Top 5 gut-healing foods you need in your life

Unless you’ve spent the past few years hibernating on a deserted island, you’ve most probably heard about how much of our overall health depends on the health of our gut. If not, this blog post is especially for you! Since 70-80 percent of our immune system is located in our gut microbiome, a complex community of trillions of bacteria, parasites, fungi and yeasts that live in our digestive tracts, it’s no coincidence that a long list of health conditions start there and why gut health is such a hot topic these days.

As a certified Integrative Nutrition health coach, one of the questions people always ask me most is how to deal with uncomfortable bloating, flatulence, food allergies and constipation. The answer is always to start with an elimination diet and replace inflammatory trigger foods with gut-friendly nutrient-dense options.

I base this answer on my own experience having struggled with on and off bouts of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) Since I was 20 and experienced a family tragedy and from my nutrition studies. Over the years, I’ve received all sorts of conflicting advice from the various health practitioners about what to eat and what not to eat.

I’ve tried some ridiculously restrictive diets which, ultimately, were not sustainable in the long-term. I want my clients to be eating a diet rich in diversity, nutrients and flavour - not to be avoiding a list of ‘bad’ foods as long as the Thames!

Thankfully there’s a handful of beneficial foods to eat on a gut-healing protocol, foods that nourish our gut flora, help to maintain balance of good and bad bacteria and reduce inflammation of the gut lining.

Having successfully healed my gut (after a time-consuming, costly and confusing battle), I present to you the Top 5 gut-healing foods everyone – whether or not you struggle with digestion - needs in their life:

1. Bone broth

Boil down organic, grass-fed, free-range beef or chicken bones for at least 24 hours (time to dust off that slow-cooker!) and the result is a delicious, healing elixir that will help to repair the most damaged leakiest guts. Bone broth is an ancient remedy not only for weakened digestive systems, but also run-down immune systems (there’s a reason Grandma’s chicken soup hits the spot) and general wellbeing. Packing a nutrient-dense punch of collagen, amino acids, calcium, gelatine, glucosamine, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, this soothing remedy can be sipped on through the day or used in recipes which call for liquid stock or water (think hearty soups, stews, casseroles). How does it work you ask? Well all the collagen and protein help to repair that leaky, porous gut lining we talked about earlier. Collagen and gelatin in particular help to nourish the gut lining, fight food sensitivities such as gluten and dairy, and help to promote the growth of probiotics in the gut (the good bacteria).

2. Probiotics and prebiotics

To restore our gut microbiome, we want to be eating both probiotic and prebiotic foods daily. Probiotic-rich food sources include fermented and cultured foods: sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, yoghurt, kimchi, olives, apple cider vinegar and kombucha. Dr Liz Lipski, Academic director of Nutrition and Integrative Health from Maryland University of Integrative Health, says it is fine to take a daily probiotic supplement at the same time as consuming a probiotic-rich diet. Now, for our prebiotics. Think of these as your fertiliser: once you’ve added in all these gut-loving probiotic foods, we need to feed and nourish them, and that’s where prebiotics come in! Prebiotics are non-digestible starches that we can’t digest, but our bacteria can – they stimulate growth of intestinal flora and promote general health and wellbeing. Sounds like a win-win situation, especially when they are found in some of the most delicious and nutritious plants: onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, green tea, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, peas, aubergine and legumes. Teff, an ancient and gluten-free seed, is also high in prebiotic fiber and can be used in both its whole form and also as a flour in baking. The thing to remember is, when introducing these foods, do it slowly as initially they can cause some gas and bloating. The same goes for probiotic foods – one teaspoon of sauerkraut or fermented veggies is plenty when starting any gut-healing protocol. Slow and steady does it with probiotics and prebiotics, so add in gradually and as always monitor how you feel and keep a food diary to help you track your symptoms.

3.Bitter foods

Think some of the greenest and most nutrient-dense foods on the planet: kale, arugula or rocket, dandelion greens and tea, mustard greens, chicory, endive, radicchio and watercress. These plants pack a gut-healing punch! That’s because eating bitter foods first activates the tastebuds which stimulates enzyme production and bile flow, which in turn get our digestive juices flowing. And the better our foods are digested, the more vitamins and minerals we absorb from our foods. Bitter greens are bursting with fiber too, which helps to keep us regular and enhance our elimination if you know what I mean. So if you’re ever feeling bloated or ‘backed up’, just munch on some of these leafy greens and you’ll be back to vibrant health stat. Added bonus: these greens are extremely detoxifying and literally bind themselves to heavy metals and toxins in the body which are then excreted in our waste. You can also take a liquid bitters supplement which you drink 30 minutes before your meal, this is particularly useful when you’re travelling and access to fresh produce is limited. Personally I prefer to treat with whole foods, so time to whip up a delicious arugula, mint and pineapple smoothie with a dandelion tea on the side! 

