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December 2020
December 22, 2020 | Issue #130
Holiday Fun and Contest!
Nutrition Energy’s First Ever Gingerbread House Decorating Competition!

During this holiday season we invite you to get baking and get creative with us! We challenge you all to a gingerbread house making and decorating competition.
The rules of entry are simple; make a gingerbread house, decorate it, and share it with us on social media you tagging us @nutritionenergy with the hashtag #nutritionenergycontest and you are entered.
We have no idea how many entries we will receive (5...or 500?), but winners will be determined by popular vote on Instagram, so get baking, start posting, tag us @nutritionenergy and invite your friends and family to vote for you.

*All eligible votes posted by 12/31/2020 will be counted
*To be eligible for prizes, submitters must follow and tag @NutritionEnergy on Instagram
*One vote will be counted for each voter who follows @nutritionenergy and likes your photo
* Winners will be announced the first week of January 2021!
    $50 gift card to one of our favorite companies, Oiselle
    One free copy of Lauren Antonucci’s forthcoming book, Performance Nutrition for Masters Athletes (due out February, 2021)
    $20 Starbucks Gift Card
Good luck and happy baking!
How They Relate To Our Immune Function, GI tract, and Athletic Performance 
Keeping our immune system in tip-top shape has always been important to help us battle colds and various infections. Due to the pandemic, our immune systems are on our minds more than ever before. Some ways we can keep our immune system healthy are by exercising regularly (but not excessively), consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, and washing our hands frequently (which we certainly hear a lot about these days.)

Another way we can boost our immune system is by keeping the microorganisms in our gut (aka our gut microbiome) happy with the help of some healthy bacteria called probiotics. The FAO and WHO define probiotics as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”* The four main classes of probiotics are Lactic Acid Bacteria, Bifidobacteria, Spore-Forming Bacteria, and Yeast. While this exciting topic and the full range of health benefits probiotics can provide is still being researched, two major roles we know they play are within our GI tract and supporting our immune system. Research shows that probiotics can benefit our GI tract by preventing and treating diarrhea, whether it’s caused by IBS, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease. Probiotics can also benefit our immune system by increasing the production of antibodies as well as the number of immune cells in our bodies.
Probiotics and Athletes
All of our bodies are unique, and this certainly extends to our gut microbiome. Individuals' microbiomes are based on the collection of microorganisms that reside there and the possibilities are endless. One group whose microbiome has been heavily researched is the athletic population, who have, in general, been shown to have a diverse and robust microbiome. As to why this is the case...studies show that those who are very physically active are seen to have “a higher abundance of health-promoting bacterial species, increased microbiome diversity, greater relative increases in metabolic pathways (such as carbohydrate metabolism) and fecal metabolites."* These changes are most likely linked to diet and exercise altering the microorganisms within our gut to work more efficiently.
Probiotics and Immunity
Our GI tract and our immune system are closely linked, with the GI tract being an important protectant of our immune system. Keeping our immune system at its best requires adequate sleep, stress reduction, and a wide variety of plant foods to fuel our gut microbiome. in addition, athletes put themselves at a higher risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and other illnesses following long and strenuous athletic endeavors and races such as marathons. Additionally, training in excessively hot or cold climates, traveling, and/or exposure to others may also lead to a decrease in immune function. Now more than ever, athletes and most individuals are interested in reducing their risk of upper respiratory infections while we all navigate life and training during the COVID pandemic.
A recent review article on this topic explains that Twenty-two studies have looked at probiotic supplementation and the immune system within the athletic population, with 14 of them showing significant results. These studies have shown that various strains of probiotics may help decrease the number of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) athletes experience as well as their severity and how long they last. So even if you haven’t run a marathon lately (or ever!); global pandemic + higher stress + training = time to think about probiotics and your gut.

