A nutrient-rich soothing smoothie that is is helpful in healing an unhappy digestive as well as promoting a healthy gut.
Truth be told, my digestive system has been a mystery to me for most of my adult life, which has prompted me to do a good deal of research over the past few weeks. This previous statement may seem silly considering I wrote a book devoted to the cornerstone to the happy-go-lucky gut: probiotics. Nevertheless, as it turns out, even if you maintain a healthful diet and active lifestyle, you aren’t granted the Get Out of Tumble Gut Free Card. On the contrary, keeping your insides in a state of bliss is a challenge to say the least.
Some of the facts I’ve uncovered are intuitive and simply need to be remembered and put into practice, where some of the things I’ve learned recently have been completely baffling and enlightening. I plan to write a whole little ditty on Gut Health 101 because it’s such an extensive topic, but for now, I wanted to share a smoothie recipe that always helps my tummy rumble settle down and chill out.
The basic goal of this healthy gut smoothie is to introduce a plethora of good bacteria (probiotics) into your system, along with foods that not only aid in digestion, but also help heal and protect your stomach lining. I will preface the “health” talk by saying this is not a for-eeeeveryone smoothie. If you have an intolerance to any of the ingredients in the smoothie, it obvi won’t be beneficial to your gut. That said, let’s talk ingredients and what they bring to the gut health table.
Kefir/Yogurt (probiotics): Big picture: your body is chock FULL of microbes, both good and bad. When bad bacteria is the majority party in the house, you become more susceptible to illness, stress, fatigue, and overall crappy mood syndrome. Oh, and you have a lower sex drive, true story. Your goal is to maintain a healthy gut flora so that good bacteria dominate, thereby keeping not just your digestive system happy, but your whole being. Kefir and yogurt are full of probiotics, which help fight any bad microbes that already exist in your digestive tract, as well as creating a nourishing habitat where good bacteria can reign.
For the purpose of this smoothie, I recommend using kefir, as it contains three times more probiotics than yogurt. I use goat milk kefir I buy from the grocery store when I don’t have a batch of homemade kefir going. You can also make your own kefir or yogurt at home for a more cost-effective and controlled way of getting your probiotics. For those who are dairy-free, you can also make coconut milk kefir and use an unrefined sugar versus cane sugar in order to fit all of your dietary needs. To get the know-how on making kefir and other naturally fermented probiotic drinks at home, check out my book, Delicious Probiotic Drinks). Oh, and if you’re going to use store-bought cow’s milk yogurt for this smoothie, just be sure it’s made with whole milk from grass-fed cows.
Bananas: Basically, bananas are the Switzerland of foods. They’re neutral and help provide balance to your healthy microbes. Because bananas are high in potassium and magnesium, they reduce inflammation, which helps calm any bacterial infection that may be running rampant in your digestive system. (UPDATED NOTE 4/14: If you have high blood sugar, diabetes, or are sensitive to bananas, I’d recommend omitting the banana, adding a bit of honey, or creating your own healthy gut recipe).
Kale: Along with other cruciferous vegetables, kale contains glucosinolates, which when broken down by microbes, release substances that reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of cancer – particularly bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach cancer. Essentially, you can look at kale like a really badass trashman or snowblower – it ploughs through your system, grabs onto carcinogen and pathogens, and effectively cleans them out. Not to mention, kale is also high in Vitamins K, A, and C, as well as folate. Let.Them.Eat.Kale.
Ginger: Civilizations have been using ginger as a natural cure-all for everything from upset stomach and nausea to colds and headache. A natural anti-inflammatory, ginger helps reduce swelling in your cells, and is also a natural antimicrobial. In this sense, ginger itself helps fight bad bugs, while creating a healthy environment for good bugs to live.
Honey: An enzyme in honey, glucose oxidase, produces hydrogen peroxide, which kills harmful bacteria. There are other antimicrobial properties in honey, which help stave off bacteria and viruses as well. Honey has been used as a natural treatment for as well.
Mint: Fresh peppermint leaves contain menthol, which s a natural analgesic that helps to relieve upset stomach. Most of the time, I don’t have fresh mint laying around, and have found the smoothie to be soothing without mint as well.
If you’re lactose intolerant, or live a dairy-free lifestyle, you can use non-dairy yogurt or kefir. When selecting the type of yogurt or kefir to use, be mindful of the amount of sugar the product contains (read the nutrition facts!). Even if you use an unsweetened yogurt, chances are it’s still very high in natural sugars. The goat milk kefir I use obsessively only has 5 grams of sugar per 1 cup serving, versus the whole milk yogurt I enjoy, which contains upwards of 15 grams per 1 cup serving. Sugar, even if unrefined, feeds bad bacteria, which makes it more difficult for good bacteria to flourish.
YES Foods: Foods that are considered to be particularly soothing and healthy for your gut are naturally fermented foods and drinks (such as kimchi, sauerkraut, or naturally pickled vegetables, miso, kombucha, naturally fermented ginger beer, kefir, yogurt, etc), jerusalem artichokes, bananas, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage), blueberries, ginger, dark chocolate, honey, and beans. In general, aim for lots of fiber. As a side note, some articles I’ve read have mentioned oats as being good for your gut, although I personally find oats can be hit or miss for my own digestion. Just food for thought.
NO Foods: Foods you should always avoid are anything processed (said foods typically contain unpronounceable additives, refined sugars, and have had any semblance of nutrition stripped from them through the processing…process), fried food and foods rich in saturated fat, fast burning carbs (white bread, potatoes) refined sugar (or even high amounts of natural sugars), artificial sweeteners, coffee (don’t hate me), and alcohol (revisit previous parenthesis). We’ll get more into why you should avoid these consumables in my upcoming Gut Health 101 post. In the meantime, have a little faith and find something else (whole foods) to eat. For reals.
While this smoothie will by no means cure all of your digestive ailments in one fell swoop, it will at least put a dent in bad bacteria and will sooth your tummy for a short-term feel good elixir. Stay tuned for more info about your insides. Until then, may your gut feel like a trillion butterfly kisses, and may all your poops be regular.