I actually made this recipe yesterday. We had some much needed rain, and it seemed the perfect fall day to concoct a warm pot of yummy tomato goodness. Though we rooted hard, evidence to the left, we weren't able to come out with a "W" in our most important Sunday game, however, this soup is a big win, and I think you'll be very glad you took the time to make it. It's a fairly simple recipe, and you already may have most of these ingredients in your home. It should take about 10 minutes of chopping and gathering, about 10 minutes of standing over the stove to add ingredients, and about 40 minutes of boiling or simmering. So give yourself about an hour from starting to serving this dish.
This is a double batch recipe, so would be great for a crowd or leftovers, if you want just 8 servings, cut everything in half, if you want to serve the neighborhood (about 16) make as noted below. A typical minestrone is made of vegetable stock, but since I don't have vegetarian or vegans in my house (quite the opposite) I like to make it with a richer flavored stock like a beef stock. The other departure from a typical minestrone, is I like to make it with white cannellini beans instead of kidney beans, it's just a size of the bean preference, but really any bean could work.
I like to serve with warm bread and butter. Make sure to have Parmesan or Romano cheese to add on top, also good if you have fresh basil or parsley to add as a garnish, I didn't have any when I made this yesterday, but it was still so good.
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups minced yellow onion (about 1 large onion or two small)
1 cup chopped zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
1 cup frozen cut Italian cut green beans
1/2 cup minced celery (about 3 ribs - the long pieces that make up a stalk)
6 teaspoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
8 cups vegetable broth (I like beef broth or beef bone broth to add richness)
2(15 ounce) cans small white beans or 2 (15 ounce) cans great northern beans, drained AND rinsed
2 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes (if you can source it, use San Marzano- it makes a world of difference)
1 cup carrot (shredded)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional- I LIKE IT SPICY)
3 cups hot water
4 cups fresh Baby Spinach
2 cup small shell pasta
Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large soup pot. Once oil is HOT, add onion, celery, garlic, green beans and zucchini for about 5 minutes or until the onions become translucent.
NEXT push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add the spices so they touch the bottom of the pan for about 30 seconds, then mix in with all of the other vegetables. This should make for a very aromatic smell. Next add the tomatoes, beans, carrots, and veg or beef stock.
Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Add additional 3 cups of water and spinach leaves and pasta and cook for an additional 12-15 minutes.
Makes about sixteen 1 1/2 cup servings.
This week's recipe is inspired by a client of mine that has a slight aversion to meat and is looking for more ways to incorporate protein into their diet. Not technically a "sauce" but this dip is like hummus and is great as a spread on sandwiches, you can dip vegetables into it or even whole grain chips or crackers. This has a Mediterranean flare, but you could experiment with different herbs if you like. You could add basil and oregano for a more italian twist, or cilantro and a jalepeno for a more latin flare. However you choose, please give this recipe a go!
-3 cups cooked white beans (I like cannellini), you could also just use 2 - 15 ounce cans of beans, make sure to rinse in lots of water to help with the flatulence.
-1 red bell pepper, roasted (you could also use jarred if you prefer - you'll need about 1/2 cup - make sure to rinse any juice it was jarred with)
- 1/2 cup almond butter (or 1/3 cup tahini)
- juice of two lemons, or about 1/4 cup
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp garlic powder, (I also like to add 2 cloves of fresh garlic crushed)
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water (you can use more if needed for desired texture)
- if you like it spicy you could add a pinch of cayenne or crushed red peppers
To roast the bell peppers, place them in a baking dish under the broiler until all the skin is charred turning frequently. Usually takes about 8-10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the baking dish, transfer to a paper bag or covered glass bowl and let stand for about 10 minutes. Remove the peppers, peel of black charred skins, cut peppers and remove the seeds.
Add all ingredients in a blender or food processor, process until smooth and creamy. Taste the bean dip to see if it needs more lemon, garlic, or salt. I like to refrigerate before serving so it is cold rather than room temperature.
Let me know when you try it! Happy Saturday!
8 Easy Ways to Support Digestion... that you can do anywhere- make sure you read to number 8, it's my favorite.
Tummy trouble got you down? Here are 6 simple ways able to assist your body in digesting a little more effortlessly.
