I think we can all agree that more greens and fewer items that come from the middle, highly processed aisles of the grocery store are key to a healthier diet. I definitely subscribe to a KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach with food, but I also am fascinated by the science of nutrition and alternative approaches and fun ingredients. Sometimes, technical food terms can get complex so I wanted to break down a few food-related buzzwords and my thoughts on each: probiotics, probiotics, adaptogens, and fermentation.
A prebiotic is an ingredient that our bodies cannot digest and stimulates growth of positive microorganisms inside. A probiotic is a live microorganism like bacteria similar to those in our body already that we ingest for healthy gut benefits. They have been shown to aid in digestion.
The use of prebiotics and probiotics together to benefit gut health is called microbiome therapy. You don’t need to ingest a prebiotic for probiotics to work, but eating them through foods or a doctor-approved dietary supplement might make your probiotics more effective. Prebiotics act as a food for probiotics, and they can be found in fiber-filled foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Probiotics occur naturally in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and tempeh. So far, there’s been less scientific research on the benefits of prebiotics than probiotics. A happy gut means a better immune system, better sleep, better mood, and overall positive health.
In herbal medicine, adaptogens are a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. Common examples of adaptogens are ginseng, licorice, rosemary and aloe vera. Eastern medicine and Ayurvedic traditions incorporate adaptogenic herbs in their healing practices, and they are becoming more common now in a western market. By regulating hormones, adaptogens promote healthy weight maintenance, encourage proper immune system function, can act as an antidepressant, and are can protect against nerve degeneration.
Personally, I like to use ashwaganda & maca in smoothies for their adaptogenic qualities. I swear by Moon Juice’s product line. Ashwaganda is said to relieve stress and increase your ability to concentrate and focus. Maca powder helps to regulate mood swings and increase libido, so into the smoothie it goes!
The final buzzy food practice I want to cover is fermentation. This is the process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms like yeasts or bacteria. Fermentation and microbiome therapy go hand in hand, since fermenting food promotes the growth of good bacteria, aka probiotics. My favorite fermented food to use in recipes lately is kimchi, which helps with digestion, reduces cholesterol levels, gives you shinier hair… do I have to continue?
Look out soon for my kimchi taco recipe to reap the benefits of a nutrient dense and delicious fermented food.