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.
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.
Total time: 15 minutes
Serving size: 1 cup | Serves: 4
- 6 cups Kalettes (about 12 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 475°F.
- Combine Kalettes, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Spread in an even layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast in the lower third of the oven until just tender and browned in spots, about 10 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 108 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 6g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 2mg
potassium, 4g protein
Source: Jan/Feb 2015 EatingWell
It’s not every day a new vegetable is introduced! The newest vegetable to arrive in grocery stores is Kalettes—a cross between kale and brussels sprouts. This new vegetable looks a little like a tiny cabbage with heads that are loose and composed of frilly, green-purple leaves similar to kale (the middle vegetable in the picture). The inspiration behind Kalettes came from a desire to create a kale-type vegetable that was versatile, easy to prepare, and attractive. Crossing kale with brussels sprouts was a natural fit since they are both from the same group, which also includes cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. Kalettes combine the best traits of each of its parent vegetables with a fusion of sweet and nutty flavors.
The new vegetable is the product of more than a decade of research by Tozer Seeds, a British vegetable seed house. Kalettes were created by cross-pollinating brussels sprouts and kale through traditional methods. Look for them at local grocery stores and try them in the following ways:
- Sauté in a large pan for 5–7 minutes, covering for increased tenderness.
- Grill whole Kalettes in a grill basket and place on medium heat for 10 minutes or until slightly charred.
- Enjoy them as a salad. Rinse and slice Kalettes into smaller pieces and top with your favorite dressing.
Find more information and recipes for Kalettes online.
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups stir fry, 2/3 cup instant brown rice | Serves: 4
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 pound lean beef or pork, sliced thinly
- 2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 7 cups chopped vegetables or 24 ounces frozen stir fry vegetables, thawed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Create ginger mixture by mixing ginger, garlic powder, soy sauce, and water. Pour 1/4 cup of the mix into a sealable plastic bag and save the rest. Add meat to the bag. Seal the bag and set it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
- Prepare brown rice according to directions on the package for 4 servings.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large frying pan. When oil is hot, add meat from plastic bag and stir until brown. This will take 1 to 3 minutes. Discard liquid from the bag.
- Remove meat from pan and cover it. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan.
- Add chopped vegetables. Stir and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add cornstarch to the saved ginger mixture and stir until smooth.
- Return meat to the pan when vegetables are tender. Add cornstarch mixture and cook for about 2 minutes until bubbly.
- Serve over brown rice.
Nutrition information per serving: 470 calories, 13 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium, 60 g total carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 27 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).
Serves: 4 (Serving size: 1 1⁄4 cup)
- 1 7.25 ounce package macaroni and cheese mix
- 1 16-ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked beef, pork, or chicken
- 1/4 cup nonfat milk
- 1⁄8 teaspoon garlic or onion powder
- Wash hands.
- Cook macaroni in large saucepan as directed on package. After about 5 minutes, add the frozen vegetables and continue cooking until macaroni is tender and vegetables are cooked; drain.
- Return macaroni and vegetables to the pan. Add the meat.
- Stir the cheese sauce mix, milk, and garlic or onion powder together. Stir into macaroni mixture. (Omit the butter/margarine recommended on the package.).
- Cook over low heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Nutrient information per serving: 360 calories, 5 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 530 mg so- dium, 52 g carbohydrate, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar, 27 g protein
Recipe courtesy of Spend Smart. Eat Smart.