fermented foods

The lowdown on fermented foods

There’s no denying that considering one’s gut health is highly important when it comes to healthy eating. Many everyday day foods are good for gut health. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish and extra virgin olive. However, there is another category of foods that can promote gut health: fermented foods. 

Humans have enjoyed fermented foods—from wine, beer, and vinegar to pickles, olives, yoghurt, and cheese—for millennia. Before using fridges, people used fermenting to preserve foods. But can fermented foods make your gut healthier? The short answer is yes. In this blog, I will break down the evidence to support this theory. 

What are fermented foods?

Fermented foods go through a process called “Lacto fermentation”, where natural bacteria feeds on the starches and sugars in the food to create lactic acid. 

For vegetables, they soak in their own juice or saltwater, allowing bacteria to grow. This bacteria eats the sugar in the vegetables, creating lactic acid. The end result is a fermented product that has a tart and slightly acidic taste. The fermentation process preserves the food and its nutrients. It also creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.

Types of fermented foods

Kimchi

Kimchi is a popular dish in Korea, which is essentially fermented cabbage. Some people also make kimchi from other vegetables, such as radishes.

Tempeh

Tempeh is made from fermenting soybeans. The soybeans are then pressed into a compact cake. It is a high-protein meat substitute that is firm, but chewy. You can bake it, steam or sauté it before adding it to dishes.

Natto

Natto is a staple probiotic in traditional Japanese cuisine. Like tempeh, it uses fermented soybeans. It has a very strong flavour and slippery texture.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea that’s tart, fizzy, and flavourful. It contains either black or green tea and contains potent health-promoting properties.

Miso

Miso is a common seasoning used in Japanese cuisine. It is made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a popular condiment that consists of shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It’s low in calories and contains plenty of vitamin C, vitamin K and fibre, and vitamin K. 

Probiotic yoghurt

Probiotic yoghurt is made by fermenting milk with lactic acid bacteria. It’s high in many important nutrients, including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B12. 

Kefir

Kefir is a milk drink that you make with yeast fermentation and bacteria. Also, the beverage is tangy and thick and tastes like yoghurt.

The Benefits of fermented foods

Fermented foods contain probiotics for better gut health

Fermented foods can improve gut health due to the beneficial bacteria they contain. Kefir and Kombucha, in particular, helps balance out the good and bad bacteria in your digestive system and can aid digestion.

Boosts Your Immune System

The bacteria found in your gut have a significant impact on your immune system. Due to their high probiotic content, fermented foods can boost your immune system and reduce your risk of infections like the common cold. 

Absorbs food better

The improved balance of gut bacteria and digestive enzymes ensure you’re absorbing as many nutrients as possible. Eating a varied diet and absorbing key nutrients properly will be a great boost for your overall gut health.

Preserves food easily

As hard as we might try, we all end up finding some rotten vegetables in our fridge every so often. Luckily, fermented foods last much longer, since the fermentation process prevents foods from going off. This means you can store foods for much longer without losing any nutrients. 

Where to find fermented foods

I get most of my fermented food products from Jacksons Real Food Market and Eatery in Bryanston. Their Kimchi is my favourite! Also, check out your local supermarkets and health stores for fermented products. 

If you’re struggling with your gut health, contact me. I work with Viome to offer you Gut Intelligence Testing. Gut Intelligence Testing analyses the gut to understand how certain changes in diet can lead to better overall health. In addition, Gut Testing reveals what foods and supplements are ideal for you. 

Tips for a successful meat-free Monday

Tips for a successful meat-free Monday

Meat-free Monday is a movement to eliminate meat from your diet for one a week. Eliminating has many benefits for your health, wallet and the environment. When you replace meat with veggies, you save quite a bit on grocery items, and Meat-free Mondays reduce your carbon footprint.

Even if you typically eat animal products, going meat-free just one day every week can have a positive impact on your health, wellbeing and the environment.

Let me show you how easily it can be done.

Plan your meat-free Monday ahead of time

Find some recipes that look good to you; go ahead and plan away. For detailed and scrumptious vegetarian and vegan meals, I’ve got you covered with my Plant-Based Meal Plan Guide

Be sure to stock your pantry – have vegetarian-friendly items on hand like veggie stock or broth, organic canned beans, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. 

Another great tip is to take a trip to your local farmers market. It’s virtually impossible to walk through a farmers market and not feel inspired to whip up some veggie-based dishes. 

