tract. The bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract is the focus this week since it plays a significant role in our health and because our diets have a direct impact on its composition. There is still much to be learned about how our bacteria influences our health and this is an area to watch when it comes to the nutrition science.
When we are born, our bacteria is sterile, but it is quickly colonized and stabilizes after age three. The bacteria that babies are introduced to within the first few hours of life help to set-up the microbiome. This is one of the many reasons why skin-to-skin contact is so important as well as breastfeeding. Prebiotics and probiotics play a role in the development and composition of the bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract, so we will focus on both this week.
Your goal this week is to identify at least three prebiotics or three probiotics that you enjoy eating.
This are live microorganisms that are meant to have positive health benefits. Probiotics play a role in digestion, immune support, and help to strengthen the gastrointestinal barrier. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, probiotics can help with frequency and duration of diarrhea, help with immunity, and can play a role in decreasing unfavorable metabolites in the colon. Probiotics also may help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) management.
Sources of probiotics include fermented dairy products like yogurt or kefir, kimchi, tempeh, miso, buttermilk, and sauerkraut. Probiotics are also found in supplements. If you're interested in learning more about probiotic supplements, visit this site for a high level overview of what to look for when choosing a probiotic supplement.
Yogurt is one of the most obvious sources of probiotics, but one look at the yogurt aisle can be overwhelming! There are so many decisions. Use these tips when choosing yogurts:
Choose plain yogurt and personalize your taste with toppings.
Focus on added sugar, not fat. Limit yogurts with added sugar. You can see how much added sugar is in a yogurt by comparing a plain yogurt with a flavored yogurt and looking at the sugar difference. Yogurt naturally has sugar in the form of lactose, so even plain yogurt will have some sugar.
Low-fat yogurt is likely what you think you need to be eating, but know that research shows that full-fat dairy can be a part of a healthy diet.
Kefir is a lesser known source of probiotics, but is readily available in most grocery stores. Kefir is a fermented milk and the fermentation process helps to lower lactose, so people with sensitivities to lactose might find that this milk is tolerable. The same as yogurt, be sure to look for kefir with limited added sugar.
Tempeh is a cultured soybean cake which doesn't sound appetizing (I know!), but I really like cooking with this product. One cup has 31g of protein, so it is a great meat substitute. Tempeh is great in stir-fry dishes, crumbled in soup, or grilled.
Sauerkraut, Kimchi, and Miso
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage that usually isn't spicy. Kimchi is a spicy, fermented vegetable typically made from cabbage, radishes, or carrots. Use either as a topping or garnish when cooking. Check out this list for ways to use kimchi. Miso is a fermented soybean paste that is used traditionally in Japan as a seasoning. It is a source of probiotics, but use sparingly as it can be high in sodium.
Prebiotics are different from probiotics as they are not living organisms, but instead of the food for the living organisms. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates and are not broken down in the GI tract. They are fermented by the gastrointestinal microflora and stimulate the growth of intestinal bacteria associated with health (probiotics). Prebiotics are associated with positive health outcomes including the potential to inhibit cancerous growth in the GI tract which plays a role in colorectal disease.
Sources of Prebiotics
I will be on social this week sharing how I'm adding foods to feed the good bugs and I hope we can connect. Don't forget to share your tips and ideas with #aneweats.
You can see more on Instagram @allisonknottrd or on Facebook on the ANEWtrition page.
New here? Check out the introduction to 15 Weeks of More, Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, and Week 7.