4. Mucilaginous foods 

You may be scratching your head wondering what this strange and long word means. I only recently learnt about mucilaginous foods after attending a lecture by the brilliant David Wolfe. These foods, which include chia, psyllium, aloe vera, kelp and flaxseeds, have a gelatinous, gel-like consistency and expand in the stomach when consumed, absorbing excess water and fluids. You may be wondering how this relates to gut health? Well my friends, these are exactly the kinds of foods we need to be eating to help clean and flush out our digestive tract. Think of these substances as little brooms that go into our intestines (which are about 7.5 meters long!) and sweep away all the toxins and build-up of waste, and who doesn’t want that?! They are also known as nature’s laxatives, so for anyone struggling with constipation and bloating, you know what to do. Enjoy my delicious chia pudding with a mug of chamomile tea the side. Which brings me to my next point…

 

5. Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices

Whenever my clients and I struggle with digestive issues and flare ups, my go-to first line of defence is always nature’s medicine cabinet: herbs and spices. Here are my essential herbs and spices everyone needs in their kitchen, why and how to use them:

  • Cinnamon is a natural sweetener and is delicious sprinkled on top of your nut milk lattes, porridge and chia puddings. My favourite warming drink for the cooler months is a turmeric latte or ‘golden mylk’ made with almond milk and a generous sprinkling of this warming spice. Cinnamon is a natural digestion aid and particularly helpful for loss of appetite, bloating and flatulence.
  • Fennel is one of the best spices for digestive disturbances and can help lessen bloating, flatulence, nausea, abdominal discomfort and pains. Fennel’s natural antioxidant compounds also make it a great lymphatic mover, according to Dr John Douillard. I like to sip on a homemade brew of fennel seeds, dandelion, chamomile and cinnamon to receive maximum gut-soothing and liver-cleansing benefits.
  • Ginger has been shown to support healthy cells of the gut lining and increase the production of good bacteria in the gut. Ginger is an incredibly warming and healing spice which increases our digestive fire, and this is important so that we can break down our foods more effectively and in turn increase nutrient absorption. Include plenty of ginger in your soups, stir fries, curries and smoothies as we move into the cooler months. Not only will it keep your gut happy, it will also warm you up – now who doesn’t want that as the chill factor turns up?!
  • Chamomile is a natural relaxant known as nature’s Prozac because of its calming, stress-melting properties. And this is important because of the gut-brain connection: a calm mind = less symptoms of IBS and leaky gut, and a general improvement in digestive disorders. Sip on chamomile tea before your meals and in the evenings for optimum healing and relaxing benefits. You can also brew a mug the night before and then add to your smoothie the next morning along with some ginger and cinnamon.

 

By Bianca Chaptini

www.biancachaptini.com

Bianca Chaptini is a leading expert in health and wellness, guiding women through their diet and lifestyle challenges to become the best version of themselves. Trained and certified by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a holistic health coach, Bianca regularly delivers talks and workshops aimed at empowering women to take back control of their health. Based in Hampstead, London, with an a-list following, Bianca’s clients are drawn to her practical, down-to-earth, bespoke approach. Health is a journey not a destination, and Bianca’s passion about wellness comes from navigating her own journey to improved wellbeing in all areas. To learn more, please visit www.biancachaptini.com

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Learn To Read Your Food Labels

We’ve all seen them. You’ve probably read one or two. People tell you to read them, but let’s be honest; what are we looking for exactly? You might be already reading your labels. Here’s the question. Are you reading them correctly? That’s right, it’s not enough to just glance at your food labels, you need to read and understand the information. 

There’s a lot more to food labels then energy, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Many so-called, “healthy” foods can have some pretty terrible ingredients. You need to be informed to know what to look for. And if you have food allergies, then it’s even more important to make sure you’re reading all of your food labels correctly. 