Do some simple protein swops

You’re probably worried that the texture of vegetables just wouldn’t stand up to that of meat. Don’t be too quick to judge. Mushrooms are wonderfully meaty, and lentils mimic minced meat almost identically. There are lots of other vegetables that can take the place of meat and still satisfy your taste buds, such as lentils, beans, and brinjal. Learning how to use these veggies can help you attain that meaty texture you crave.

If you’re eating a dish that incorporates vegetables, be sure to use a variety of different kinds, so you don’t even realize that the meat is missing. For example, rather than making a chicken pot pie, make a veggie pot pie with squash, potatoes, beans, carrots, celery and any other ingredient you desire. All of these veggies have different textures when they’re cooked, so you won’t feel as if you’re just eating spoonfuls of vegetables.

Use lots of seasonings 

To bump up the flavour, you can use the same spice mixes on vegetables that you would usually use on meat. Poultry and meat seasonings are marketed for use on chicken and meat, but guess what? Many of them are actually vegan. There is generally no actual poultry in poultry seasoning or any steak in steak seasoning. However, check the labels just to be sure. 

Some homemade spice mix ideas: Combine sage, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, celery seed, allspice, and black pepper to make your own ‘poultry’ seasoning. Blend chilli powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, coriander, mustard powder, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to create your own ‘steak’ seasoning. 

Use flavourful veggie or vegan broths

A good broth, or stock, is the foundation of so many tasty vegan recipes. For example, using broth as the base for soups, rice, and quinoa dishes really improves the flavour.

You can make your own simple broth at home with celery, onion, carrot, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. If you’re looking for a shortcut, the grocery shop has plenty of vegetable and vegan stocks for you to choose from. 

Final tip

The best advice I have is to not over-complicate your dishes. Stick with something simple you already know and build your meal from there.

Recipe ideas for meat-free Monday

You can find some of these delicious recipes and more in my Plant-based with Meal Plan Guide. If you’re looking for fresh new plant-based recipes, then this guide is perfect for you.

The meal plan includes a guided weekly dinner meal plan for a month as well as nutritional information, useful kitchen hacks and 4 Bonus Recipes! Check it out here.

 

[Contact me to find out more]

Valentine's Day heart-healthy ideas

Heart-healthy tips for Valentine’s Day

The big V-day is almost here! You may be tempted to spend the holiday with decadent chocolate treats, celebratory champagne and romantic, high-calorie dinners. However, indulging too much on this day of love isn’t always great for your heart health. Despite recent progress in the medical field, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. Making heart-healthy choices and taking control of your cardiovascular risk factors can help slow or prevent the progression of heart disease. Here are some of my tips for celebrating Valentine’s Day while still protecting your heart.

Valentine’s Day heart-healthy ideas

Modify your meals

Eating at home is an excellent way to save calories and money, and avoid crowds. Find a simple to make, reduced-calorie meal that you can cook with or for you and your partner at home. Try some healthy desserts, like strawberry shortcake sprinkled with your favourite low-calorie sweetener, and enjoy!

If you really want to eat out, feel free to make special requests at the restaurant. For instance, you could ask the waiter if they can substitute fries for veggies. Find out if they can prepare your meal with less butter, oil or salt; anything that could help cut down on calories. Also remember in terms of calories, grilled or baked is usually better than fried.

Red equals heart-healthy

Red bell peppers, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red onions and tomatoes, are all packed with vitamins, cancer-fighting antioxidants or cholesterol-busting fibre and protein. Also, a daily glass of red wine is believed to help keep the cardiovascular system in shape. So forget that cocktail, which can be loaded with sugar, and have a glass of red wine instead (ask if they serve a lighter version).

Don’t always give the gift of chocolate

Consider buying your loved one a fruit basket instead of a box of chocolates. If you are opting for sweets, try sugar-free candies and chocolates found at your local grocery store. A healthy cookbook, a bouquet of flowers, personal training sessions or a day spa gift certificate are also great gift substitutes.

Allow yourself a little indulgence

Valentine’s Day is a time for love, laughter, fun and food. Having a small slice of cake or a chocolate or two won’t do much harm. In fact, research shows that small amounts of chocolate are full of healthy compounds that may actually help prevent heart disease, boost immune systems and give us a general sense of well-being. The key when indulging is moderation. 

