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.
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, eating a variety of colors—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white—provides the best mix of nutrients for your body, not to mention being more pleasing to the eye. Recommendations regarding how much people need depend on age, gender, and amount of physical activity. To learn more about your daily recommendations, visit www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate. Most Americans need to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten every day. Remember, all product forms count—fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and 100% juice. By eating more fruits and vegetables, your risk of chronic disease is reduced.
Tips to increase fruits and vegetables in your diet:
- Prepare fruits and vegetables as soon as you get them so they are ready to eat. Consider dividing into individual servings so they are easy to grab and go.
- Have veggies and low-fat dip for a snack.
- Add vegetables to casseroles, stews, and soups.
- Choose fruit for dessert.
- Add veggies to sandwiches.
- Enjoy a fruit smoothie for breakfast or as a snack.
For more tips, visit SpendSmart.
Source: Fruits and Veggies – More Matters
When it comes to a quick and healthy breakfast, a jar of “overnight oats” is a great option. This popular instant meal is convenient, nutritious, and delicious. You simply mix raw oats with yogurt and fruit in a jar or other container, and then refrigerate it overnight.
The benefits are plentiful.
- It’s a whole meal. One serving provides you with food from three of the five MyPlate food groups.
- It’s satisfying. The fiber in the oats and fruit makes you feel fuller longer.
- It saves time. It takes two minutes to prepare overnight oats the night before and no time at all in the morning to grab a healthy breakfast.
- It’s versatile. Overnight oats have limitless flavor possibilities. Ingredients can range from berries and chocolate to peanut butter and bananas. Your oats will never have to become boring.
- It’s a whole grain. We should eat at least three servings of whole grains daily to reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.
To learn about more tasty ways to incorporate whole grains into your diet, visit the Extension Store.
Source: Michigan State University Extension
Everyone has a role in helping to create and support an environment for healthy eating. Try these tips to encourage healthy choices at meetings, conferences, parties, and other events.
- Strive to provide half of the food served from a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruit makes a great dessert. Beans and legumes, such as black beans and chickpeas, are vegetable-based protein sources.
- Provide 100% whole-grain products in a variety of forms such as breads, rolls, crackers, or tortillas. Include whole-grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains as part of healthful salads, mixed dishes, and casseroles.
- Serve smaller portion sizes such as mini bagels, 6-oz. bottles or cartons of 100% juice, or 3 oz. of meat, fish, or poultry. For more information about portion sizes, visit https://store.extension.iastate.edu to download publication PM 3024, How Much Are You Eating?
- Limit availability of processed foods, which tend to be higher in sodium and added sugars. Instead choose less-processed snack options like raw or dry-roasted nuts, fresh fruit, whole-grain chips with healthier dips (e.g., salsa, guacamole, or bean dips), or whole-grain baked products.
- Go green; provide pitchers and cups for drinking water during the event. If needed, offer non- or low-calorie beverages (40 calories per 12-ounce serving). Try water infused with fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs.
Tips for Offering Healthier Options and Physical Activity at Workplace Meetings and Events, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/tips-for-offering-healthier-options-and-pa-at-workplace.pdf
Serving Size: 3/4 cup | Serves: 4
- 1 cup juice-packed canned sliced peaches, drained
- 1 cup juice-packed canned sliced pears, drained
- 6 pitted prunes (cut in half)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- Orange zest (optional)
- 1 cup granola (low fat)
- In a large microwave safe bowl, mix fruit, vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest. Stir mixture.
- Top with granola.
- Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Let stand 2 minutes.
- Spoon into 4 bowls and serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 221 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 60mg sodium, 50g total carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 25g sugar, 3g protein
Source: Snap-Ed Connection
Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 8
8 vanilla wafers
2 cups low fat or nonfat milk
1 box (3.5 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
1 cup fresh fruit (peaches, nectarines, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, etc.)
1. Place one vanilla wafer on bottom of a small paper or plastic cup or a small bowl. Do the same for each vanilla wafer.
2. Pour milk into a bowl, add pudding mix, and prepare pudding according to the directions on the box.
3. Top each vanilla wafer with 1/4 cup vanilla pudding.
4. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 8 hours.