Nutrition Information  

The first part of every food label is the Nutrition Information box. The first information you’ll find is serving size and servings per package. Many products will claim 300 calories per serve, and you can mistakenly assume that means the entire package. Instead of assuming, look at how many servings are in the package and then decide how many calories (or kJ) are actually per serve.  

You should also pay attention to the total fat vs. saturated fat. You’re looking for a 3g per 100g ratio or lower. Choose foods with less than 10g of fat per 100g of serve. While you're there, look at the sodium. You should have less than 400mg of salt per 100g (120mg salt per 100g is best). 

Ingredients 

The ingredients are where things can get complicated. All ingredients are listed on the label in order of largest to smaller by weight. This can help you spot foods that might be high in saturated fat, added salt, or added sugars because of the top three ingredients. However, the order isn’t always your best guide.  

Let’s say you’re looking at a cake and the first ingredient is flour, you might think, “wow, that’s great.” The truth is, the first ingredient is actually sugar when you add up all of the ingredients that are sugar by another name. Remember sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose, and juice-concentrate are all other names for sugar.  

There are three simple ingredients you should always look out for: sugar, salt, and fat. When looking at your food labels see if you can find any of these terms and then add up how many different terms appear to discover the true ratio. 

  • Sugar: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, lactose, molasses, syrup, malt extract, raw sugar, brown sugar, modified carbohydrate  
  • Salt: sodium, rock salt, onion salt, celery salt, garlic salt, vegetable salt, MSG, yeast extracts, booster, stock, baking soda, sodium bicarbonate  
  • Fat: Oil, shortening, tallow, lard, dripping, cream, copha, milk solids, monoglyceridesdiglycerides, butter, margarine  

Claims 

Many foods make bold claims: Fat Free, Light, No Added Sugar, High Fibre, etc. What do these actually mean? 

  • Low Fat: 3g of fat or less per 100g 
  • Fat Free: 0.15g fat or less per 100g  
  • No Added Sugar: this food has no ‘added’ sugar but may still be high in sugar so check your label  
  • No Added Salt: this food has no ‘added’ salt but may still be high in salt  
  • Salt Reduced: 25% less salt than a similar product 
  • Low Salt or Low Sodium: less than 120mg sodium per 100g  
  • High Fibre: more than 3g of fibre per 100g  

When it comes to your food labels, don’t be fooled. Never take the word of a claim. Instead, trust what you read on the label and make the best choices you can from there.

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Recipe: Chocolate Avocado Cookies

We have been trying to make these cookies for a while and we are abnormally excited about them!

Avocado is such a great thing to be adding to your Spirit Lifters Cookie mix as it makes them more fudge-like and strangely enough taste 100x richer. These chocolate avocado cookies are so simple and easy to make and they are filled with healthy fats and not much sugar so it won't give you a sugar spike.

 

 

WHAT YOU NEED 

Avocado 

Superfood Bakery Spirit Lifters cookie mix 

 

Egg 

Honey/Agave/Maple Syrup 

Vegetable oil 

Optional: chocolate chips/ nuts 

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 170C degrees
  2. Combine the finely mashed avocado, egg, honey and vegetable oil. These are your wet ingredients. 
  3. Then gently stir in Superfood Bakery Spirit Lifters cookie mix into your wet ingredients. 
  4. Feel free to add chocolate chips or nuts to give it more texture 
  5. Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, add one heaping tablespoon of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top has set (don't over-bake!!)
Enjoy!

 

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What Is It Really Like to Be Gluten-Free?

If you’ve always been curious what it’s like to eat and live gluten-free, this post is for you. While you might think that going gluten-free means that your diet is now boring and limited, that’s not the case at all. We’re passionate about the foods you can eat as well as the health benefits of a gluten-free diet. 

Gluten Free diet

Food Philosophy

Our food philosophy is to eat real, natural and nourishing whole food. Produce that comes out of the ground is incredibly good for you as it's nutritiously richer. Plus, so much of it is gluten-free. You can eat as many fruits and vegetables as you like and there will be gluten in them! And by avoiding packaged and processed foods not only do you avoid gluten, but you also significantly improve your overall diet. You become more aware of packaging labels what they may hide! 