1. Chew. Chew. Chew, and Chew Some More. Yes (my husband is smiling while reading this, because he is SO good at chewing each bit of food, and the amount of chewing he does some times drives me a bit nutty, however, he is really doing something great for his body), digestion begins in the mouth and the chewing both mechanically breaks food apart leaving less work for your stomach (which doesn't have any teeth) but it also allows for ample exposure to saliva. Saliva is key to digestion and has enzymes, protein and bacteria in it taking some of the first most important steps in digestion. It's all there for a reason! Helpful Tip: Try slowing things down and counting out 10 actual connections between your upper and lower teeth (or 20 or 30 if you can) and see if that helps.
2. Take a digestive enzyme before a meal to help give your digestive capacity a boost! I personally like a very inexpensive pineapple or papaya enzyme from Trader Joes, but just about any health food store has digestive enzymes. Normally, when we eat, our body squirts out some enzymatic juices to help you break down the food that’s coming into your stomach and intestines. However, if your GI tract, pancreas or gall bladder are compromised, you might not be producing as much as you need. Give this a try. Especially before very large meals- like a birthday supper or Thanksgiving..
3. Drink only about 4 ounces of a liquid with meals. When large amounts of fluid are consumed with a meal it dilutes digestive enzymes, stomach acid, and other important cofactors that assist both in the food breakdown and maybe more importantly ABSORPTION. Try drinking it before the meal if you are super thirsty- but leave at least 15-20 minutes before eating. Allow for at least 60 minutes after a meal before drinking a large amount of liquid.
4. Take a probiotic. These beneficial bacteria should be residing in your intestines. They aid in digestion of food, most especially fiber that makes it's way to the colon. Medications and stress can deplete our good bacterial supplies and allow for the bad bacteria to take over. You can easily supplement or include fermented/cultured foods at every meal which contain probiotics: sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, tempeh, yogurt, kombucha, kefir are all great examples.
5. Add more herbs and spices to your meals. Herbs and spices are included in the traditional dishes of almost every culture because of their ability to offer a touch of assistance to our digestion. Parsley, ginger, cumin, cilantro, fennel, mint are all a few examples of items you can toss into just about anything that you are cooking. They are known as “carminatives” and help to stimulate the production of “bile” which helps break down fats. You can also try things like Dandelion, Ginger, Mint, or Fennel tea.
6. Eat smaller more frequent meals. Not only will this aid in allowing your body to get the most out of everything you eat, you will be less tempted to over-eat or choose foods that are not as beneficial for your body, This alone will help improved digestion, by eating foods that are better for you.
7. Up your fruits and vegetables. This is a good idea for almost everyone for so many different reasons. Why this aids in digestion is due to the fact that God so miraculously packed into most fruits and vegetables the exact enzymes needed to digest them. They are foods that are packed with self-eaters, giving your body a little break as you eat them from doing and producing all of the work. Amazing right?
8. Smile while you eat and be thankful. A merry heart doth good like medicine. Think about the food you are eating and be grateful, think about the farmers that helped produce it, the rain it took to keep the fields hydrated, think about all that goes into making a meal, when it is prepared so lovingly for you. This may be the most important part of getting ready to eat.
What do YOU do to support your digestion? What has worked with tempering your tummy? I'd love for you to comment and share! Thanks again for reading.
Shepard and Cottage pies were considered meals for common people in Ireland. They generally had a meat and vegetable mixture on the bottom and a crust of mashed potatoes on top (making it an economical choice). Oft times people would even use left over meat from other meals and "repurpose it" in a meat pie. Cottage pie is traditionally made with ground beef and shepard's pie with lamb. Both will work in this recipe, or you can even leave the meat out all together and just use chickpeas instead for a vegan version. Both versions are full of Moroccan spices and warm flavors: cumin, chili, garlic, ginger, hints of cinnamon and cilantro. I've replace the more traditional white potato with sweet potatoes for a more nutrient dense meal (full of B6, vit C, magnesium, and vit A. It is also a great antifungal and antibacterial with the amount of onion, garlic and cumin in the dish. It was so good we hardly had any left overs, ENJOY!
For the bottom:
LET'S MAKE IT!
For the bottom:
I had a hungry family so I returned my dish to the oven for about ten minutes and then turned the broiler on for about 3 minutes. All the ingredients should be fully cooked at this point, so you are really just looking for some browning to happen to the potatoes. I assembled straight into my large cast iron pan for the sake of less dishes. I also didn't have currants or raisins which really bummed be out- but I chose to make it anyways, I think they only could have added to the dish, but if you don't have them around the house, the dish was AMAZING without them. If you make this, please send me pictures of yours!
