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September 2020
September 29, 2020 | Issue #127
Your Health and Gut Microbiome: A Two-Way Street
Did you know that there are trillions of micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa, that live in your gut, collectively called your gut microbiome? Not only do they inhabit your body, they also eat your food! But don’t freak out...We have a complex and important relationship with our microbial community and what we eat affects how they affect us! In fact, only a very small percentage of our gut microbiome is determined by genetics -most of it is shaped by what we eat, and can have profound health impacts. Let’s explore!

While there is still a lot to understand about this complex relationship, increasingly, research shows that our gut microbiota influences everything from our metabolism and body composition, immune and digestive systems, and even our brain and behavior! What we eat can support a healthy, diverse, and well-functioning community of gut microbes or can decrease microbial diversity, and lead to the extinction of beneficial bacterial strains. A loss of microbiome diversity has been linked to many chronic diseases, including diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

Now that we have your attention, you might be asking how you can help your gut microbes not only survive, but thrive?
The answer is both simple...and complex. The simple answer is; Fiber Rich Food!

For happy, healthy, active gut microbes, follow these tips:

Fill up on Fiber
Dietary fiber, found in fruits and vegetables, and other plant foods is the main source of energy for trillions of gut microbes. When these microbes metabolize (eat) dietary fiber, short-chain fatty acids (SFAs) as produced, which keep our gut bacteria happy and active. Additionally, dietary fiber is shown to increase beneficial bacteria that improve metabolism and immune response to intestinal carcinogens and pathogens (aka, dietary fiber plays a role in protecting us from cancer and other disease). So the main take away here is to be sure you include a wide variety of fiber-rich plant foods throughout your day and week.

Of course, as with all foods, it is possible to go overboard as well. For those who experience GI distress (gas, bloating, etc.) when eating a high fiber diet, you may need to start more slowly and train your gut. For you high achievers out there already eating a lot of fiber, we encourage you to listen to your body, and if it is telling you not to eat any more, please don’t! Remember diversity is key here-so it is not only how much fiber you eat. If you currently eat a high fiber diet, but only consume one or two of each fruit, vegetable and grain types each week you can strive for more overall variety. Here are some of our favorite fall fruits and vegetables that provide necessary, delicious fiber:

Apples                                    Cranberries                                         Sweet potatoes
Pumpkin                                 Squash                                   Brussels sprouts
Swiss Chard                Pears

Provide Plant Proteins
Protein, which supplies nitrogen, is an essential nutrient to support microbial growth and production of SFAs, but not all proteins are created equal! While there is room for all foods in a healthy diet, including meat and animal products, leaning more heavily on plant-based proteins will help your gut bacteria function well. In case it bears repeating, research consistently shows that eating plant proteins can help lower our risk of inflammatory bowel disease, heart attacks and strokes, and even many cancers. Some great tasting plant proteins to include are:

Lentils                                        Beans (black, pinto, cannellini, or any bean you enjoy)   
Peas                                          Quinoa                                    Edamame
Tofu                                           Soybeans                                Chickpeas

Fight Inflammation with (Omega-3) Fatty Acids
Our gut microbes regulate absorption and metabolism of fat, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be beneficial in this process. Additionally, the interaction of omega-3 fatty acids and gut microbes are linked to mood and cognitive function and may help in regulating anxiety and depression and also decrease inflammation. Comparatively, a high intake of saturated fats is shown to increase gut microbes that promote tissue inflammation. Sources of omega-3’s include:

Fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, flounder, halibut, anchovy, sardines, mackerel and trout
Flaxseed                                             Chia and Hemp seeds             Walnuts
Soybeans                                            Seaweed                                 Spinach                                               
Go Easy on the Additives
Studies show that some food additives, including artificial sweeteners, can interfere with the gut microbiome’s ability to interact with dietary fiber. These are commonly found in packaged and prepared foods including baked goods, dressing, sauces, frozen meals, meat substitutes, and soups. While these foods can still fit into a healthy, varied diet, making an effort to focus on whole foods and reducing consumption of processed foods that contain additives, is also a good idea. Additives to watch out for:

