One of the biggest buzzwords in current media refers to the smallest subject: the human gut microbiome. This microbiome is a collection of microorganisms living in the human intestinal tract; aka the “good gut bugs.” These good gut bugs help our gut produce compounds needed for digestion and absorption of other nutrients. They also provide protection against harmful “bugs” and support our immune system. These good gut bugs have also been shown to promote brain health.
There is communication between the human microbiome and the brain, called the gut-brain axis. This means the health of your gut microbiome may impact the health of your brain—a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain.
The best way to take care of your gut microbiome is to focus on your overall eating pattern.
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Choose fiber-rich foods because increasing fiber can promote abundance of gut bugs.
- Try fermented foods and foods with pre- and probiotics to improve the variety of your good gut bugs.
- Prebiotics are plant fibers that promote the growth of healthy bacteria. They are found in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including apples, asparagus, bananas, barley, flaxseed, garlic, jicama, leeks, oats, and onion.
- Probiotics contain specific strains of healthy bacteria. The most common probiotic food is yogurt; other sources include bacteria-fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi.
- Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2015;31(1):69–75. doi:10.1097/MOG.0000000000000139.
- Foster JA, Lyte M, Meyer E, Cryan JF. Gut microbiota and brain function: An evolving field in neuroscience. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016;19(5):1–7. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyv114.
- Jandhyala S, Talukdar R, Subramanyam C, Vuyyuru H, Sasikala M, Reddy D. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21(29):8787–8803.
Fruit-infused water has become popular in recent years. It’s a great way to drink more and stay hydrated. With no added sugar, it’s a good alternative to juice or soda. The endless flavor combinations are tasty and refreshing. There are some important food safety tips to remember, however. To avoid increased bacteria growth and foodborne illness, follow these tips:
- Start with clean hands; wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
- Wash produce thoroughly under cool running water. Use a clean produce brush on firm items such as oranges or lemons.
- Use clean cutting boards and utensils to avoid crosscontamination.
- Store infused water in the refrigerator at 40°F or below in a sealed pitcher.
- If you are taking your infused water on the go, make sure to drink it within four hours. Infused water at room temperature must be used or discarded after four hours to prevent bacteria growth.
- For best results, drain fruit solids within 24 hours and refrigerate water up to three days.
- Always start with clean equipment for new batches; avoid refilling the same pitcher.
Source: Michigan State University Extension
Does your favorite holiday recipe include raw eggs as an ingredient? Raw eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria. These bacteria cause food poisoning, especially if consumed by pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those who may have a weakened immune system.
To safely adapt recipes containing raw eggs, try one of the following options:
- Add the eggs to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, then heat the mixture until it reaches 160°F on a food thermometer.
- Use store-bought versions of the home-prepared item. Check the label to be sure items are already cooked or pasteurized.
- Purchase eggs labeled “pasteurized.” Options include the following:
— Fresh, pasteurized eggs in the shell (found in the refrigerator section)
— Liquid, pasteurized egg products (found in the refrigerator section)
— Frozen, pasteurized egg products (found in the frozen food section)
— Powdered egg whites (found in the baking section)
Source: Food Facts, FDA, January 2017
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 8
• 1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
• 4 cups vegetables (like onions, carrots, and zucchini) (chopped or sliced)
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried basil
• 2 cups small whole wheat pasta (shell or macaroni)
• 6 cups fresh spinach leaves (about 1/2 pound)
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onions and carrots. Cook until they are softened. Stir often. This should take about 3 minutes.
2. Stir in zucchini and canned tomatoes. Cook 3–4 minutes.
3. Stir in the broth, water, salt, and Italian seasoning or dried basil. Bring to a boil.
4. Stir in the pasta and spinach. Return to a boil.
5. Cook until the pasta is tender using the time on the package for a guide.
Nutrition information per serving:
130 calories, 16g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 100mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 21g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 35g protein Recipe courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit the Spend Smart. Eat Smart site.
There’s always one person at holiday gatherings who double dips at the table. They take a bite out of their chip or carrot and then inconspicuously stick it back in the dip again. This habit is gross, but is it actually dangerous? A study conducted recently by Harvard Medical School found that double dipping can add bacteria to dips.
No studies have examined how much disease double dipping causes. However, saliva from a sick person often contains infectious germs. Researchers say your chances of getting sick from a healthy person who double dips are less than from sick people who cough or sneeze without washing their hands. Still, to protect the health of your guests, serve them dip on individual plates or put a spoon in the dip, so they won’t be tempted to double dive into the common dip bowl.
