What are the best vegetables for feeding your gut ?

Eating six serves of vegetables a day is a good way to feed your microbiome but are there better choices ? Actually it depends on what is going on with your gut so lets look at six different types of prebiotic fibres from vegetables. They all have different roles so the activity should give you an idea of what may be helpful for you and then you can determine if you may need to increase your consumption of one of these groups.

Six types of prebiotic fibres are inulin, pectin, galactooligosaccharides (usually referred to as GOS) , arabinoxylan, resistant starch and proanthocyanidins.

Inulin is found in artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions and leeks, bananas, grapefruit and peaches. Inulin as a prebiotic fibre decreases the desire for sweet and fatty food and increases the feeling of fullness after a meal. A small study reported by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 3.8 fold increase in the beneficial Bifidobacterium from consuming inulin for 3 weeks. (Vol 109, Iss 6, June 2019, pp1683-1695).

Pectin is found is peas, beans, carrots, potato, beetroot, tomato, eggplant, lentils and pumpkin as well as fruits such as banana, apples, berries, pears, apricots, lemons and kiwifruit. Increasing foods containing pectin is associated with an increase in the range of bacterial species in the gut as well as a specific increase in beneficial strains such as F praausnitzii which is anti-inflammatory. It is also considered a marker for good gut health.

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) are found in most legumes such as green peas, lentils chickpeas and beans as well as nuts like hazelnuts, cashews and pistachio. GOS has a role in reducing IBS symptoms in particular bloating and flatulence and it also increases the level of beneficial bacteria. (2).

Arabinoxylan is found in almonds, bamboo shoots, brown and white rice, flaxseeds and sorghum. It is anti-inflammatory, reduces cholesterol and improves insulin sensitivity as well as increasing the beneficial levels of Bibfidobacterium Longum.

Resistant starch is found in most legumes as well as potato, sweet potatoes, taro, plantains, greenish bananas, sorghum and brown rice. The levels of resistant starch are also higher if root vegetables such as potato are allowed to cool and then served as a potato salad. Resistant starch is so called because it doesn’t get broken down in the small intestine but is partially broken down further in the bowels and serves as a useful food for bacteria in the large intestine. Its primary role seems to be to feed bacteria so they can produce butyrate. Butyrate is a useful fuel for the cells so it helps them stay healthy and resistant starch may also assist in the maintenance of healthy cholesterol.

Proanthocyanidins are found in almonds, pecans, hazelnuts peanuts, pistachios, pecans, cinnamon, sorghum, berries, cranberries and plums as well as dark chocolate. Proanthocyanidins have a number of health benefits due to their anti-oxidant status however the impact on the microbiome may also explain some of this benefit. These nutrients have an anti-microbial impact which may reduce problematic species such as helicobacter pylori (known for its role in causing gastric ulcers) and also through their prebiotic effect they increase beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium (3)

Generally speaking ensuring you are eating a range of vegetables as well as a small serve of nuts and some berries may be the optimal approach for maintaining a healthy gut.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments with her on (02) 8084 0081 or online at her website www.elementalhealth.net.au .

1. Prebiotics , Definitions, Types, Sources , Mechanisms and Clinical

applications. Accessed. at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6463098/

2. The effects of a trans-galactooligosaccharide on faecal microbiota and symptoms in IBS. Accessed at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19053980/https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19053980/

3. The Gastrointenstinal Tract as a key organ for the Health Promoting effects of Proanthocyanidins accessed at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2016.00057/full#h1

Therapeutic Juicing

Juicing is a useful way to increase nutrients in the diet and can also be used therapeutically. There are many foods which you can use with health benefits and a regular juice can be a good addition to your diet. It can also be a good way to get your three cups of vegetables daily. Here are three of my favourite combinations that you may find helpful.

Celery juice is known for its benefits in reducing fluid retention however what do you use if you can’t stand celery? My first juice is a delicious blend and can easily be adjusted for specific preferences. Key is the pineapple and cucumber. Papaya is also helpful for fluid retention (and improving digestion) but you can increase other ingredients to compensate if you don’t have papaya handy.

Fluid Retention

  • 1 cup chopped Pineapple
  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • 1 Apple (green or red)
  • 1/2 cup papaya
  • 1 cup green spinach

Pineapple is a good source of bromelain which is useful to reduce inflammation and fluid retention. If you don’t have papaya add a little more pineapple. If using organic food then you do not need to peel the cucumber or apple.

Place in the blender or juicer and blend until smooth. You may need to dilute a little with water.

This next juice is a good way to get an energy boost in the afternoon as well as generally increasing vegetable intake in the diet generally. I do like to add a little ginger but that may not appeal to everyone.

Energy Boost

  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 small beetroot
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 2 Apples

Peel the carrots and beetroot and then juice with the celery and apples. A delicious addition is a small knob of ginger.

One of my favourite social media sites for new recipes is Simple Green Smoothies and they also provide great information on how to blend to make a good green smoothie. The basic recipe is as follows;

  • 1 cup leafy greens (spinach or kale)
  • 1 cup of liquid such as coconut water, nut milk or dairy
  • 1 cup of fruit (having it frozen makes it easier to store)

Blend the greens initially and then add liquid and mix through. Follow up with fruit and blend until smooth and creamy.

Do you have a favourite juice recipe please feel free to share in the comments below.

Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make appointments on 8084 0081 or online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Easter cooking gluten free.

This Easter weekend with so many of us stuck at home it could be a good time to try your hand at cooking a few new things themed around the holiday. For example fish pie for Good Friday which is usually a fasting day in Catholic households which translates as no meat. Saturday could be about some gluten free hot cross buns and Sunday might be time to get out the big guns with some gorgeous sides for the prawns and ham. Monday you will probably be living on leftovers but these easy banana muffins could be a nice addition to breakfast or afternoon tea.

