We all like to think of ourselves as thriving individuals. But, we aren’t alone, nor can we exist without the help of others. I’m not talking about help from other humans, but help from the bacteria in your gut or your gut flora.
Results of new research by the Louisiana State College of Agriculture presented at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas, shows how the “good” bacteria in your gut helps your digestive system absorb antioxidants. Antioxidants that help your body fight cancer and prevent heart disease. The type of antioxidants you find in foods like green tea, cocoa powder, and in the skins of dark grapes, blackberries, apples and cherries.
These beneficial bacteria digest the large antioxidant molecules, called polyphenols and catechin, and break them down into more easily digested, and smaller antioxidant molecules. It’s these smaller molecules that’s absorbed into your bloodstream, where they begin their journey acting as disease fighting antioxidants.
One of the more common and more effective “good” bacteria in your gut flora is Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum). It’s this bacteria more so than the others that helps your body absorb antioxidants and fight diseases.
One of the best ways to increase the population of “good” bacteria like B. longum is to feed it prebiotics that help this bacteria thrive. They love to eat fiber our bodies have a hard time digesting. They love fiber in foods like cocoa powder, chicory root, artichokes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic bananas, leeks, asparagus, oats and legumes. By developing a large population of “good” bacteria in your gut, you also help wipe out the “bad” bacteria that can cause digestive problems and intestinal diseases.
We can’t stay healthy alone. We need these little creatures in our intestines to help us stay healthy. Not only do they help break down food in our gut, but they also make it possible for our body to absorb disease fighting antioxidants. So help develop a large colony of bacteria like B. longum by frequently drinking hot chocolate made from cocoa powder or chicory tea along with a meal of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, bananas, leeks, asparagus, oats or legumes.
Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and manganese along with vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin and folate. According to a study conducted by the Kasturba Medical College, eating just two ripe bananas a day can reduce your blood pressure by 10%. Not only that, but bananas also feed the good bacteria in your gut. Keep the good bacteria in your gut healthy, and you’ll be healthy too.
But eating just a banana can be boring and unadventurous. That’s why I developed my very own Creamy Banana Soup to not only help my blood pressure health, but also satisfy my appetite and source of food adventure.
This recipe not only taste great, but is full of protein, vitamins and minerals beneficial to your health. Let’s look at some of the ingredients, and how they can improve your health, and satisfy your food cravings.
I added organic tofu to make this soup creamy. An added advantage of tofu is that it’s a great source of vegetable protein. And according to WebMD, foods high in protein help people control their appetites and calorie intake.
To give that satisfying taste of fat, I added canola oil. And yes, adding a healthy oil like canola does have beneficial health effects. Researchers at Penn State have stated consuming canola oil daily for four weeks can lower belly fat by 1.6%. You get that creamy satisfying taste of fat, while reducing your belly fat. This is a win-win recipe.
I then added ground flaxseed. Not only is this seed high in healthy vegetarian sourced omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s also high in dietary fiber. And according to WebMD, ground flaxseeds are high in a potent antioxidant called lignans. It has protective effects against cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancers. Studies also indicate it lowers your risks of type-2 diabetes and heart disease.
Who doesn’t like a touch of cinnamon? Most people know cinnamon can help control blood sugar levels. But did you know that the scent of cinnamon can help improve your working memory, and your brain’s visual-motor speed? Eat cinnamon, and be able to quickly remember where you put those car keys.
Without further ado, here is my recipe for Creamy Banana Soup:
1 ripe banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground flax seed
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ serving tofu slice
Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree until you get a creamy, smooth texture. Chill and serve for 1 serving of this delicious Creamy Banana Soup.
You’ll find that the banana provides sufficient sweetness, so there’s not need to add sweetener. Eat well and live long.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the type of bacteria we have in our gut plays an important role in determining if we are healthy or not. Maintain a healthy gut flora, and you may live a long and healthy life. But if you develop an unhealthy composition of gut bacteria, you may become prey to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
And how do we maintain a healthy gut flora? With a healthy diet, of course.
A recently published study titled “Cross-Talk Between Akkermansia muciniphila and Intestinal Epithelium Controls Diet-Induced Obesity” concludes that a complex interaction between the bacteria A. muciniphila and our intestines plays an important role in obesity and type 2 diabetes. And diet plays a large role in determining if we have a healthy amount of A. muciniphila in our intestines.
In genetically and diet-induced obese mice, the levels of A. muciniphila decreased dramatically, according to the researchers. But why is this important to our health?
A. muciniphila resides in a mucus layer that covers our intestinal wall. This study shows that this bacteria plays an important role in maintaining that mucus layer and controlling inflammation. The mucus layer where this bacteria lives is part of our intestinal barrier. The intestinal barrier is our first line of defense against unwanted intruders trying to invade our bodies. It provides nutrition to healthy bacteria, and has high concentrations of the antibody IgA. In obese mice, not only is the population of A. muciniphila low, but the thickness of the mucus layer where it resides is thinner than normal.
It is still unclear how a healthy population of A. muciniphila and a normal intestinal barrier thickness affects obesity and diabetes, but the correlation is strong. Obese mice have lower than normal numbers of A. muciniphila and a thin mucus layer, while non-obese mice have normal numbers of the bacteria and normal mucus thickness.
So how do we maintain a healthy population of A. muciniphila which in turn gives us a healthy and functional intestinal barrier?
The researchers found that a prebiotic called oligofructose restores the population of A. muciniphila, and improves the function of the intestinal barrier.
But what is oligofructose?
Oligofructose is a synonym for fructo-oligosacchariede or FOS. FOS is part of a dietary fiber complex with inulin. Both have been shown to increase levels of healthy gut bacteria. Even though FOS can be taken as a supplement, the best way to get FOS and inulin is with a healthy diet. High concentrations of inulin and FOS are found in chicory and Jerusalem artichokes. But more common food sources are asparagus, leeks, onions, bananas and garlic.
Once again, science is showing us that to maintain our health, we need a healthy composition of bacteria in our gut. Not only can gut flora determine if we have a high risk of heart disease or cancer, but the composition of gut bacteria can also affect our weight and our risk of developing diabetes. This recent study concludes that the bacteria A. muciniphila plays a vital role in maintaining a functional intestinal barrier. A complex interaction between this bacteria, the protective mucus layer and our intestinal wall determines our risk for obesity and diabetes.
And the best way to grow and maintain a healthy colony of A. muciniphila is to eat a healthy diet low in unhealthy fats, and high in chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions, bananas and garlic.
Eat healthy, live long and prosper.