Leaky gut syndrome is gaining attention in both conventional medicine and alternative treatment modalities as more and more chronic inflammatory illnesses are plaguing Americans. I know that cooky aunt of yours or the self proclaimed health nut down the street have been talking about it for years, but what does the research, the current evidence have to say about the process? First of all, what is leaky gut syndrome? Is it as gross as it sounds? Yes! Most of us can’t stand the sight or smell of our own gut contents when they move from us to the toilet, can you imagine what these contents are doing as they leak out of your GI tract and into your body?
The lining of the GI tract, like our skin, is a barrier to the outside world, and it is one layer of cells thick. Thankfully, this lining is extremely good at blocking the bad and letting in the good. These cells sit very closely to one another and transport nutrients into the cells to be absorbed into the blood or lymph stream and distributed throughout the body. However, when contents of the GI tract can get IN BETWEEN the cells and access our blood and lymph systems, it can create havoc. You immune system at first will respond with local inflammation and mount a defense against the invaders, but after long term exposure your immune system can become “confused” and start mounting a defense against you and your body, your organ systems.
Physicians and the general public have long been resistant to the idea of leaky gut as an alternative medicine quack diagnosis, but if you take a search among medical research databases for the words “intestinal permeability” or “intestinal hyperpermeability” you will find hundreds upon hundreds of studies looking at just this: leaky guts.
The symptoms leaky gut can cause include: fatigue, gas, bloating, joint and muscle aches and pains, skin rashes and confusion. The difficulty with these symptoms is that they can occur in many different diseases, making leaky gut syndrome all the more difficult to correctly diagnose. Among the published evidence the following specific medical conditions are associated with leaky gut syndrome: celiac disease, IBS, asthma, Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes (late onset), rheumatoid arthritis, obesity-associated insulin resistance, migraines, food allergies/sensitivities, even cancer. In some of these conditions we have a chicken and egg scenario and we need more research to determine causality or just merely association. In others, we understand the increased gut permeability, or leaky gut starts an immune system cascade that affects very distant parts of the body, including the brain, joints as far away as hands and feet.
If you or a loved one experiences any of the above medical conditions, I know you are thinking: Is there a way to be tested for leaky gut syndrome? Yes, labs have the ability to do three different tests that assist in identifying how permeable our intestines are. They are all based upon ingestion of certain foods and then measuring ratios of these food contents in the urine. The idea is your body takes in the food, it makes it to the part of the GI tract that is compromised, then it will either pass between cells, into your blood, to your kidneys to be filtered and out through urine, OR your gut is okay, and it makes it out as a part of your stool.
Conventional and Alternative Treatments
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about it, we need more research in this area. Many doctors will just slap your gut with a healthy dose of anti-inflammatory drugs, with no regard to the fact that NSAIDs have been implicated in causing increased intestinal permeability. However, working with a Dietitian (especially and functional and integrative medicine dietitian) provides a unique advantage to adjust diet to try and lessen symptoms, remove underlying roots of the problems, clear infections (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO) and institute patient specific interventions to heal the gut.
If you feel that you may have leaky gut the first recommendations I make are the following: Stop taking NSAIDs, decrease alcohol intake significantly, consider removing gluten from your diet for a time. The next step (though it can be expensive) is test for food immune reactions, so offending foods can be eliminated and your body can be given a chance to heal. As a specific elimination diet is implemented, then considering glutamine, zinc, gelatin, and probiotic supplementation and other gut healing protocols that are appropriate for the individual and their condition.
Making the paradigm switch to eating whole foods and removing processed foods from the diet will give your body an extreme advantage in avoiding a leaky gut. Why? Because all of the processed chemicals and highly refined foods can be inflammatory to the gut and soon when the gut is compromised when these foods make it to the blood before your body has a chance to rid them or break them down into smaller particles, it is likely your body will mount an extreme response to the chemicals contained in these foods. Whole foods taste good and are good for you. What do I mean when I talk about whole foods? Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, choosing meat that has not been treated with hormones, responsibly sourced fish.