The fish pie recipe is from Taste.com and uses almond milk in place of dairy. The gluten free hot cross bun recipe is from the Healthy Chef. Some healthy sides for Easter could include the following;

Roast vegetables with chili jam

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 red and 2 yellow capsicum
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 medium zuchini

Slice vegetables thinly and halve tomatoes. Spray with olive oil and bake uncovered in hot oven 20 minutes. (200 C) Turn and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Chilli Jam

  • 1 medium onion chopped finely
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 4 large tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 80ml dry sherry
  • 2 chilis seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar

Combine ingredients in large pan and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve with roast vegetables.

French beans provencale

  • 500 g green beans
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp parsley

Wash beans, top and tail. Steam until tender Meanwhile heat oil in saucepan , stir in garlic and parsley and a pinch of salt. Add beans and toss until well combined.

Warm Cherry Tomato Salad

  • Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablesp Honey
  • 1 Tblesp oregano, tarragon and basil
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 6 shallots
  • 2 punnets cherry tomatoes
  • Vinaigrette – 2 Tblesp Balsamic, 1 Tblesp Olive Oil and 1 tsp mustard.

Heat oil stir in honey and herbs. Add onion and brown stirring constantly.. Lower heat and add tomatoes and stir gently. Serve warm and sprinkle with vinaigrette and chopped basil.

Vinaigrette – combine oil and mustard and beat in balsamic vinegar.

Gluten Free Banana Muffins

  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (add to sugar)
  • 50 g butter
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free self raising flour or 1 cup gluten free self raising flour plus 1/2 cup of almond meal or coconut flour (coconut gives it a nice moisture)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup choc chips preferably dairy free (or 1/2 cup frozen raspberries)
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Melt butter, mix in sugar and then egg. Add in alternately flour and bananas and stir well. Then add in the choc chips. Spoon mixture into 12 muffin cases or greased muffin tray. Cook 15-20 minutes at 180 Celsius. Muffins should be lightly browned when cooked.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist who practices at Elemental Health at St Ives. Her favourite tool for finding new recipes is googling ingredients.

Okra – mucilaginous veggie

Okra is an unusual vegetable as it contains a mucilaginous gum which thickens stews and casseroles. It is known for its use in gumbo in Creole cooking however it has a wider range of uses and is worth including on a more regular basis.

A small study of okra conducted in 2013 (1) showed that okra reduced the production of fat and increased the breakdown of cholesterol. The only other food with a similar cholesterol lowering effect is oats.

Nutritionally okra has a high level of Vitamin C and folate as well as moderate levels of magnesium and potassium.

Looking around for recipes for okra I was focussed on finding a breakfast option to copy the one I had enjoyed in Fiji at a breakfast buffet. What I did find was some really useful side dishes which would add flavour to any meal.

1 Roast sweet potato and okra this is a good combination of flavours and additional vegetables as a side for grilled meats.

2. Tomato and okra stew a filling side dish or a tasty breakfast option.

3. Okra and Potato Hash this would make a good breakfast option as well as a side dish.

4. Easy Roast Okra this is a simple roasted version with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Of course no blog on okra would be complete without a gumbo recipe and this chicken and chorizo gumbo from Taste.com looked straightforward.

Let me know whether you find okra is a worthwhile addition to your vegetable intake after you have tried the recipes.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. You can make appointments on 02 80084 0081 or online at the website .

(1) Hypolipidemic activity of okra is mediated through inhibition of lipogenesis and upregulation of cholesterol degradation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23606408

Carrots – seasonal veggie inspirations

Carrots are a versatile vegetable and nutritionally a great source of Beta-Carotene, Vitamins B6 and K as well as minerals such as potassium . The beta carotene in carrots can be converted to Vitamin A. They are also good food for the microbiome as the soluble starch in carrots is largely pectin.

Carrots have the advantage of being ideal raw or cooked. Carrots are available year round and are usually very reasonably priced so a great addition to the weekly shop.

How do you include carrots in your meal plan? Well in addition to being a great side dish on their own they combine well with so many flavours to add to a meal. Often the base of many casseroles or pasta sauce is to start by sauteeing carrot and onion as these “fragrant” vegetables add to the flavour profile of a dish. Adding a carrot can be a good way to increase the quantity of vegetables in a dish.

Here is a list of recipe suggestions for including more carrots in your cooking. Some of these are from recent blogs and others are just recipes I use all the time at home. Carrots are also a favourite to add to roasts as they absorb flavours beautifully specially if you cook them with the lamb or chicken.

Turkey Mince bolognaise – turkey mince is a good light option for pasta sauce.

Carrot and Apple Salad – an easy and quick combination from Carol Ray with walnuts and a lemony dressing. A nice change from coleslaw.

Carrot Pumpkin and Coriander Dip this is a slightly spicier combination but makes a really interesting change from humuus.

Carrot and Onion Side Dish

  • 500 g carrots peeled and cut into rings
  • 2 brown onions peeled and sliced in thick rings
  • 2 Tblsp fresh chopped continental parsley
  • Olive Oil

Steam carrots lightly for 3-4 minutes so they are still crisp but cooked. Saute onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes until clear and then add carrots. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Serve with chopped continental parsley.

My favourite way to serve carrots is roasted however this combination with roasted parsnip (Maple roasted carrots and parsnip) is simple and a delicious way to get children to eat more vegetables as well.

Christine Pope is a naturopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives. You can make an appointment on 8084 0081 or online.