Woman’s Series-Part 2: Your Food. Your Gut. Your Immunity.

Immunity has become a hot topic during this worldwide pandemic.While there may be information floating around about diet and coronavirus prevention, we cannot prevent COVID-19 with food (or with wine, though it continues to be tested😊). Increasing your intake of vitamins C, D, and iron helps build and maintain immunity and health, but, again, they won’t keep the coronavirus from attacking and spreading. For COVID-19 prevention, follow the CDC guidelines: wear a fucking mask😷, physically distance by at least 6 feet, wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds each time. Period.

The importance of building our immunity for long-term health is indisputable. As discussed in our last blog, most women focus on proper calcium intake during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, but we tend to lose that focus later in life. Our immunity and bone health are crucial for long-term well-being and overall health. One silver lining from this pandemic is a focus on prevention, protection, survival and wellness. Our goal is to encourage people to move away from dieting and relying on a scale to measure progress, and to meet nutritional needs through balanced eating🍽.

Your gut, consisting mostly of the large intestine, is home to millions of powerful bacteria that are continually working to prevent and protect us from disease. Over 60% of our immunity is housed in the lining of our guts. Feeding our good bacteria builds our immunity against disease. As all disease begins in the gut, our bodies are hosts to a microbiome revolution: what is there (your microbiome), what they can do, what they actually do. If we do not feed our good bacteria, this will increase the inflammation in our gut, putting us at higher risk for disease😞. The good news: keeping your diet diversified, filled with healthy fiber, protein and fat will keep your microbiome, your gut and you happy and healthy😃!

Fiber intake is the marker of a healthy diet, specifically fructans and galacto-oligosaccharides. The new 2020 Dietary Guidelines will state a minimum of 28 grams of fiber per day, up from 25 grams. The lower your fiber intake, the higher your risk for disease. You do not have to remember their scientific names, but you should know where to find them. Fructans are found in whole wheat products, onions, garlic, barley, asparagus, and jicama. Galacto-oligosaccharides are found in dairy products as well as plant-based foods including beans, lentils, and soybeans. Fiber is the most powerful building block for healthy nutrition.

When you consume healthy, fibrous foods, your gut ferments these foods, which stimulates your healthy gut bacteria. Most dietary fibers are prebiotics, meaning they stimulate your beneficial microbes. Why is this so exciting? The needed fermentation that takes place in the gut increases calcium absorption. Hence, everything you eat affects your gut health and the absorption of all nutrients. You are what you eat is no joke!

Simple everyday swaps to improve gut health and immunity:

  • Switch from white bread and pasta to 100% whole wheat.
  • Use farro, bulgur, or wheat berries in grain salads.
  • Season soups and sauces with garlic.
  • Add onions to sandwiches, wraps, soups, and salads.
  • Swap Greek yogurt for sour cream in your favorite Mexican dishes.
  • Use beans in place of beef in tacos or other dishes.
  • Enjoy lentil soup with onions and garlic.
  • Incorporate beans in soups, salads, and grain bowls.
  • Try edamame as a snack in place of chips or pretzels.

~Delicious and healthy-gut building recipes to enjoy~

CREAMY GARLIC MEXICAN SOUP
Garlic has been used as medicine throughout ancient and modern history. Garlic contains antioxidants that protect against cell damage and aging. It is also naturally high in inulin, the type of functional fiber we mentioned above. It is a known prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in your digestive system, helping create a healthy gut. Oh, and it is delicious 😋. The addition of Greek yogurt provides quite your nutritional bang.

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons olive oil,. divided
5–6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (or basil, if not a lover of cilantro), chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
4 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, no added salt
1 4-ounce can diced chilies
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups Greek yogurt, nonfat, plain

PREPARATION
Place a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Remove garlic from pan and set aside. Add additional tablespoon of olive oil and onion to skillet. Sauté tender, about 6 minutes. Add paprika, broth, tomatoes, chilies and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Slowly stir in yogurt and cook over low heat until heated through. Do not boil! Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle with cilantro. Makes 6 1-cup servings.

Photo by The Pantry

MEDITERRANEAN LENTIL SALAD
Ironically, it was not all that long ago that eating vegetarian was viewed as a risky behavior. Today we are well aware of how plant-based foods are healing agents. Whether you douse this salad with extra vinegar or greens, it is filled with gut healthy, delicious, satisfying ingredients. Lentils can be prepared dry or “from scratch,” but there are so many speedier options out there - why dirty another pot? Trader Joe’s are fully cooked and vacuum-packed in a pouch to keeps them fresh and delicious.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup steamed lentils
3 bell peppers, any color combo
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
optional garnish: fresh mint or basil leaves

PREPARATION
Place lentils in large bowl and set aside.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove and discard seeds and membranes. Place peppers skin side up on a baking sheet. Broil on top oven rack until charred, about 5–10 minutes — keep checking! Remove from oven and place in brown paper bag to cool and loosen skin, for about 10 minutes. Remove from bag, peel and discard skins. Cut into small strips.

Add peppers, balsamic vinegar through spinach leaves into bowl with lentils. Toss well. Cover and chill in refrigerator for about 1-2 hours. Toss again, top with goat cheese, lightly toss and serve. Spice it up with additional pepper or other spices like coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper. Sprinkle with fresh mint or basil leaves. Makes 4 1-cup servings.

GINGERED EDAMAME
Edamame are quite the star of the legume family. When you consider just a half-cup serving contains 11 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, 2 1/2 grams of heart-healthy fats, along with vitamins c, a, iron and calcium, you wonder, should I be eating these more often? Yes! This recipe could be for a snack time, a side dish, or you could easily add a whole grain (we suggest farro!) and more veggies for a meal.

INGREDIENTS
3 cups steamed edamame
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon grated ginger root
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

PREPARATION
Place edamame in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Mix apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, green onions, ginger root, orange and lemon juice together. Pour over edamame. Marinate in refrigerator anywhere from 1 hour to a few days. Makes 6 1/2-cup servings or 3 1-cup servings.

ROASTED CARROT BREAD
The carrots are not roasted in this bread, though you are welcome to roast them them as well. The actual bread is roasted — as long as you have the roasted setting on your oven. No roasted setting, no problem — just increase the baking temperature time to……. This moist, whole grain, naturally sweetened bread could be for breakfast or a side for lunch or dinner.

INGREDIENTS
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten-free options: almond flour, Bob’s Red Mill GF 1:1 Baking Flour, King Arthur GF Measure for Measure Flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 large carrots, peeled and grated (yes, it is a lot :)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt, nonfat, plain
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
nonstick cooking spray

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, on “roast” if your oven has this feature. Lightly spray loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and ginger. Blend well with a whisk. Add the grated carrots and mix well to combine.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the oil and eggs well. Add the yogurt and vanilla and mix to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Roast for 40–45 minutes, or bake for 55–60 minutes, until a toothpick placed in center comes out dry. Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes in pan, then remove, slice and enjoy. Makes 12 servings.

The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but will rather cure and prevent disease with nutrition. ~ Thomas Edison

A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.