The latest Cook Fit | Eat Fit seminar that we offered with Ochsner's Eat Fit NOLA and The University of Queensland - Ochsner Clinical School focused on a relatively new area of medical study: the microbiome.
First of all, what is the microbiome? Our medical students Elspeth Springsted and Caitlin Sullivan defined it as another organ of the body. It's roughly 2 kilograms (~4.5 pounds) of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microrganisms that are found in your gut. As a whole, the study of the microbiome is very new, and science is in the process of gathering data and developing a deeper understanding of these systems. At the moment, we do know that what we eat and our overall diet definitely changes the bacteria in our body, which in turn affects our bodies in a couple of documented ways. Healthy microbiomes process food and nutrients, help us defend against infections, and allow us to process vitamins that we can't otherwise, like Vitamin K.
Our behavior is also affected by our microbiomes, as our nutritional professional from Eat Fit NOLA reported. Over 90% of serotonin is actually produced by our microbiomes, meaning that there are dramatic consequences for your mental state as well as your physical state when it's off kilter.
With all this at stake, Andrew Adorno from Eat Fit NOLA started talking about what we can do in our every day diets to create a healthier gut. Fortunately, the advice is pretty simple. Probiotics can be found in a lot of different foods, from yogurt to sauerkraut. Fermentation and live cultures are key to creating probiotics, and so eating these kinds of food will definitely benefit you. Before we all run out to the local yogurt market, though, Andrew said that the other part of the diet equation for your microbiome is prebiotics. These are the less sexy, more elemental foods that we need to interact with the probotics to fuel the activity of these bacteria. Prebiotics are foods high in fiber, including fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Added sugars impact the gut negatively, and slow down Basically, we just need to eat exactly what we're always told to eat, and we should be fine!
Although it was a little disappointing (as always) to learn that there's no silver bullet and you just have to do what you know you should already be doing to stay healthy, we then got to enjoy a delicious example of what a hearty, microbiome-supportive dish could look like. Chef Baker Guevara from Ye Olde College Inn prepared a simple and bright citrus vinaigrette (which used a little of the chef's secret Xantham Gum to thicken without excessive oil) to dress a kale and apple salad with shrimp and blue cheese. Plenty of prebiotics there, and we got so distracted by that French Mandoline sliced apple that we barely even noticed it was healthy :)
This is only a small sampling of the full scope of microbiome research at this time! Here are some further resources, and be sure to keep your eyes on the news for more. We'll be gearing up for our next Cook Fit | Eat Fit presentation in December, where we'll be tackling sugar and your glycemic index. Just in time for the holidays!