Your Healthy Microbiome

About Lisa Schmidt

Lisa Schmidt is an expert in the sciences of nutrition and behavioral health change. As a nutritional therapist, she specializes in weight loss, healthy weight promotion, and disordered eating. Other therapeutic specializations include grief, loss, anxiety, depression and couples counseling. She is on the faculty of Arizona State University's School of Social Work, teaching courses on Mindful Eating, Sustainability, and Stress Management.

Anti Inflammatory Foods

Choose these foods to keep healthy and encourage the development of a robust microbiome

Have you heard about your microbiome? The trillions of microorganisms living in our bodies are called the microbiome. These helpful bugs are key to our overall health.  They help us digest our food, and provide critical nutrients , train our immune systems, turn genes on and off, keep our gut tissue healthy, help protect us from diabetes, and even cancer.  Other studies show that they play a role in obesity, atherosclerosis, autimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

Plant foods in particular help shape a healthy intestinal microbiome.  The fiber in plant foods promotes the growth of “friendly” bacteria in our guts.  Fiber poor diets (especially those high in dairy, eggs, and meat) can foster the growth of disease-promoting bacteria.  Landmark studies have shown that when omnivores eat choline or carnitine (found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy) gut bacteria make a substance that is converted by our liver to a toxic product called TMAO.  TMAO leads to worsening cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels and escalates the risk of heart attack and stroke.

People who eat plant-based diets, or limit their intake of meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy make little or no TMAO, even when they eat a meat containing meal because they have developed a totally different gut microbiome.  It takes only a few days for our gut bacterial patterns to change, so the benefits of eating plants starts quickly!

Eat to prevent or reverse Diabetes

Eat a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, and healthy mono-and poly-unsaturated fats like olive oil which reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol.This way of eating is an overall food lifestyle, not a short-term diet.

Limit (or eliminate) intake of foods high in fat, especially saturated fat found in all animal products like meat, eggs and dairy.  A high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol is associated with inflammation, clogging the arteries and contributing to a higher risk for diabetes.

Reduce your risk of diabetes and promote your healthy microbiome by adopting this approach to eating and consume more:

  • Dark-skinned fruits and vegetables: These have the highest levels of antioxidants.  Great vegetable choices are kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell peppers, onions, corn and eggplant. Fruit choices include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries.
  • Cold water fish: Beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are found in halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.  If you are avoiding animal products, you can obtain omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources of alpha-linolenic acid such as flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, tofu and soybeans.
  • Nuts: Almonds, pecans and walnuts are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E.  Keep portions modest (about 2 tablespoons per serving), and chew well to maximize digestibility.
  • Herbs and spices:These appear to have protective effects for the microbiome, including the particularly promising spice turmeric; one of its components, curcumin is strongly anti-inflammatory.

Sounds like a delicious prescription worth trying!  Begin today with this easy-to-prepare main dish recipe packed with protective foods!

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

Serves 4

2 teaspoons grated lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Earth Balance spread, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup quinoa, well rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Whisk together lime zest and juice, Earth Balance spread, oil, turmeric and curry powder.  Rinse quinoa in 3 changes of cold water.  Cook in a medium pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes until tender. Drain in a sieve; set the sieve in the same pot with 1 inch of simmering water. Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then with a lid. Steam for 10 minutes. Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed.  Stir in remaining ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste.

 Nutrition information: Calories (per serving) 358; Total Fat 9.5 g; Sodium 52.4 g; Potassium 493.8 mg; Total Carbohydrates 55.8 g; Protein 14.5 g; Dietary Fiber 11.7 g; Sugars 3.4 g

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