Thanks for reading, please let me know if you feel you need assistance with this, I would be glad to set up an appointment with you.
GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease), or what most people call heart burn, ails at least 1 in 4 people in America. While it is a very uncomfortable condition with unpleasant sensations, it can have serious long lasting damage to your esophagus lining. Damage moves from irritation to scarring, constriction, ulcers, and can even lead to esophageal cancer. As a functional medicine dietitian, it is my firm belief that treating the root cause of the condition rather than taking pills forever to mask it will pay off down the road in improved health. Treatment of GERD can be achieved by proper nutrition, elimination of food agents that trigger GERD, changing lifestyle patterns, leveraging weight loss where indicated and choosing natural, healing supplements where needed.
In normal digestion, your food passes from your mouth to your esophagus ( a long thin passageway that connects from mouth to stomach) and from your esophagus to your stomach. And on down the hatch it continues. Connecting your esophagus and your stomach is a door, we call that door the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). After food passes through this door, it should close, to prevent food and stomach acid from flowing back up. Some medicines have a side effect of lowering LES function. Other than medicine, sometimes the LES just becomes weakened, or more relaxed that it should be. This can be do to chronic overeating and stretching of the stomach. And with the help of a new study, inflammation may play a major factor in this weakening, a larger role than previously imagined. Because stomach acid is so acidic, it can be painful when it climbs back up touching tissue that wasn't created to withstand exposure to acid. Helping to remove inflammatory and painful triggers and giving the body a chance to lower inflammation, it can heal itself over time.
Many medicines taken, even over the counter, block production of stomach acid. This follows the thought that less stomach acid, means less exposure when the LES is weak and opening. This can be very effective in relieving heartburn, however it just slaps a band-aid on the symptoms, and creates larger problems down the line. This is an interesting band-aid, because many sufferers of GERD have been found to create insufficient amounts of stomach acid to begin with. This leads to a theory, that less acid creates the problem of food sitting in the stomach for too long, increasing chances of back flow and heartburn. These medicines are a temporary fix for symptom management and have increased risk of conditions such as vitamin deficiencies, kidney disease, allergies, skin disorders, osteoporosis, heart attacks, GI infections and depression. I would vote we look for the cause of GERD and treat it, rather than only covering up the symptoms.
Overweight or Obesity
Consuming Large Meals
Eating Before Laying Down
High Stress Levels
SIBO - Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
Pregnancy (just due to baby pushing up on all your organs)
Some of these could be changed with simple lifestyle modifications. Treatment can include the following:
Eat foods rich in anti-inflammatory factors: Fish, Fruit, Vegetables, Healthy Fats (avocados, nuts, olives)
If you have implemented all of the above and still experience mild GERD, supplements have been known to help. These are natural supplements that can assist the body to strengthen the LES or heal the esophageal lining. Licorice, Zinc Carnosine, L-Glutamine, Magnesium.
With the above treatment options, lifestyle modifications and supplements, an individual can work towards healing their body rather than masking the symptoms with medicine that is not providing a long term solution. In time digestion can return to normal and the LES will be able to heal itself.
Our gut is our bodies largest immune organ, it houses more inhabitants than your body has it's own cells, it helps us absorb all the necessary components for life including water, food, and vitamins, it is your bodies first access point for many invaders and houses the largest surface area of your body. Your gut is so, so, so vitally important- and having a healthy gut can assist in enjoying optimal wellness. We talk a lot about the microbiome that lives in our gut, however, we don't often talk about the cells that line our digestive tract, and the topic of today's blog is an important component of protein that these cells rely on: Glutamine.
Protein is made of amino acids, and glutamine is just one of twenty our bodies require. Glutamine, that amino acid from above is an important "food-stuff" for the cells of the gut lining. 20-30% of the bodies glutamine is used by these cells alone. It is an essential component for the maintenance of gut metabolism, and function especially during periods of trauma or when gut health is compromised.
If an individual is lacking adequate glutamine they may experience fatigue, weakened immune system, and even chronic inflammation. When gut cells lack the necessary glutamine, cell function decreases, and our first line of defense (in terms of immunity) can become severely compromised. Glutamine supports essential healing processes and works to regenerate and repair the cells of the intestine.
It is also an important amino acid used for removing toxins from our body - in this way it removes excess ammonia. It is also important in the production of a neurotransmitter known for calming effects on the body and mind in stressful situations (GABA).
