Top 5 Fruits to Treat Constipation, According to a Dietitian

Top 5 Fruits to Treat Constipation, According to a Dietitian

Constipation is a common digestive issue that affects many individuals. It’s actually the most common digestive complaint in the United States. It occurs when bowel movements become less frequent or difficult to pass. While occasional constipation is usually not a cause for concern, chronic constipation can be uncomfortable and may require intervention.

Fortunately, incorporating certain fruits into your diet can help alleviate and prevent constipation naturally. In this article, we’ll explore what constipation is, its causes, how to prevent or treat it, and the top five fruits recommended by a dietitian for managing constipation effectively.

What is Constipation?

Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week or having difficulty passing stool. Symptoms of constipation may include straining during bowel movements, hard or lumpy stools, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. Constipation can occur for various reasons, including dietary factors, dehydration, lack of physical activity, and certain medical conditions.

Causes of Constipation

Several factors can contribute to the development of constipation, including:

  • Low fiber diet: A diet low in fiber can lead to hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
  • Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake can result in dry and hard stools, making them harder to pass.
  • Lack of physical activity: Regular physical activity helps stimulate bowel movements by promoting the contraction of intestinal muscles.
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement: Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can lead to stool remaining in the colon for an extended period, causing it to become harder and more difficult to pass.
  • Certain medications: Some medications, such as opioids, antidepressants, and antacids containing calcium or aluminum, can cause constipation as a side effect.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C), hypothyroidism, and diabetes, can contribute to constipation.

How to Prevent or Treat Constipation

Preventing and treating constipation involves adopting healthy dietary and lifestyle habits. Here are some tips to help prevent or alleviate constipation:

  • Eat a fiber-rich diet: Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your meals to ensure an adequate intake of dietary fiber.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated and prevent stool from becoming dry and hard.
  • Be physically active: Engage in regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, to promote healthy bowel function and prevent constipation.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to your body’s natural cues and respond promptly to the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Manage stress: Practice stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises, as stress can contribute to digestive issues, including constipation.

Top 5 Fruits to Treat Constipation

When it comes to managing constipation naturally, certain fruits stand out for their effectiveness. Here are the top five fruits recommended by a dietitian for preventing and treating constipation:

1. Kiwi

Kiwi is rich in fiber, particularly soluble fiber, and contains an enzyme called actinidin, which aids digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. Additionally, kiwi is packed with vitamin C, which supports overall gut health.

A study demonstrated that incorporating two gold kiwifruits into one’s daily diet, which equates to a standard serving of fruit, can be as effective as consuming fiber-matched psyllium in treating constipation among adults. Notably, this natural approach exhibited fewer side effects and contributed to improved stool consistency and reduced straining during bowel movements.

2. Pears

Pears are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, making them effective in softening stool and promoting bowel regularity. Incorporating pears into your diet can help prevent constipation and alleviate symptoms of existing constipation.

However, while pears are a healthy choice for many, individuals with allergies or sensitivities to related fruits should exercise caution. Additionally, those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or those following a low FODMAP diet may consider avoiding pears due to their high sorbitol and fructose content. These compounds can trigger diarrhea, especially in children.

3. Bananas

Bananas are rich in potassium, which helps maintain proper fluid balance in the body and prevents dehydration, a common contributor to constipation. Additionally, bananas contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that aids digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.

Bananas can either alleviate or exacerbate constipation, depending on their ripeness. An unripe banana might worsen constipation, whereas a ripe one could help alleviate it. However, the impact may differ based on an individual’s dietary habits and underlying health conditions such as IBS.

4. Prunes

Prunes, or dried plums, are well-known for their laxative effects and are often used as a natural remedy for constipation. They are high in insoluble fiber, sorbitol, and natural sugars, all of which contribute to their effectiveness in promoting bowel regularity and relieving constipation.

5. Apples

Apples contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as natural sugars and water content, making them effective in preventing and treating constipation. The fiber in apples adds bulk to stool, while the natural sugars and water content help soften stool and facilitate its passage through the digestive tract.

Incorporating these fruits into your diet can help promote regular bowel movements and alleviate constipation naturally. Whether eaten fresh, dried, or blended into smoothies, these fruits offer natural and effective ways to manage constipation and maintain optimal digestive health.

If you’re looking for personalized guidance on improving your gut health or addressing any digestive concerns, schedule a consultation with Julie Pace, Registered Dietitian at Core Nutrition Health and Wellness for a customized plan tailored to your unique needs to help you achieve optimal digestive wellness. Take the first step towards better gut health by booking your consultation today.

Powerful Health Benefits of Probiotics, Fermented Foods & How To Get Them

Powerful Health Benefits of Probiotics, Fermented Foods & How To Get Them

Explore some of the most common fermented foods and the potential health benefits they bring. From enhancing gut health to uplifting your mood, these functional foods are more than just a culinary delight; they’re a natural powerhouse of probiotics and enzymes.

Dive in and discover how these unique foods can be a game-changer for your health and overall well-being.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, mainly beneficial bacteria and yeast, that may provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These microorganisms are similar to the beneficial microbes that naturally reside in the human digestive system.

