Especially during the holidays, why is maintaining good gut health so important for your overall health?
With the holidays just around the corner, grocery stores now have more sweet treats and decadent deserts lining their food aisles than any other time of the year. While it’s important to treat ourselves over the holidays we also need to be conscious of how often we’re loading up on processed treats that are high in refined sugar. Highly processed forms of sugar include high fructose corn syrup and white sugar (sucrose) both of which can contribute to a build up of inflammation in the body and decrease the effectiveness of our immune system which is largely linked to our gut microbiome. New guidelines on daily sugar intake have been updated this year from 10% of total daily calories to no more than 6% (World Health Organization, 2020). However, the holidays can make it extremely challenging to stay within our daily sugar recommendation as most store-bought holiday desserts exceed more than the 10% recommended daily intake for added sugar. The problem with consuming too many processed treats aside from putting us over our recommended daily sugar intake is that these foods can reduce the amount of good bacteria in our gut and make it more challenging for our body to rid itself of toxins and fight off infection. What’s worse is that processed foods loaded with sugar can lead to blood sugar imbalances characterized by large spikes and drops in mood and energy often followed by additional ‘cravings’ for more of these foods. Therefore, in order to avoid falling into a sugar craving cycle over the holidays not only is it key to optimize gut health by consuming plenty of fiber-rich foods but also be mindful of moderating sugar intake throughout the day.
A great way to curb mid-day sugar cravings is to consume a gut-health boosting breakfast with lots of fiber, quality protein, and natural sugar such as fruit or veggies. A few favorite F45 Challenge breakfast options for optimizing gut health over the holidays include overnight oats, chia-seed puddings, and greek yogurt with fruit and nuts. Fiber provides our gut microbiome with essential probiotics which increase the abundance of ‘good bacteria’ in our gut to strengthen the lining of the digestive tract. Incorporating fermented foods such as greek yogurt, over the holidays is a great way to keep digestion on track and avoid any gut health disturbances that often occur when regularly consuming processed, sugary snacks or sweets. F45 Sport Nutritionist Kim Bowman has a few highlighted below a few favorite gut-healing recipes to keep your health in check over the holidays.
3 Gut-Friendly Recipes for the Holidays
The combination of a quality lean source of protein such as tuna with fiber-rich cannaelini beans makes an extremely light yet satisfying snack for the holidays. Adding tuna as a lean source of protein to this low-calorie salad is a great way to boost feelings of fullness and keep sugar cravings in control throughout the day. Beans are very nutrient-dense making them an ideal candidate for boosting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. They are also low glycemic and help to balance blood sugar levels which is a great option to incorporate into your weekly eating routine if you know you may be indulging in a sweet treat or two!
- 1 can tuna in springwater, drained
- ¼ cup tomato, diced
- ⅕ cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. red onion, chopped
- ⅕ cup Lebanese cucumber, chopped
- ½ cup canned cannellini beans, drained
- 1/2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tsp sunflower kernels
- Himalayan salt
- 3 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 1/2 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
In a large bowl, combine the tuna, tomato, bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, white beans and parsley. In a small bowl whisk together the dijon mustard and vinaigrette. Divide the salad into two servings and use half the dressing/serving. Refrigerate the second serving of salad separately from the remaining portion of the salad dressing.
This is a favorite when it comes to swapping out a sugary dessert for a gut-friendly, low sugar option. The combination of probiotic-rich unsweetened greek yogurt with fiber-rich chia seeds makes a powerhouse team when it comes to optimizing gut health. If you’re looking for a satisfying sweet treat over the holidays, this chia pudding made with almond milk, greek yogurt, chia seeds, and organic raw honey is a simple option that can be easily meal prepped and won’t put you in a sugar craving craze.
- 3.7fl.oz almond milk, unsweetened
- ⅓ cup Greek yoghurt
- 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 0.6oz frozen raspberries
- 2.02oz frozen blackberries
- 0.6oz frozen blueberries
- ¼ tsp. vanilla essence
Add the almond milk, chia seeds, honey, yoghurt, and cacao powder into a jar and combine well. Refrigerate the chia pudding overnight for 1-2 hours to set. In the morning, add the berry compote ingredients to a saucepan over low heat for 1-2 minutes. Drizzle the berry compote over the pudding.
For vegans and vegetarians, this salad made with tempeh, dried cranberries, and walnut is a quick and easy snack or lunch packing plenty of gut-healing nutrients. Tempeh is a fermented soy-based food making it an abundant source of probiotics to benefit gut health. It is also a rich source of prebiotics, the nutrients required by our healthy gut bacteria to promote a diverse population for overall immune and digestive health. Adding dried cranberries gives this salad a sweet flavor while walnuts add a quality source of healthy fats which help to curb appetite and cut cravings.
- 3.1oz uncooked tempeh, sliced into strips
- 1 small red chilli, chopped finely
- 0.1fl.oz extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1.4oz red onion, finely sliced
- 1.7oz baby spinach leaves
- 0.3oz fresh cranberries
- 0.7oz raw, unsalted walnuts
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the tempeh, garlic and chilli and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, turning the tempeh over after about 4 minutes so that both sides are evenly cooked. Add the baby spinach, onion, cranberries and walnuts to a bowl and top with the cooked tempeh strips. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.