Conditions (or habits) that can compromise gut health and function include:
Since glutamine is so important, even if you are not experiencing one of the above listed conditions or habits it is important to make sure your body is provided enough glutamine.
Food sources of glutamine include:
Dairy - ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt
Meat- chicken, beef, pork
Dark Leafy Greens - spinach, cabbage & parsley
You can buy glutamine as a supplement, If you walk into a healthfood store they will probably think you are trying to be a bodybuilder, that is why most people take glutamine. This amino acid won't bulk you up, instead it helps slow muscle catabolism (or breakdown), which is partly why it is so helpful for those intestinal cells. If you think that you would like to supplement with glutamine, all supplements are not created equal, and I recommend consulting your functional medicine dietitian (ME!) before adding it to your routine.
One of the key first steps I ask my clients to take is incorporating a small, healthy and reasonable bedtime snack. Why? To boost their metabolism! I know you are thinking, but bedtime snacks make you fat. Or: Don't eat past 8 pm.
Why are you thinking that? Because this is the information you have been fed by the diet industry. It is true choosing the wrong bedtime snack (ie icecream, cheesecake, or a slice of bread) may have negative effects on your waist-line, however choosing the right foods can lead to a metabolism slowly burning through the night.
In a Florida State University study, fit college-age men who consumed a 150-calorie carb- and protein-rich shake 30 to 60 minutes before bed increased their metabolisms. When researchers did the same experiment with young obese women, they saw improvements in blood pressure and metabolic function. With the men, they found it didn't even matter what the men were eating, they had increased metabolic function.
Why does increased metabolic function provide a benefit? If your metabolism is burning more calories it will be easier to capitalize on this for weight loss. Now, it didn't matter what these young, active men ate at night, they still had quicker burning metabolisms, you won't find me telling my clients to eat ANYTHING. Partly why the diet industry stressed no food late in the evening, is this is when people tend to reach for more caloric, fattier, more craving-driven choices that do not aid an individual in weight loss efforts.
Ready for some free tips? It's better NOT to choose fruit as a dessert right before bed. If you like fruit after dinner, eat it right after dinner (or with dinner). It is better to choose a mixture of a complex carb and protein. And it's best to eat this meal 2-3 hours after dinner but before bed. Examples of late night snacks I recommend to my patients:
I know for some this seems counter intuitive, however the metabolic benefits yielded from a portion of protein and some good carbohydrates being burned as fuel while you sleep provides you with an engine that is still slowly burning when you wake up.
This is part of why my clients have such success with weight loss. We are turning the diet world upside down. My clients are eating more than they were before and losing weight while not feeling hungry. It does take discipline to make the right choice of food right before bed, and I admit it isn't the sexiest thing to grab a handful of peanuts as you march towards your room, however you will feel better as your body changes as it takes advantage of your new metabolic rate.
A lot of clients I work with don't know how much water they should be drinking in a day. Many people go by the 64 ounces a day method. That would be 8, 8-ounce glasses. Is this enough? Are you even drinking that much water? I challenge you over the next day or two to measure out how much water you are drinking and add it up throughout the day. You may be surprised by what you find. I'd love it if you would comment below or on facebook and let me know how much you are drinking.
What counts as water in this challenge? Water. That's it. Not soda, tea, coffee, lemonade, fruit juice, milk or energy drinks. Yes, your body may be obtaining water from those drinks, however with my clients, I like to focus on getting at least the amount of water needed from water itself. Other drinks are packed with extra sugar, chemicals, or caffeine - all of which can have dehydrating effects on your body and may cancel out any amount of water you may obtain from them.
So is 64 ounces enough? One general rule of thumb is to take your current weight and divide it by 2. So if you weigh 130 pounds, 64 ounces is about right. If you weigh 150 pounds then 75 ounces is how much you need. If you weigh 220, you need about 110 ounces. This may be overwhelming at first, and if you are like me and need to visit the ladies room at least once during the night, you may want to try and drink more of your water in the morning and early afternoon rather than late at night.
If you have kidney disease - this advice is general and not for your specific condition, check with your physician or a registered dietitian who knows about your current level of kidney function for recommendations on fluid intake.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
218 W. Carmen Lane, Suite 108
Santa Maria, California 93458
Hours: Tues and Thurs 9-5 PST