Some tips to stay heart-healthy throughout the year

Stay active: One of the best ways to keep your heart pumping is to keep moving. Ideally, you should get your heart rate up with at least 30 minutes of exercise, at least five days a week. However, if you’re a beginner, you can start small and gradually increase your level of activity. 

Consume less sugar, red meat, sugar and unhealthy fats. There are plenty of other foods you can enjoy for a heart-healthy diet. Be sure to add fruits and vegetables to your diet to increase your fibre consumption.

Use less salt. Over time you can re-train your taste buds to become accustomed to a lower-sodium diet, and you will start to notice subtle flavours in your foods again.

Keep your weight under control. Being overweight increases the risk of heart failure, heart attacks, and diabetes. A healthy diet with portion control and consistent exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.

Check your cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure: It’s recommended that you get these factors checked every 5 years if you are healthy. However, your doctor may suggest doing this more often if you already have certain risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, or a family history of heart disease.

If you need more heart-healthy tips, feel free to contact me. I also create heart-healthy meal plans to keep your heart in tip-top shape.

Healthy eating tips for the holiday season

Healthy eating tips for the holiday season

It’s that wonderful time of the year when we look forward to spending quality time with loved ones. The time to relax and enjoy ourselves is essential for our wellbeing, but it is also during the holiday season that we tend to forget about our healthy eating habits. 

Endless options of food can make it easy to overeat, and you might fall off your healthy eating bandwagon. When January comes, many of us are left with regret about the unhealthy choices we made during the holiday season. However, all hope is not lost. It is very much possible to strike a balance between enjoying the occasional treat and maintaining good eating habits. 

 Here are my top 7 tips for healthy eating and safeguarding your waistline this festive season:

#1 Eat before a party

 Start your day with a balanced and healthy breakfast that includes whole-grain foods, low-fat protein and fruit. It’s best to avoid going to parties or gatherings on an empty stomach to prevent overeating or over-indulging on festive treats. 

Also, before you start eating the main course, ‘cheat’ by eating a healthy dish that contains lots of low-energy dense-foods such as vegetable soups or salads or vegetable soups. These healthy foods will fill you up before you hit the roasts, pies and desserts. 

 #2 Stick to water

 One easy trick I’ve learned is to limit my calorie by drinking enough water. Drinking a glass of water fills you up even more than drinking a can of a soft drink — minus the calories. So instead of a juice, soft drink or an alcoholic drink, opt for a few glasses of water instead. 

 If you’re attending an informal gathering such as a house party or braai, consider bringing your own water bottle filled with water and strawberries, or lemon and cucumber. These alternatives are more refreshing than plain water and will instantly quench your thirst.

 # 3 Offer/bring healthy dishes for healthy eating.

 Whether you are the guest or host at a gathering, you can make things easier on yourself by offering or bringing healthier dish alternatives. Offer plenty of vegetables and high-fibre carbohydrates like brown rice, beans, and wholegrain bread.

Where possible, include fish in your meal. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and fresh tuna are high in omega 3-fatty acids and are good for the heart.

When you serve meat, offer lean meats rather than fatty cuts. For example, you can remove the skin from poultry before cooking. Stay away from deep-frying and instead stir-fry, steam, grill, and boil your food.

 #4. Use a smaller plate to aid healthy eating 

Research shows that switching from an 11-inch dinner plate to a 10-inch plate makes people serve themselves less food.

Fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with starch and a quarter with protein such as chicken, fish, meat or beans. 

 #5. Eat small dollops of desserts and dressing.

Healthy eating doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of the good stuff. Eat a small piece of dessert with a bigger portion of fruit salad. When preparing desserts, use low-fat milk instead of cream. Enjoy your salad dressings, but go easy on them as they tend to be loaded with fat.

 #6 Eat slowly

 Eat slowly and focus on socialising rather than eating. Eating slowly gives your body time to register that you have had enough, so you don’t overeat. On the other hand, eating too fast does not allow the body to send a signal to let you know that you are full. The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals.

#7 Last but not least, enjoy yourself!

The festive season is all about having fun and spending quality time with loved ones. Don’t get too bogged down by your diet and forget about enjoying yourself. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence, while still being kind to your body and spirit. Delicious (and healthy) food is always at our fingertips and the festive season is no exception. Now that’s something to be grateful for this holiday season!

 If you need more tips in the new year about how to get rid of that excess holiday weight, feel free to schedule a consultation with me. 

 I’d like to wish you a very jolly holiday season surrounded with loved ones and filled with all things merry- from my family to yours.