Food Variety

Gluten-free foods come in a huge variety, allowing you to mix up what you eat each and every day. Every meal we try to include a non-starchy vegetable such as spinach or broccoli, a high-quality protein such as eggs, meat, or beans, and a healthy fat such as avocado or olive oil. As for carbohydrates, we prefer whole food sources like berries or sweet potatoes but of course have those smashed avocados on gluten-free breads from time to time :) By eating this way we ensure that we get all the nutrients we need, but we also control our blood sugar and encourage long-term health benefits.

Why We Love Gluten-Free

There are many reasons to love a gluten-free diet. First, it’s improved our digestion. For many people, gluten is hard on your gut. By taking it out of our diet, we’ve experienced less bloating and fewer constipation issues. Eating gluten-free has also helped us feel better emotionally. We believe your gut is your second brain. Its health affects your emotions. If you want to know about your gut consider reading the book by Giulia Enders "Gut"

Gluten-Free Challenges

Eating gluten-free isn’t always easy especially in the beginning and when we eat out at restaurants. Too often, waiters don’t take our requests seriously, or menus don’t have a lot of great options. However, the good news is that awareness of the gluten-free lifestyle is spreading, so it’s getting easier to eat out and still eat gluten-free. Even places like Pizza Express have a wide variety of gluten-free options :)

Transitioning to Gluten-Free

So, how did we make the transition to gluten-free? Carefully! The best place to start is with all-natural, real food. Try filling your plate with veggies, proteins, and fats that are found in nature. Once you do that, you’re already most of the way to a gluten-free diet. And, when you want something like pizza or a delicious cookie, just look for healthier, whole food varieties like our Spirit Lifters Cookies

Sample Gluten-Free Day

What does it look like to eat a day completely gluten-free? It looks delicious!

  • Breakfast: A berry smoothie with spinach, avocado, coconut milk, cinnamon, and pea protein. Or Superfood Bakery Morning Dreamers Pancakes :)
  • Lunch: A three-egg omelet with avocado and kimchi
  • Dinner: A large chicken breast with a side of steamed veggies. And maybe some Spirit Lifters cookies for dessert! 

 

 

 

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Gluten-Free Baking: A Beginners Guide

Are you new to the gluten-free lifestyle and wondering if you have to give up cookies, bread, and muffins for the rest of your life? Don’t be silly! Of course, you can still eat your favourite baked goods, you just have to look at food a little differently.

How do you get started in this new world of baking?

Choose Your Flour

Unless you’re always using our gluten-free mixes, which use buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, brown rice flour, and more, you’re going to need to purchase your own gluten-free flour. We suggest starting with an all-purpose flour blend that’s specially formulated for home bakers. By purchasing a mix, you can ensure that you have the flour that will work well with cookies, cakes, muffins, scones, and more.

Change Your Expectations

If you’ve been baking with gluten your entire life, you might need some time to get used to baking without gluten. Baking gluten-free is not the same process as baking with regular flour. For example, gluten-free bread dough has the thickness of a pancake batter. The first time you see it, you’ll probably think it needs more flour, but that’s not the case; if you add more flour, it will be dense and hard. Instead, throw out those expectations and learn to bake the new way.

Combine Flours

If you decide not to buy a pre-combined flour blend, you’ll probably have to combine flours to make the baked goods you want. In fact, most of the times you’ll have to combine at least two to three flours together to make a mixture that works. For example, to bake delicious cookies, you might need to combine coconut flour with tapioca flour so that your mixture is moist and binds well.

Bake by Weight

To be a confident gluten-free baker, you need to say goodbye to the measuring cups you have and say hello to the scale. Learn to adapt your favourite recipes to ounces, grams, and litres. It might seem complicated at first, but you’ll be glad you made the change. The more exact you become, the better tasting your baked goods will be.

Have Fun 

Baking gluten-free is a learning experience. You’re going to make mistakes. There will be brownies, cookies, and bread that come out hard as a brick and dry and tasteless. That’s okay. Don’t expect yourself to be great right away. Go back to your beginner’s mindset and have fun with your cooking. Experiment and see what works best. Eventually, you’ll make delicious creations every time, but it’s okay to have some issues in the beginning.

Baking gluten-free won’t be the same as baking with gluten, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a nightmare. The truth is that many gluten-free baked goods actually taste better than their gluten counterparts. Gluten-free cakes can be fluffier and better tasting than their gluten counterparts.

So, roll up your sleeves and prepare to learn a brand new way to bake! It will well be worth the effort. 

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