Avoid Overtraining to Protect your Gut and Immune System
While the benefits of training are numerous, they can all be lost if we overtrain, do not get enough sleep, and/or under fuel our bodies. As athletes, we understand that strenuous and prolonged training puts stress on our bodies. What might surprise you is that much of this stress falls on the GI tract, which can, in turn, affect our gut microbiota and performance. Many athletes can relate to experiencing unwanted GI symptoms including abdominal cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. These symptoms can greatly affect the way we perform and train, so keeping our training in check and our gut happy should both be high priorities.
Probiotics in Foods
Probiotics can be found in many foods, and also in various supplements. You may have heard that fermented foods, such as kimchi, sourdough bread, and pickles contain these live microbes that may be beneficial to our health, and that is indeed correct! Unlike vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and Vitamin D, there are no specific daily recommendations for probiotics. By making an effort to buy and include more fermented food products in your diet, you will be helping your gut. Yogurt is one of the most popular fermented foods known for containing probiotics, but not all yogurt contains probiotics. When looking for a probiotic yogurt, be sure to check the label for “live and active cultures.” Another great probiotic-rich food we can consume is Kefir, a yummy fermented drink, which is rich in live active bacteria. Both of these foods can be enjoyed on their own, with fruits, nuts and/or seeds, or in a smoothie. Additionally, all plant foods ( due to their fiber content), will help fuel your gut’s good bacteria to grow and thrive, and therefore contribute to your immune function, gut health and performance.
Probiotic-rich foods include:
    Sourdough bread
Who Should Consider Taking a Probiotic Supplement?
    Athletes during heavy training blocks and leading up to competition
    Athletes training in hot or cold climates
    Anyone experiencing high stress
    Individuals following a high protein diet
    Individuals who suffer from GI issues (diarrhea, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis…)
Since probiotics help our gut microbiota flourish and enhance our immune system, they may have the potential to aid in athletic performance and exercise adaptation. Research on the effects of probiotics on athletic performance is still in its infancy; of 24 recent studies on the effects of probiotics, only 7 reported a significant performance improvement. The lack of more consistent significant results was likely due to variables including different types/strains of probiotics used, variations in supplementation period, and lack of dietary control in many. While more research is certainly needed, the following benefits have already been noted.
     Single-strain probiotic supplementation may increase aerobic performance
     Multi-strain probiotic supplementation may increase VO2 max, aerobic power, training load, and time to exhaustion
     Probiotic supplementation along with adequate protein can aid in faster recovery and decrease muscle soreness during heavy resistance training
Probiotics in Supplement Form
Probiotics can be found in capsules, tablets, powder, and even liquid form. If you are dealing with GI issues (diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) and are looking to improve your gut microbiome, you may want to consider adding a probiotic to your daily routine. Look for a probiotic supplement that contains the genus Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and/or Saccharomyces boulardii as they are the most highly researched and have shown the most promising results.
New and promising research shows that Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bacillus coagulans are associated with improved performance and recovery.
Finally, Lactobacillus fermentum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus helveticus have been shown to improve immune health.
One Probiotic supplement that contains some of these strains and species include Previnex Probiotic, and would be great for those who suffer from GI issues, athletes, or those who just want to consume more probiotics within their diet. This product contains Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Click the link to check it out: https://www.previnex.com/probiotic and use code, Nutritionenergy15 to save 15% off your order.
For those who suffer from GI issues such as IBS or ulcerative colitis, VSL Pharmaceuticals has probiotic supplements called VSL#3 to help target these conditions. This products contains Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus helveticus.
What About Safety?
Probiotic supplements are considered safe for the general population, but as with all supplements, (and especially for anyone with an underlying medical condition 786or who is immunocompromised), it is best to speak with your doctor and dietitian before starting supplementation in order to make sure you are taking a reliable product and one that is most likely to help you with your specific goals and medical needs.
*Jäger, R., Mohr, A.E., Carpenter, K.C. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Probiotics. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 16, 62 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-019-0329-0
Around the World With Food:
Celebrating December Holidays with Appetizer Fun
December is finally here, and with that the end of 2020 is finally upon us! As we continue through yet another holiday during this pandemic, we continue to try to create new traditions and holiday fun everywhere we can. Since December is full of holidays and traditions, including Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, we’ve decided to cook around the world this December, and hope you will join in the fun.