Artificial sweeteners:             Sucralose                   Aspartame                  Stevia
Other additives found in some candies, chewing gums, and sauces:
Titanium dioxide (E17)                                  Maltodextrin
Recipe Corner
Photo courtesy of Delish.com
Fall Favorite: Spiced Apple Chips
  • Apples
  • Cinnamon

  1. Wash apples thoroughly
  2. Slice apples into thin, even, uniform pieces.
  3. Lay the slices in one layer on a baking tray (don’t overlap the pieces!), sprinkle slices with cinnamon, and bake at 224 degrees for 1.5-2 hours.
  4. Let cool completely. Enjoy apple chips right away or store in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
Back to School Survival (Part 2)
In last month’s newsletter we encouraged you to get your children/family members involved in the kitchen and provided you will specific ways to simplify that process and your workload in getting meals and snacks prepared for everyone. If you missed that, you can go back and read it now. We will now move on to lunch packing, which in the year of COVID quarantine, 2020 may at first seem like an odd topic, but we think you will soon agree is as important now as ever!

Pro Tip: Pack a Lunch, Even if No one is Leaving Home
While it may seem like an unnecessary step to prep and pack lunch on days you will be working from home and children will be learning from home, we beg to differ. While you’re busy rushing from one Zoom meeting to the next, or helping your child stay on task with digital assignments, the last thing you need to expend valuable brain power and time worrying about is the question, “What’s for lunch?” or worse… Finding out last minute that you have no food in the house to eat!

We guarantee it will save you both time and stress when you “pack” (or prep) lunch in advance each day. Some benefits include:
   Reducing disruption (and stress!) in the middle of your day for food preparation
   Setting a consistent routine for you and your children
   Bonding time with your child(ren) by choosing to pack lunch together
   Increase gut health and immunity by choosing a variety of foods to pack in your lunch (see article on gut health in this newsletter for more on that).

Pro Tip: Simple ideas to make packing lunch easier:
   Create a routine! Choose a specific and set time each day to pack lunch and stack it onto another habit you already have. For ex, while your morning coffee is brewing, or immediately after dinner - before you pack up leftovers and get to the dishes.
   Make extra dinner specifically to have leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. For example, make extra chicken for dinner, then use it in a sandwich or salad for tomorrow’s lunch or bake extra potatoes to use as a base for loaded lunch potatoes.
   Choose containers that have individual compartments, (Any Bento style boxes will do; one example we love is called Planet Boxes). Bonus: Use them as a tool to teach your kiddos (and possibly train ourselves) to use specific compartments for spec fit types of foods to help seamlessly plan balanced meals. For ex, then top right = for fruits, bottom right = for veggies, top left = for protein (chicken or beans or edamame) Nd bottom left = for carbs.
   When possible, let your child help plan the grocery list and pick which fruits and vegetables they want in their lunch knowing that if they choose them, they are more likely to eat them.
   Try a picnic/snack lunch! Lunch = not only for sandwiches or salads; you can let each family member choose what they want as they fill each category; fruit, veg, protein, carb. One might choose strawberries, carrot and celery sticks, hummus, cheese and crackers, while another may choose sliced apple, cherry tomatoes, sliced turkey, and nuts!

While we hope this helps make this fall a bit easier for all of you, we know you may now have many questions. Please let us know how we can help!
Reach out by email: info@nutritionenergy.com or on social @NutritionEnergy and ask away!
A Note From Lauren
In the blink of an eye, fall has officially begun! As we transition from the hot, humid days of summer to the cold, crisp days of fall, we look forward to cozy sweaters, falling leaves, and warm, filling meals. Can you smell the cinnamon in the air? Maybe it's just me...

During a 'normal' year at this time, we'd be preparing for the annual New York Marathon (I know...sigh). Just because it won't be the same without the crowds, the city energy, and your fellow runners surrounding you, doesn't mean you should skimp on your training. Luckily, virtual events are on-going and can still give you the finish line you crave. Remember to treat each run as a building block of the actual event. Make sure to take the time to hone in on your stretching, your hydration, and your nutrition. These items are just as important as your running shoes and can make or break your performance on the day. Please reach out to your coach, your teammates, and the NE dietitians to help you prepare!

What event are you training for? Did you cross the finish line of a recent virtual race? Tag us in your social media updates or let us know on Twitter @NutritionEnergyInstagram, or Facebook!

Lauren Antonucci
Nutrition Energy