When ingested, probiotics can positively influence the balance of the gut microbiota, promoting digestive health and contributing to overall well-being. They are commonly found in fermented foods and dietary supplements.

Fermentation, a natural occurring process, involves the transformation of food with the help of beneficial microorganisms like bacteria, yeast, or fungi. These microbes feast on sugars and other compounds within the food, creating byproducts such as organic acids, gases, and alcohol.

This not only results in distinct and delicious flavors but also acts as a form of preservation, extending the shelf life of the food. What’s so interesting are the benefits of these functional foods. The fermentation process infuses the food with probiotics and digestive enzymes that can have many health benefits.

Quick Facts:

  • Probiotics: These are the beneficial bacteria introduced or generated during fermentation.
  • Enzymes: These are proteins that speed up chemical reactions, aiding in digestion.
  • Preservation: The acidic or alcoholic environment created by fermentation deters spoilage.

Potential Health Benefits of Fermented Foods

Gut Health

Your gut is not just a digestive organ; it’s a complex ecosystem packed with trillions of microbes. Probiotics found in fermented foods contribute to this ecosystem. Fermented foods benefit gut health by introducing probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, which contribute to a balanced gut microbiome.

These probiotics aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, and maintaining a healthy microbial ecosystem. They also out-compete harmful bacteria, maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, which is crucial for overall health.[3]

Immune Health

Probiotics and a healthy gut microbiome play a crucial role in supporting the immune system. The gut is a significant part of the body’s immune network, housing a large portion of immune cells.

Probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods, help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiome. This balance is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Probiotics contribute to immune defense by:

Enhancing Gut Barrier Function: A healthy gut barrier prevents harmful substances, including pathogens, from entering the bloodstream. Probiotics contribute to maintaining the integrity of the gut lining, strengthening the barrier against invaders.[1]

Competing with Harmful Microbes: Probiotics compete with pathogenic (harmful) bacteria for space and resources in the gut. By outnumbering and outcompeting harmful microbes, probiotics help prevent infections.[2]

Modulating Immune Response: Probiotics can influence the activity of immune cells, helping to regulate the immune response. They promote a balanced immune reaction, preventing excessive inflammation and supporting a more effective defense against pathogens.[4]

Producing Antimicrobial Substances: Some probiotics produce substances with antimicrobial properties, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria and providing an additional layer of protection.[5]

Improving Antigen Presentation: Probiotics may enhance the presentation of antigens (substances that trigger an immune response) to immune cells, improving the immune system’s ability to recognize and respond to potential threats.[4]

Overall, a well-balanced gut microbiome, supported by probiotics, is vital for a robust and effective immune system.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism, but chronic inflammation can lead to various diseases. Probiotics and other bioactive compounds in fermented foods have anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage conditions like arthritis and even heart disease.[3]

The anti-inflammatory properties of probiotics contribute to overall health by helping to manage inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health conditions, and probiotics play a role in modulating the body’s inflammatory response. Here’s how the anti-inflammatory properties of probiotics can benefit your health:

  • Balancing the Immune System: Probiotics support a balanced immune system. By promoting a state of immune balance, they help prevent excessive inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases.

  • Regulating Inflammatory Responses: Probiotics interact with immune cells and other components of the immune system, helping to regulate and modulate inflammatory responses. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with conditions related to inflammation, such as arthritis.

  • Reducing Systemic Inflammation: Probiotics may help reduce systemic inflammation, which is inflammation that affects the entire body. By doing so, they contribute to a healthier internal environment.

  • Protecting Against Inflammatory Diseases: Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers. The anti-inflammatory effects of probiotics may help protect against the development of these inflammatory diseases.

It’s important to note that the specific mechanisms through which probiotics exert their anti-inflammatory effects can vary depending on the strains and the individual’s health condition. Including a variety of probiotic-rich foods or supplements in your diet may contribute to a more balanced and less inflammatory internal environment.

Regulate Blood Sugar

Research suggests that a balanced gut microbiome may have a role in managing blood sugar levels. Fermented foods like kefir and yogurt are shown to have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, which can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.[7]

Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that support gut health, may play a role in the regulation of blood sugar levels. Here’s how probiotics can contribute to better blood sugar control:

  • Fermentation of Dietary Fibers: Probiotics in the gut can ferment dietary fibers, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs, such as butyrate, have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, which is crucial for the proper utilization of glucose.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Chronic inflammation is linked to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. Probiotics contribute to a less inflammatory environment in the gut and the body, potentially improving insulin sensitivity.

  • Influence on Enteroendocrine Cells: Probiotics may interact with enteroendocrine cells in the gut, affecting the secretion of hormones involved in appetite regulation and glucose metabolism. This interaction can contribute to better blood sugar control.

  • Metabolism of Bile Acids: Probiotics can influence the metabolism of bile acids, which play a role in fat digestion. This interaction may indirectly impact glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

  • Production of Bioactive Substances: Some probiotics can produce bioactive substances, such as bioactive peptides, that may have insulin-like effects or help regulate glucose metabolism.

  • Influence on Gut Microbiota: Probiotics help maintain a balanced and diverse gut microbiota. A healthy gut microbiota is associated with improved metabolic health, including better blood sugar regulation.