Hanukkah is the first December holiday, which started on the evening of December 10th and ended on the evening of December 17th. A traditional and popular food eaten is latkes. Latkes are delicious pancakes made with potato and fried in oil. They are popularly eaten with sour cream or applesauce, but the possibilities are endless. One of our Nutrition Energy dietitians, Vanessa Chalme, turned hers into lake sushi earlier this month and it looked amazing!
Start with the traditional recipe and then get creative from there.
Please share your dishes with us on Instagram @NutritionEnergy.
Latkes  (Makes 20)
    2 large eggs
    Kosher salt
    2 pounds Russet potatoes
    2 medium onions
    ½ cup matzo meal
    8 tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl, mix together eggs, 1 tsp. salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Using a large grating disk in a food processor or the larger holes on a box grater, grate both the potatoes and onions. Add to the bowl with the eggs, and mix together, then add ½ cup matzo meal. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Place 5 large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, about ¼ cup each. Flattened each spoonful to create the pancake look, and cook until golden brown and crispy (4-6 minutes each side). Once done transfer to a wire rack or onto a plate with a paper towel. Repeat with the remaining mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

Vanessa Chalme, RDN’s Spin on Latkes:
Tuna tartare
    Raw tuna sushi grade, chopped
    Olive oil
    Soy sauce, ~ 1-2 tablespoons
    Sesame oil, 1-2 tablespoons
    1 avocado, cubed
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Sesame seeds
Add tuna, olive oil, soy sauce and sesame oil into a bowl and mix. Add cubed avocado. Then add salt, pepper and sesame seeds to taste.
Spicy mayo
    Regular mayonnaise
    Sesame oil
In a bowl combine mayonnaise, sriracha and sesame oil, then mix to combine.
The next December holiday held on December 25th is Christmas. Christmas food traditions are endless, with everyone putting their own twist on their Christmas day meals. One fun and a simple appetizer we plan to try this year is a Caprese salad- made into a candy cane. This dish will serve double duty as both a tasty dish and a festive work of art on your table.
Candy Cane Caprese Board
    Vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced
    Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
    Fresh basil leaves
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Balsamic vinegar
    Balsamic glaze
    Salt and pepper
 On a large platter arrange alternate slices of tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil to form the shape of a candy cane. By overlapping these ingredients it will form the colored stripes of fun and festive savory candy cane. Right before serving, drizzle some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and balsamic glaze over it. Sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste.
Kwanzaa is our final December holiday, starting this year on December 26th and ending on January 1st. Kwanzaa food traditions come from all over Africa and also include African-American traditions and can vary greatly. One of the symbolic foods surrounding this holiday is sweet potatoes. A fun and delicious appetizer we are adding to our holiday meal is Sweet Potato Peanut Soup.
Sweet Potato Peanut Soup
Serves 8:
    3 tablespoons peanut oil
    2 tablespoons curry powder
    1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    3 cups chopped tomatoes, seeded
    Salt and ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    2 cups natural smooth peanut butter
    2 sweet potatoes, baked until tender, peeled, cut into large chunks
    8 cups vegetable broth
    1 cup coconut milk
In a stockpot heat the peanut oil over medium heat. Add the curry powder, stir, and cook until fragrant. Add the onions, stirring, and cook until tender (~5 minutes). Then add the garlic and tomatoes, stirring them for about 3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir in the peanut butter until fully incorporated, and then add sweet potatoes, broth, and coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a vigorous simmer, and then reduce the heat to medium-low, continue simmering for 10-15 minutes. Remove the stockpot from the heat, and using an immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor) puree the soup. Then transfer to bowls and enjoy!
A Note From Lauren
During this time of year, we are surrounded by food, lights, (sometimes) snow, and typically presents. While we have all had our own struggles and individual challenges this year, we also have much to be grateful for. Identifying and giving gratitude for the simple yet wonderful things in our lives can provide us so much joy. As we transition into the new year, my wish for you is to hold on to and celebrate those amazing aspects of life that make us who we are.

Enjoy the last few days of 2020 - every bite of the specials dishes you only eat the holidays and the special time you have with your family (whether in person or virtually). The new year will be full of new challenges and wonderful beginnings but don't overlook this time of relaxation and reflection. Allowing ourselves to re-center and rest provides us a much-needed and often overlooked mental and physical break, which will help us when the stress of the new year begins.

What is something you are grateful for this year? What are some of your favorite holiday dishes? Tag us in your social media updates or let us know on Twitter @NutritionEnergyInstagram, or Facebook!

Lauren Antonucci
Nutrition Energy