Photo taken by Lauren Volo
The gripping probiotic trend in Americans is a giant nutritional leap in the right direction, for reasons beyond the health benefits. A thriving gut may actually increase one’s happiness (Wallace, Caroline J. K. and Milev, Roumen). So, filling your stomach with microbiome-supporting bacteria can lead to heightened immunity, thyroid support, improved energy levels, reduced joint pain, healthy skin conditions, and more smiles. Fortunately, it’s becoming easier and tastier to add these good mood foods into your diet with simple, everyday life hacks.
We’ve collaborated with renowned RD and best selling author Frances Largeman-Roth to provide you with the tricks and recipes you need to up your gut-health game. Frances served as the Food and Nutrition Director at Health magazine for nearly eight years and has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show and more! Frances shares her recommendations for parents, vegans, and on-the-go professionals.
While probiotics are beneficial across the board, you may especially be in need of a boost if you experience the following.
You Know Your Gut Needs TLC When…
-Your skin isn’t as clear as you’d like: acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc
-You consistently feel like a zombie, despite getting solid rest.
-You have frequent yeast infections
-Your gut is sassy and gassy: constipation, irregularity, bloating, acid reflux, diarrhea
-You feel like a 90 year old version of yourself, complete with aching joints
Good Mood Food
Neurogastroenterology research has identified and conducted extensive research on the gut-brain axis. This is the biochemical link between your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Essentially, there’s two-way communication between your GI tract and your brain in the form of neurotransmitters like adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Improving the GI microbiome may help modulate mood and prevent against low mood, the primary symptom of depression. According to Annals of General Psychiatry and its researchers, probiotics do this by increasing the “growth factor crucial for brain plasticity, memory, and neuronal health that is abnormally reduced in patients suffering from depression”. Further, probiotics increase the levels of tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. It’s also important to give your gut-brain axis extra TLC during times of emotional stress, like a break up.
Prebiotics: The Underrated Sidekick!
Consuming probiotic-rich foods without having the prebiotics to support efficient digestion is like enrolling in advanced calculus in college before taking pre-calc in high school. Actually, it’s probably not that similar of an experience but you get it.
Prebiotics feed probiotics. They are “natural, non-digestible food components that promote the growth of probiotics – good bacteria – in the gut” (Frances). She recommends making this step easy on yourself: look for foods that are high in fiber. This can be as simple as eating fruits and vegetables with your probiotic-rich foods. Prebiotic fruits include bananas, wild blueberries, apples, and kiwis. Asparagus, artichokes, spinach, leeks, and onions are great go-to veggies. Other prebiotic foods include honey, pistachios, garlic, soybeans, chia seeds, flax seeds, kombucha, and wihole wheat foods. You can thank Frances for writing your grocery list out for you!
These prebiotic foods contain a natural prebiotic fiber called inulin. For those with an inulin sensitivity, Frances recommends resistant starch (RS) foods that serve as a healthy alternative. RS foods are carbohydrates that act like fiber, and serve as probiotic fuel as well. Underripe bananas, a variety of pulses (lentils, split peas, beans, chickpeas), oats, cooked and cooled potatoes, barley, brown rice, yams, millet, and polenta are all RS foods that can help those with inulin sensitivities can feed their bellies what they need.
The Dynamic Duo: A Cheese Board!
An example of the dynamic duo, prebiotics and probiotics, crushing it side-by-side is a well crafted cheese board featuring fruit, like red grapes, and aged cheddar. Cheese, with its low acidity and high fat content, is an excellent host for probiotics. The fiber from the fruit allows your body to take advantage of the cheese’s microorganisms, making for one happy belly. Check out The Pioneer Woman’s take on the ultimate cheese board.
Invite your vegan friends to the cheese board probiotic party, too! Homemade, paleo ginger beer, sourdough bread, and a miso spread to top of it off will provide the same benefits sans the dairy.
Prebiotics, check. On-the-go probiotics? Fear not, your gut is in great hands.
On-the-go gut health
Certain dairy products, like yogurt, can be great for your intestines. However, it’s not conducive for your on-the-go lifestyle that takes you from a bus, to a train, to a meeting, to a coffee shop, to your kid’s school, and to the gym – unless you have a mini-fridge that fits in your bag. Frances recommends these vegan, no-refrigeration-necessary ideas for you.
Add pickled veggies to your sandwiches before you throw them in your bag for lunch. Check out Cookie + Kate’s vegan Green Goddess sandwich with quick-pickled red onions and carrots and tangy pickles.
Vegan, sweet potato, kimchi “Good Belly” tacos. Need we say more? Follow this link for the recipe.
Kids Have Intestines Too
And they’re even more important to be aware of because I’ve never heard a kid say, “Hmm, I think my microbiome might be slightly lacking. I should drink apple cider vinegar water with lemon”. If you know of a very in-tune kid like this, send us their resume please. With a little creativity, Frances has found it’s incredible easy for kids to enjoy probiotic-rich foods.
Rev up your blender! In Frances’ experience with her own kids and working with other moms, smoothies are a no-fail option. Check out Frances’ recipe for her kid-friendly strawberry smoothie bowl. For an extra boost, top the smoothie bowl with Plant Protein + Probiotic Almond Butter and Purely Elizabeth’s Probiotic Granola. While you’re at it, sprinkle a pinch of unsweetened cocoa powder of the top. It’s not technically a prebiotic or probiotic food, but it does promote the growth of anti-inflammatory bacteria.
Or add probiotics to kid classics like that everyday after school serving of apples and peanut butter. Frances with her nutrition mastermind has figured out a way to boost this simple, classic treat. She mixes cottage cheese with nut butter. The smooth texture of the nut butter balances the lumpy texture of cottage cheese – and kids seem to appreciate that! For a dairy-free option, mix the nut butter with coconut yogurt. GT’s Cocoyo is a perfectly delicious option for this snack.
Probiotics support your well-being and help you to be your best self, which is why we love functional foods. Let food be thy medicine and be well, friends 🙂
Keep us up-to-date in your holistic health journey! Tag @yumbutter and @franceslrothrd on Instagram. For more amazing recipes, explore Frances’ website. For more reading, check out her newest book, Eating in Color, available as a hardcover or on Kindle.
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