While research suggests a potential link between probiotics and improved blood sugar control, individual responses may vary. Incorporating probiotic-rich foods or supplements into a balanced diet may be a supportive strategy for those looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

However, individuals with diabetes or other health concerns should consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice.

Mood Enhancer

The gut-brain axis is a hot topic in scientific research. A balanced gut microbiome may impact neurotransmitters and mood-regulating hormones, potentially acting as a natural mood enhancer.[6]

The connection between probiotics and mood enhancement is linked to the gut-brain axis, a bidirectional communication system between the gut and the brain. Here’s how probiotics may act as mood enhancers:

  • Neurotransmitter Production: The gut is home to a large portion of the body’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which plays a key role in mood regulation. Some probiotics, especially certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can influence the production and availability of neurotransmitters in the gut, potentially impacting mood.

  • Hormonal Regulation: Probiotics may influence the production and regulation of hormones, including those that impact mood. For example, the gut microbiota can interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a role in stress response and mood regulation.

  • Short-Chain Fatty Acid Production: Probiotics can ferment dietary fibers to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs may have a role in supporting the gut-brain axis and influencing neural function, potentially affecting mood.

  • GABA Production: Some probiotics have been shown to produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter with calming effects. Increased GABA levels may contribute to a more relaxed mood.

  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation: The vagus nerve, a major component of the parasympathetic nervous system, connects the gut and the brain. Probiotics may stimulate the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the gut and the brain and potentially influencing mood.

Keep in mind, while there is evidence suggesting a connection between gut health, probiotics, and mood, individual responses may vary. Factors such as the specific strains of probiotics, overall gut health, and an individual’s existing mood conditions can influence the outcomes.

Incorporating probiotic-rich foods or supplements into a balanced diet may be a supportive strategy for those interested in promoting both gut and mental health.

However, individuals with mental health concerns should consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and treatment.

Types of Fermented Foods

If you’re new to the world of fermented foods, you’ve been missing out on lots of flavor and health benefits. Here are some popular options: [8]

  • Kimchi: A traditional Korean dish made of fermented vegetables, commonly cabbage, with a mix of seasonings.
  • Sauerkraut: German for “sour cabbage.” Unlike cabbage packed in vinegar, this fermented version consists of finely chopped cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria.
  • Yogurt: Fermented milk or dairy free products enriched with beneficial bacteria.
  • Kefir: A fermented milk drink, similar to yogurt but with a thinner consistency.
  • Tempeh: A fermented soy product that is a good source of complete protein.
  • Miso Paste: A Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans.
  • Kombucha: A fizzy drink made by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
  • Pickles: Fermented cucumbers in a brine of water, salt, and spices.

Simple Recipes with Fermented Foods

Kimchi Fried Rice

You’ll love this plant based kimchi fried rice that’s full of spiciness and flavor made with only 10 ingredients.

Plant-Based Yogurt Ranch Dip

This dairy free good-for-you vegan ranch veggie dip is one of my favorites. With just a few simple ingredients, it only takes 5 minutes to make.

Kombucha Vinaigrette

This super simple make at home Kombucha Vinaigrette adds a little zing to any salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup kombucha (any flavor – we love raspberry]
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • In a jar with a lid, combine the kombucha, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, and sweetener.
  • Seal the jar and shake vigorously until well combined. [Use caution when opening.]
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy with leafy greens or drizzle over your favorite plant-based protein for some zing.

Key Points To Remember

Incorporating fermented foods and probiotics into your diet is a proactive step toward nurturing your overall health and well-being. These nutritional powerhouses offer a multitude of benefits that extend beyond mere culinary delight.

Rich in probiotics, fermented foods play a pivotal role in maintaining a balanced and diverse gut microbiome, influencing digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall gut health. By including a variety of fermented foods in your diet, you not only savor unique flavors but also prioritize your overall well-being.

Are you looking for more guidance on improving your health with food? I’m here to help you meet your health goals. You can reach out to julie@corenutritionhw.com to schedule a consultation.

References:

  1. Tamang, J. P., Watanabe, K., & Holzapfel, W. H. (2016). Review: Diversity of Microorganisms in Global Fermented Foods and Beverages. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7, 377.
  2. Rezac, S., Kok, C. R., Heermann, M., & Hutkins, R. (2018). Fermented Foods as a Dietary Source of Live Organisms. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9, 1785.
  3. Hill, C., Guarner, F., Reid, G., Gibson, G. R., Merenstein, D. J., Pot, B., … & Calder, P. C. (2014). Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 11(8), 506–514.
  4. Mazziotta C, Tognon M, Martini F, Torreggiani E, Rotondo JC. Probiotics Mechanism of Action on Immune Cells and Beneficial Effects on Human Health. Cells. 2023 Jan 2;12(1):184. doi: 10.3390/cells12010184. PMID: 36611977; PMCID: PMC9818925.
  5. Fijan S. Probiotics and Their Antimicrobial Effect. Microorganisms. 2023 Feb 19;11(2):528. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms11020528. PMID: 36838493; PMCID: PMC9963354.
  6. Hemarajata, P., & Versalovic, J. (2013). Effects of probiotics on gut microbiota: Mechanisms of intestinal immunomodulation and neuromodulation. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology, 6(1), 39–51.
  7. Tilg, H., & Moschen, A. R. (2014). Microbiota and diabetes: an evolving relationship. Gut, 63(9), 1513–1521. 
  8. Marco, M. L., Heeney, D., Binda, S., Cifelli, C. J., Cotter, P. D., Foligné, B., … & Ouwehand, A. (2017). Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 44, 94–102.
Brain Health: How To Keep Your Brain Healthy & Your  Mind Sharp

Brain Health: How To Keep Your Brain Healthy & Your Mind Sharp

When a disease or disorder takes over the brain and robs it of its language and memory, the disease takes away you. After all, your brain is what makes you you. While there are some risk factors that are not modifiable, research has shown there are lifestyles practices that you can do to keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp that can help you live a longer, healthier life.

The Brain

You may have heard someone refer to your brain as the “control center” of your body. This would make sense, since it controls every process that regulates your body. Your brain, a corrugated three-pound mass, is a complex symphony of electrochemical reactions that is active every second of every day. Many of these reactions are unconscious. For example, the brain makes the lungs expand when needed and the heart pump blood continuously. It also stores memories, processes sights, sounds, taste and smells and controls emotions and hunger. For those reasons, it’s important to keep your brain as healthy as possible for as long as possible to stave off chronic—often incurable—diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Fortunately, science shows us how to do this.

6 Pillars of Brain Health

Your lifestyle choices have a profound effect on your brain health. For example, what you eat and drink, how much you exercise, how much you socialize, how you manage stress, and how well you sleep are all vital to your brain health.

Your brain health is influenced by these six core pillars:

  1. Physical Exercise
  2. Stress Management
  3. Restorative Sleep & Relaxation
  4. Social Interaction
  5. Physical Health
  6. Food & Nutrition

In this article, we’ll go through each one of these pillars of brain health and discuss specific and actionable strategies that can you can do to optimize and protect your brain health.

Prioritize Exercise For Brain Health, Body & Mind

Exercise is one of the most important daily habits to prevent cognitive decline. While there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for the optimal dose of exercise to optimize your brain health, there are evidenced-based exercises associated with health benefits for the brain. Keep in mind, the best exercise program for one person may be vastly different from that of another person.

Aerobic exercise, also known as “cardio” or “endurance” exercise, helps to get your heart rate up and your muscles warm. Examples of aerobic exercises include biking, swimming, running, and climbing stairs. This type of exercise benefits your brain because it helps to preserve existing brain cells and also promotes the growth of new ones.

Another type of exercise is strength or “resistance” training such as pushing or pulling weights or lifting other heavy objects (like groceries). This type of exercise is to help build and maintain muscles and bones. Strength training also helps your brain by enhancing your concentration and improving your decision-making skills.

Stress Management

If you’ve been alive long enough, you’ve experienced some form of stress. Whether you’ve experienced physical, emotional, or psychological stress, you know what that automatic “flight or fight” response feels like. When this occurs, you may feel your heartbeat pounding in the side of your neck, start sweating profusely, or feel as though you are about to hyperventilate. All of these reactions occur automatically and are initiated by your brain when it detects a threat.

Once the threat is gone, the stress response relaxes and your body and brain can regain their normal stress balance. However, sometimes that stress lingers on for days, weeks, or months and becomes long-term or “chronic” stress. It’s this chronic stress that can negatively impact your brain. Chronic stress can shrink the part of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, that’s responsible for memory and learning which can cause cognitive decline. In addition, chronic stress can increase the part of your brain, the amygdala, that can make you more susceptible to stress.

While you cannot eliminate stress completely, you can learn effective techniques to better manage stress and preserve your brain health.

Quality Sleep For Brain Health

Sleep is essential for keeping your brain healthy and your mind sharp. Without it, you can’t create or maintain new pathways in your brain that allow you to learn and create new memories. In addition, sleep deprivation makes it hard for you to concentrate and respond quickly. Research has shown that a chronic lack of sleep or even poor sleep quality increases your risk of disorders including high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

So what can you do to support quality sleep?

One of the most important things you can do to get enough sleep is to create a regular sleep schedule. By going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day—including weekends and even when you’re traveling—you “train” your body and brain to get on a healthy sleep schedule.

Another strategy to help you get more sleep is to create a relaxing bedtime routine. That routine can start one to three hours before you need to sleep and can include things like dimming lights, putting your screens away, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, or taking a warm relaxing bath.

Stay Connected Socially To Optimize Brain Health

Strong social connections are vital to your brain health. Socializing can stimulate the brain in many ways including stimulating your attention, memory and strengthening neural networks. As you age, it can become more difficult to stay connected, however, it is essential to do so. One study suggest that loneliness can increase your risk of dementia by as much as 40%.

While it can be beneficial to have large social circles, it’s important to remember to choose quality over quantity. Not all relationships are created equal. Stressful relationships or particular social circles can negatively impact your health. Invest your time and energy into relationships that energize you as opposed to the relationships that drain you.

Control Medical Conditions To Protect Brain Health

Depending on your personal health situation, you may be advised to take medications or supplements to manage a health condition. These can be important to reducing your risks for serious conditions and slowing down the progression of diseases. Some medical conditions are linked to the deterioration of brain function these include high blood pressure, diabetes, and excess weight. These conditions can increase your risks of cognitive decline and developing dementia. Therefore, it’s important to prevent or manage these health conditions to ensure the best possible health outcomes.

As always, consult with your doctor and/or dietitian before taking supplements to support brain health in order to decrease your risk of drug interactions and to ensure you are getting a high-quality supplement.

Nutrient Dense Foods For Brain Health

There are several foods and nutrients that promote a healthy brain by slowing cognitive decline and reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic diseases. You may have heard of the MIND diet that’s designed to help prevent dementia and to slow the decline of brain function as you age. The MIND diet emphasizes foods that are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other nutrients that are vital for optimal brain health.

Keep reading to learn a few of the key foods and nutrients that may help boost your brain health.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

One of the best sources of omega-3’s are chia seeds with one ounce providing 5,000mg of ALA omega 3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds contain 3,000mg of ALA omega 3 fatty acids in just 3 tablespoons. Walnuts are another source of healthy fats and ALA omega 3’s. Studies have shown that eating walnuts can have significant improvements in memory and cognitive performance. Am I the only one who thinks it’s pretty interesting how walnuts resemble the brain? Lastly, flaxseeds are a nutritional powerhouse that are also an excellent source of ALA omega 3’s. Chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts can easily be incorporated into your diet.

Plant-Based Nutrition For Brain Health

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Bowl Plants contain more than vitamins and minerals, they’re also a great source of fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Eating a plant-rich diet helps more than your brain, it’s also associated with better heart health and weight management.

Some of the top plants for brain health are brightly-colored fruits and vegetables like berries, leafy greens, and broccoli. You should aim to fill half your plate with a diversity of colorful vegetables to maximize your antioxidant and nutrient intake.

Cocoa & Dark Chocolate For Brain Health

These powerful plant compounds can help improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. Two of my favorite brain foods, cocoa powder and dark chocolate, contain high amounts of flavonols in the form of epicatechin a substance that can cross the blood-brain barrier.

Flavonols are a class of flavonoids that have biological activity such as antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory and vasodilation effects, and have been considered as potential anti-cancer agents.

In order for the brain to function optimally, cerebral blood flow needs to be maintained to support oxygen and glucose supply to the neurons. The main polyphenols that can enhance cerebral blood flow come from berries, cocoa, soya, tomatoes, grape seeds, wine, and tea.

According to research, ingestion of a single dose or a one-week treatment with cocoa rich in flavonol increases cerebral blood flow in grey matter and reverses endothelial dysfunction which suggest its potential in the treatment of cerebrovascular problems.

Coffee & Tea For Brain Health

You may be wondering which type of tea is best to drink for brain health. When it comes to teas, black and green teas contain the most antioxidants. Green tea is one of the healthiest because it’s packed with antioxidants, polyphenols, and a catechin called EGCG. which may boost your brain function.

The EGCG also helps to protect brain cells from oxidative stress in order to reduce your risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.

Likewise, consuming up to two to four cups a day of coffee is beneficial to your brain. Research shows drinking black coffee is linked with the prevention of cognitive decline and can reduce your risk for having a stroke and developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D For Brain Health

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in brain health. You have vitamin D receptors which are found throughout your brain tissue. The biologically active form of vitamin D has shown neuroprotective effects including the clearance of amyloid plaques which is an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. If you are unable to get adequate vitamin D through your diet, supplementation may be needed.

Reservatrol For Brain Health

Reservatrol is a natural polyphenol that’s found in red wine and the skin of red grapes. As a natural food ingredient, multiple studies have demonstrated that resveratrol has a very high antioxidant potential.

Resveratrol may reduce cell damage and protect against the formation of plaques in the brain. However, if you plan on getting this powerful antioxidant from red wine, remember, too much alcohol is not good for the brain, so be sure to drink in moderation.

While there are many resveratrol supplements on the market, due to its poor solubility, bioavailability, and potential adverse effects, it’s best to get your dose of resveratrol from natural food.

Keep In Mind

There are many things you can do to optimize and protect your brain health. They include a number of healthy habits such as getting exercise, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, socializing with others (or with pets), and following recommendations for medications and supplements. When it comes to food and nutrition for brain health, try to get enough omega-3s, more plants, spices, dark chocolate, coffee, tea, vitamin D, and a bit of red wine.

Remember, taking proactive steps to support your brain health can lead to significant improvements in your overall well-being and quality of life. By incorporating these evidence-based strategies into your daily routine, you’re investing in a healthier, more vibrant future. If you’re ready to take the next step towards optimizing your health and protecting your brain, schedule an appointment with our team today. Let us help you unlock your full potential so you can live your best life.

Why Fiber is Important for Your Gut Health and How It  Can Reduce Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

Why Fiber is Important for Your Gut Health and How It Can Reduce Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

About ninety percent of colorectal cancers and deaths are thought to be preventable. Although there is no for sure way to prevent colon cancer, there are things you can do to lower your risk. Eating foods high in fiber, avoiding overly processed foods, exercising regularly, not smoking, limiting alcohol use and cancer screenings are all factors within your control that can significantly reduce your risk for chronic diseases, including cancer. Read on to learn why adequate intake of fiber is essential to nourish your gut health and to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer.

Why Do You Need Fiber?

Fiber and gut health go hand in hand. It feeds the good bacteria in your gut therefore, the more fiber you eat, the more beneficial “good” bacteria you will have in your gut. Another important reason to consume fiber is because research has shown fiber plays a vital role in reducing the risk for colorectal cancer. You may be wondering what exactly is fiber? Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Think of fiber as your best friend when it comes to getting rid of toxins in the body. It can not be broken down so it passes through the body undigested carrying out potential toxins with it. In addition, dietary fiber can provide many health benefits from regulating blood sugar, preventing constipation, hemorrhoids, and even some types of cancers like colon, breast and prostate cancer.

Types of Fiber

There are two types of fiber both of which are beneficial to your health.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help to lower blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Foods that are high in soluble fiber include :

  • oatmeal
  • chia seeds
  • blueberries
  • citrus fruits
  • carrots
  • apples
  • Brussels sprouts
  • sweet potatoes
  • beans

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps move food through your digestive system which helps to prevent constipation and promote regularity. Foods that are high in insoluble fiber include:

  • kale
  • almonds
  • cauliflower
  • quinoa
  • brown rice
  • green beans
  • vegetables

What is Fiber?

The National Academy of Medicine defines fiber as :

  • Dietary fibers that naturally occur in plants that are nondigestible carbohydrates and lignans.
  • Functional fibers that are extracted from plants or synthetically made and are not digestible to provide health benefits.

Fiber and Disease Prevention

Fiber is associated with a decreased risk of developing various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, constipation, obesity, breast cancer, colorectal cancer and diverticular disease. In addition, fiber can benefit the gut microbiome by producing anti-inflammatory effects that alleviate chronic inflammation associated with many health conditions. Dietary fiber may decrease the risk of colorectal cancer by increasing stool bulk, diluting fecal carcinogens, and by decreasing transit time, therefore reducing the contact between carcinogens and the lining of the colon or rectum.

In addition, a high fiber intake has been linked to a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of conditions that increases your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. These condition include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the midsection, and high cholesterol or triglyceride levels.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

Women should aim for 20-25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30-40 grams of fiber per day. Unfortunately, most Americans fall short of meeting their dietary fiber intake with most only consuming 15 grams per day. Consuming a whole food plant-based diet makes getting the recommended daily fiber intake easily attainable.

A plate full of high fiber crunchy colorful veggies with dip.

Tips to Increase Fiber Intake

  • Snack on raw veggies or eat a serving (1/4 cup) of almonds instead of snacking on chips and crackers.
  • Add in beans or legumes at meals to replace meats. Use extra beans or legumes in chilis or soups.
  • Be sure to eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. It is better to blend fruit in smoothies instead of juicing in order to keep the fiber intact.
  • Eat the rainbow (colorful veggies) when making salads. Top salads or oatmeal with 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds, flaxseeds, or nuts.
  • Replace white breads, rice, and pasta with minimally processed foods such as farro, millet, whole grains, and brown rice.

One of my favorite high fiber, anti-inflammatory recipes is my Sweet Pea and Potato Curry Soup. It’s filled with anti-inflammatory spices, plant protein, fresh garlic, sweet potatoes, sweet onions, and coconut milk. It’s so delicious, easy to make, and ready to eat in 30 minutes or less.

To Sum It Up

High fiber foods are great for your overall health. However, adding too much fiber too quickly can cause unwanted digestive issues. Increase fiber gradually over time so that your digestive system can adjust to the change. Remember to drink plenty of fiber with high fiber foods as well. If you need more personalized guidance on how to add more fiber in your diet, schedule a free consultation . Visit the Colon Cancer Coalition to get the facts about colon cancer.

Good Mood Foods to Fight the Blues

Good Mood Foods to Fight the Blues

When you’re feeling down, what do you do to improve your mood? Do you binge watch your favorite movies? Maybe you meditate or go for a run? Any of these can make you feel better or improve your mood temporarily.

But, what if you were able to eat a certain way every day that could reduce your risk for getting depression, or even improve a bad mood after it started? Would you want to know which foods are considered to be “mood boosting foods”? If so, keep reading.

Using Food to Protect your Mental Health

Many people experience depression at some point in their life. Depression can create a major obstacle to accomplish even the smallest of task and can contribute to chronic disease or make existing health problems worse.

When your mental health suffers, your entire body can feel the effects. Fortunately, evidence suggest dietary changes can improve your mood and quality of life and possibly prevent the need for medication intervention.

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry analyzed the dietary patterns and risk of depression in 3,486 participants over a five year period. Individuals eating whole foods reported fewer symptoms of depression compared to those who ate mostly processed foods.(1) In addition, when comparing a vegetarian diet verses an omnivorous diet, vegetarians reported better moods verses the meat eaters, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal. (3)

How can Food Affect your Mood?

We know that what we eat affects us physically, for example, food affects our energy levels, blood sugar, weight, etc. Your mental health may be just as affected by your diet as your physical health.

The relatively new field of “nutritional psychiatry” is finding that the foods and nutrients you eat can improve how you feel emotionally-both in the short and long term. This is because of the complex array of actions that nutrients and foods have on your overall health and wellness.

Food provides you with essential nutrients to make important mood-boosting compounds like serotonin, food feeds your gut microbes, and food can decrease or increase inflammation. Therefore, choosing nutrient dense foods are vital to optimize and protect all aspects of your health.  

Food is often referred to as “fuel” for your body, but actually, what and how you eat has a profound effect on almost every aspect of your physical and mental health. To keep it simple, think of it like this, calories provide fuel to give us energy to move, think, digest, breathe, etc.

Essential vitamins and minerals from food are used to make neurotransmitters (chemical messengers for our brains and nerve cells to transmit messages to each other). Fiber and some starches that is found in plant foods feed your friendly gut microbes that have their own nervous system which communicates with the brain to make neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters and Mental Health

Neurotransmitters have very important roles when it comes to moods. You may have heard of serotonin that has been linked with poor moods and depression when serotonin levels are low. The brain uses the amino acid tryptophan to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter mostly responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.

Several medications prescribed for depression try to improve levels of serotonin. Likewise, food can be used to raise serotonin levels, but without the negative side effects that many medicines cause such as nausea, diarrhea, or even weight gain.

Recent evidence shows that 90 percent of serotonin receptors in the body are located not in the brain, but in the digestive system. Therefore, it is vital to maintain a healthy gut. Tryptophan can be found in plant-based foods such as pumpkin seeds, leafy greens. watercress, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, broccoli, soybeans, and peas.

12 Antidepressant Nutrients

In 2018, in a study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry the authors created an antidepressant food score by conducting a systematic review to derive a list of Antidepressant Nutrients. They compiled a list of twelve nutrients that are considered to have “antidepressant” roles in the body. They include:

  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA)
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Thiamine
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

Top Anti-Depressant Plant Foods

The top four plant foods with nutrients known to support mental health are leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, lettuces and peppers.

  1. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens are super nutritious and are especially high in folate, vitamin C, Vitamin B1, potassium, iron, magnesium, beta carotene, and various bioactive compounds. Examples of leafy greens to include in your diet include:

  • spinach
  • beet greens
  • watercress
  • mustard greens
  • turnip greens

2. Peppers

All varieties are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. All colors of peppers have nutritional benefits, however, red peppers may have the higher antioxidant and phytonutrient levels due to their ripeness. Vitamin C can help to fight off depression and anxiety. They are a good source of phytochemicals such as flavonoids and lycopene which may offer protection against heart disease and cancer. Examples of peppers to include in your diet are:

  • Bell Peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Serrano Peppers

3. Lettuces

Eating leafy greens may slow mental decline. Lettuce may help in lowering cholesterol levels, moderating sleep, reducing inflammation, controlling anxiety, and may provide a consistent supply of antioxidants. As a rule of thumb, the darker the leaf the more nutrient dense. Four main categories of lettuce include:

  • Romaine
  • Iceberg
  • Loose Leaf
  • Iceberg

4. Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. They have many health benefits and are rich in compounds known as glucosinolates, which may help to fight cancer. Certain enzymes in cruciferous vegetables may help protect cell DNA from damage. The chemical chromium this is found in cruciferous vegetables may increase your body’s levels of brain chemicals related to positive feelings, energy and alertness. Some examples of cruciferous vegetables to include are:

  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • kale
  • cabbages
  • argula
  • radish

More Tips to Support Mental Health

  • Add a wide variety of colorful plants to your diet. More color, more nutrients.
  • Choose unsweetened fruits and vegetables over juices.
  • Add more fiber rich foods. More plants in your diet will naturally increase the fiber in your diet.
  • Add Whole grains and legumes which are high in fiber.
  • Include fermented and probiotics rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi, etc.
  • Buy fermented and probiotic foods in the refrigerator section as these contain live active cultures.
  • Reduce sugar intake, by using less sugar and substitute with fruits like berries or cinnamon.
  • Avoid highly processed foods that are in high trans-fat, saturated fat, refined flours, and sugars which are linked to higher levels of inflammation.

To Sum It Up

The connections between what you eat and how you feel are strongly linked. Focusing on eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, legumes and seeds supports mood boosting benefits and may ward off depression. Ultimately, the benefits consuming a wide array of plant-based foods in your diet go far beyond improving your mood including reducing your risks for heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancers.

*If you are experiencing severe depression or other mental health issues, you may need additional therapies beyond food, if this applies to you, consult with your licensed healthcare provider.

The Importance of Gut Health for Hormone Balance

The Importance of Gut Health for Hormone Balance

Your gut is like the signaling hub for all of the other systems in your body. Hormones and gut health are naturally linked. When your gut microbiome is healthy and balanced, it is able to regulate the right levels of estrogen within your body, but when the gut is inflamed or out of balance, gut dysbiosis can drive the production of estrogen in either direction, disrupting the normal flow leading to estrogen related pathologies.

Why is Gut Health Important?

A healthy gut is important in order to keep your hormones in balance. In addition, your gut has many functions that are vital to your overall health.  Some of its functions include:

  • Key player in your immune system function
  • Helps with the absorption of micro and macronutrients
  • Assist with the production and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters
  • Contributes to regulation of estrogen levels in the body

Estrogens are made in the ovaries and in the adrenal glands. In women, estrogens help to regulate body fat, and are essential for your reproductive system, brain health, bone health and cardiovascular health. In men, estrogens help maintain libido and assist in the maturation of sperm.

Therefore, a healthy diverse gut is critical for hormonal balance. However, whenever there is gut dysbiosis, an imbalance of the gut bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, these hormonal imbalances can be associated with health condition such as:

  • Pre-menstrual syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Estrogen-related cancers (prostate and breast)
  • Infertility
  • Heart Disease
  • Mood disorders
  • Endometriosis

Unfortunately, your gut microbiome is delicate and can be knocked off balance easily by many different factors such as genetics, antibiotics, age, weight, diet. alcohol use , environmental pollutants, and more.

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

There are many symptoms of an unhealthy gut that often can be misdiagnosed as something else. As always consult with your healthcare provider should you experience on-going symptoms.

  • Digestive issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea, or constipation)
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Fatigue
  • Skin Irritation
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Weight changes
  • Food Sensitivities

5 Ways to Improve Gut Health and Hormone Balance.

What can you do to improve your gut health and achieve hormonal balance? By incorporating simple and practical nutrition and lifestyle habits daily into your routine, you can improve your gut health and overall well-being.

1. Be mindful of what you put into your body.

What you eat plays a vital role in your gut health and hormone balance. Eating an array of colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in phytonutrients and fiber promotes microbial diversity in your gut.

Not to mention, prebiotics and probiotics play an important role in promoting gut health. They work in tandem together, optimizing gut health. Probiotics are a group of live, active microorganisms, with intended health benefits in the gastrointestinal tract, a.k.a your gut. Probiotics help to ferment, decompose, and digest the food you eat.

Plant-based Probiotics Sources includes:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Water kefir
  • Pickled Vegetables
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Vegan Supplements

Prebiotic are components of non-digestible fibers such as inulin, oligosaccharides, and polydextrose that are found in plant based foods. Prebiotic sources:

  • Asparagus
  • Chicory Root
  • Garlic
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Flaxseed

2. Be mindful of antibiotic use.

Antibiotics can be life-saving, however, according to the NIH, antibiotic use leads to gut microbial dysbiosis-associated diseases. In addition, excessive antibiotic use may also cause damage to your liver. Therefore, when antibiotic use is needed, it may be beneficial to take probiotics during the course of antibiotics therapy, however, it may be best to take several hours apart from the antibiotic.  It is also recommended to take probiotics after a course of antibiotics to help restore some of the healthy bacteria that may have been killed during antibiotic therapy.  Consult with your healthcare provider and/or dietitian for guidance on the use of probiotics while taking antibiotics.

3. Be mindful of your environment.

 Estrogens are prevalent in the environment. Xenoestrogens which are synthetic (man-made) chemicals that mimics estrogen, disrupts your endocrine system, and interferes with your body’s ability to excrete estrogen. Xenoestrogens are absorbed in the body and stored in your liver and fat cells which can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones. These chemicals can be found in common household products like fragrances, plastics, and pesticides. It is important to find ways to reduce or eliminate these toxic substances due to the impact it has on your health and the environment.

Some health risk of xenoestrogens include:

Phytoestrogens are compounds that naturally occur in plants and are found in foods such as tempeh, tofu, and edamame. Many people are concerned with whether or not phytoestrogens can cause breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has noted that human research hasn’t shown harm from eating soy foods- and that eating moderate amounts of soy foods appears safe, even for cancer survivors.

New research suggests that phytoestrogens in soy are selective and don’t have much effect on breast tissue. However, the question still remains as to whether or not phytoestrogens are beneficial or harmful to human health. The answer may be dependent on age, health status, and gut microflora.

4. Be mindful of alcohol consumption.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation. That is up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Alcohol is addictive and when consumed in excessive amounts it can cause dysbiosis, thus having negative effects on your gut microbiome.

In addition, excess alcohol consumption can  impair the liver and its ability to detoxify circulating estrogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, potentially increasing the risk for estrogens related cancers. 

Not to mention, in large amounts, alcohol and its metabolites can overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and liver and lead to damage both within the GI and in other organs. Specifically, alcohol and its metabolites promote intestinal inflammation through multiple pathways. 

5. Be mindful of daily movement.

It is well documented the positive health benefits that exercise can have on your body. Not only can exercise improve your mood, support mental health, manage your weight, reduce your risk for heart diseases, it can also promote a healthy gut microbiome. Exercise is a great way to support liver detoxification, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and lower levels circulating estrogen.

Yoga or exercises that stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system may also be beneficial to hormonal health. If you currently don’t have an exercise regimen, it’s never too late to start one. Try incorporating a little exercise every day or as tolerated. Small simple changes can yield significant results over time.

To sum it up

In summary, your gut is like your body’s engine. Finding the right combination of nutrition and lifestyle habits are key to optimizing your gut health and for your overall well-being. If you are struggling with your diet would like some guidance, book a free consultation http://www.corenutritionhw.com/services with me to see how my services can help you.