5. Top with washed and cut up fresh fruit just before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium, 19g total carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 17g sugar, 2g protein
This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings
Serving Size: 1 cup | Serves: 3
2–3 cups of fresh or frozen fruit
1 (6–8 ounce) carton vanilla, plain, or fruit-flavored yogurt
1/4 cup milk
3 ice cubes
1. Wash hands.
2. Put all ingredients in a blender.
3. Blend on high speed until smooth.
4. Pour into glasses.
Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 1.7g total fat, 0.9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5.5mg cholesterol, 61.3mg sodium, 31.5g total carbohydrate, 2.8g fiber, 22.6g sugar, 4.9g protein
This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website (www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings).
Serves: 6 (Serving size: 1 toothpick )
• 2 small fruits of your choice (apple, pear, banana, kiwi, grapes)
• 1 8-ounce can chunk pineapple
• 1 6- or 8-ounce container fruit yogurt
• 1 to 2 tablespoons low-fat
1. Wash fruit with cold running water.
2. Drain pineapple juice into a bowl.
3. Cut fruit in wedges or chunks. Dip fruit that turns dark (such as apples and bananas) in the pineapple juice.
4. Thread fruit on skewers or
toothpicks. Arrange on a platter.
5. Stir together the yogurt and whipped topping. Pour into a bowl for dipping.
Nutrient information per serving
60 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 13 g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2 g protein
What is known about cancer prevention is still evolving, but we do know that chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices we make. Some simple changes can make a big difference – such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular screenings.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends we fill at least two-thirds of our plates with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Research shows that vegetables and fruits likely protect against a range of cancers.
Vegetables and fruits may protect against cancer because they contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Vitamins and minerals help strengthen our immune system. Phytochemicals (a.k.a. antioxidants) protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer. Typically, phytochemicals are found in the pigment, which is why eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is important.
Enjoy vegetables and fruits with less sugar and salt—season with herbs and spices. Herbs (leaves of low-growing shrubs) and spices (come from the bark, root, buds, seeds, berry, or fruit of tropical plants and trees) are recommended in place of table salt. The key is understanding how and when to use them.
Each spice or herb has a distinctive flavor, but certain spices and herbs can be grouped together according to a type of flavor:
- Strong or dominant—Includes bay leaf, cardamom, curry, ginger, pepper, mustard, rosemary, sage.
- Medium—Includes basil, celery seeds and leaves, cumin, dill, fennel, tarragon, garlic, marjoram, mint, oregano, savory, thyme, turmeric. Use in moderate amounts (1 to 2 teaspoons for 6 servings).
- Delicate—Includes chervil, chives, parsley. May be used in large quantities and combined with most other herbs and spices.
- Sweet—Includes cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, anise, fennel, mint. Combined in sweet dishes, these may let you reduce sugar.
- Savory—Includes oregano, tarragon, chives, dill.
- Peppery—Includes red pepper, mustard, black pepper, paprika. Use with care because their flavors stand out (approximately 1 teaspoon for 6 servings).
- 4 medium-size tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn
- ¼ cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
- 6 Tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ½ teaspoon apple pie spice or cinnamon
- 4 teaspoons margarine, cut into 4 pieces
- Core the apples all the way through (do not peel them). Place the apples in a shallow microwave safe dish, such as a glass pie plate. (If an apple doesn’t sit upright on the dish, cut a little off the base to flatten it.)
- Microwave the apples, uncovered on high for 6 minutes to partially cook them.
- While the apples are cooking, combine nuts (if desired), brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small dish.
- Carefully remove apples from the microwave oven. Spoon the brown sugar mixture into the center of each apple. Add one piece of margarine on top of the sugar mixture in each apple.
- Return apples to the microwave oven and microwave, uncovered, on high power until the apples are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife (6-8 minutes).
- To serve – place apples in a shallow dessert bowl and spoon the sugar syrup and any nuts over the apples. Allow to cool, but serve warm.
Nutrient information per serving
195 calories, 8g fat (36.5% calories from fat; 1 g saturated fat; 0 g trans fat), 2g protein,
30g carbohydrate (3g dietary fiber; 26g sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 53mg sodium