Source: Shmerling RH. “Double dipping” your chip: Dangerous or just…icky?” Harvard Health Publishing. August 4, 2016.
Serving Size: 1 burger | Serves: 4
- 1 can low sodium black beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup onion, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon oil
- Optional: cheese slices, lettuce leaves, mushrooms, onion, tomato, whole wheat bread or hamburger buns
- Mash beans with a fork.
- Stir mashed beans, egg, bread crumbs, onion, pepper, and oil together until combined. Shape into 4-inch patties. Wash hands.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place patties in the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook patties for 5 minutes on the first side. Flip patties and cook for 4 more minutes on the other side.
- Serve with optional ingredients.
Nutrition information per serving:
200 calories, 6g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 45mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 28g total carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 2g sugar, 10g protein
Recipe courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.
Soups, casseroles, and pot roasts are a great way to warm up on a cool autumn day. Super cooling a large quantity of hot leftovers or planned-overs made in advance is a good idea to keep food safe. Do not cool hot food at room temperature or place large quantities of hot food in the refrigerator. Both practices can cause food to be in the temperature danger zone (40°F–140°F) for too long, which may lead to bacterial growth. Options for super cooling include the following:
- Super cool a large roast or poultry by cutting it into smaller pieces. Refrigerate pieces in a single layer.
- Reduce large quantities of hot food by putting them in smaller, shallow metal pans. Place shallow pans in refrigerator or freezer to cool.
- Place a large pot of hot food in an ice bath (sink of ice and cold water). Stir occasionally until food is cool, then refrigerate.
Download Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook from the USDA for home food safety guidance.
Serving Size: 1 loaf | Serves: 6
- 1 cup canned Alaska salmon, drained (skinless, boneless, flaked)
- 1 egg, large (slightly beaten)
- 1 tablespoon milk (fat free)
- 1 teaspoon minced dried onion
- 1 teaspoon fresh dill weed, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat bread crumbs
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place salmon in a medium bowl.
3. Break apart chunks of salmon using a fork.
4. Add egg, milk, onion, dill weed, lemon pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well.
5. Divide salmon mixture into 6 even portions.
6. Shape each portion into a mini loaf.
7. Bake for 15 minutes. Heat to 160°F or higher for at least 15 seconds.
8. Serve 1 loaf (about 1 1/2 oz. cooked).
Nutrition information per serving: 82 calories, 3g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 101mg cholesterol, 197mg sodium, 3g total carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 0g sugar, 11g protein
Recipe source: USDA What’s Cooking?
Sheet pan meals are a popular trend for those on a busy schedule. These meals often contain a protein source for the main dish and two vegetables for sides—cooked together on a single sheet pan in the oven. Cooking multiple menu items in one pan appeals to those looking for recipes that require little preparation and use minimal dishes. Sheet pan meals can be very convenient and nutritious. However, it is important to keep food safety in mind. Follow these tips for a safe sheet pan meal:
- Wash the vegetables thoroughly before cooking. This can prevent the introduction of bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.
- Use separate utensils and cutting boards for produce and raw meats.
- Cook the protein source to the correct internal temperature:
- Beef (steaks, chops)—145oF
Serving Size: 2/3 cup | Serves: 6
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)
- 1 red bell pepper (thinly sliced)
- 1 green bell pepper (thinly sliced)
- 1 medium onion (thinly sliced)• 6 (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas
- 6 ounces low fat cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
- 1 cup tomato, chopped (optional)
- Cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Jalapeño, sliced (optional)
- Freeze chicken 30 minutes until firm and easier to cut. Cut chicken into 1/4” strips. Place in a single layer on a plate.
- Wash hands, knife, and cutting board. Sprinkle both sides of strips with chili and garlic powder.
- Add oil to a 12-inch skillet. Heat to medium high. Add chicken strips. Cook about 3–5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add bell peppers and onion. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender and chicken is no longer pink. (Heat chicken to at least 165°F.)
- Scoop chicken mixture (2/3 cup each) onto tortillas. Top with your favorite toppings.
- Serve flat or rolled.
Nutrition information per serving (1 tortilla with 2/3 cup filling): 260 calories, 9g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 50mg cholesterol, 410mg sodium, 4g dietary fiber, 27g carbohydrate, 2g sugar, 22g protein
Recipe courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu