By Elizabeth Holm
These days, popular wellness literature is filled with recommendations for improving gut health.
Research shows that the gastrointestinal tract is filled with both beneficial and harmful bacteria, yeasts and fungi that affect your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even obesity. Creating a healthy balance of these microorganisms can significantly reduce your risk for different conditions and improve your health. But how do you do that?
Read any popular article or book on gut health, and you will be told what not to eat. This includes sweets, desserts and anything that contains sugar. However, there is little evidence that sugar adversely affects gut health. Each time I check the literature, I am reminded that this popular yet unsubstantiated claim leads many down the road of guilt and shame for eating their favorite foods.
Diet does matter, and rather than focusing on eliminating certain foods, there is an abundance of evidence that eating more fruits and vegetables can achieve a healthy gut. Specifically, the phytochemicals found in vegetables and fruits can act as probiotics that feed the beneficial gut microorganisms and reduce the harmful ones.
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two of the good bacteria that we want more of in our gut. Studies of sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and grape extracts have found these foods have probiotic activity and can potentially increase one or more of these good bacteria. So, why not put them all together in one delicious dish?
Enjoy this roasted vegetable and fruit medley with your favorite meat cooked on the grill and a glass of red wine, followed by a scrumptious dessert eaten entirely guilt-free. Rest assured, your gut will be happy.
Elizabeth Holm, DrPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and nutritionist in private practice in Alexandria. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Recipe: Roasted sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and red grapes
2 sweet potatoes (approximately 1 lb.) peeled and cubed
1 lb. asparagus, ended and cut in 1½ inch pieces
1/2 lb. mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 lb. red grapes, halved
4 T vegetable or chicken broth 3 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
3 T finely chopped fresh thyme Salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine the broth, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and thyme.
2. Toss the sweet potatoes in 1/2 of the above mixture.
3. Spread on a roasting pan in one layer.
4. Roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally.
5. Toss the asparagus, mushrooms and red grapes with the remaining mixture.
6. Add the sweet potatoes, stir the entire thing and spread out in roasting pan.
7. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper.
8. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes or until tender.