Building Your Immune System

As I have been talking with clients this past year, 80% are expressing health as one of their top values. With the COVID 19 virus, health as a top priority may expand to 100%.

Health is impacted by how much you move and what you eat. To help improve and maintain your health, I have enlisted help.

Today’s posting is from Mimi Cunningham – a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist. 

Her article addresses building better gut health.  Better gut health strengthens your immune system – something many are more aware of these days.

Mimi has added a yummy recipe that can help build your gut health. Caution – the recipe includes Zita. I hope your local grocery store has paste on their shelves again.





Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator

Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.

Gutsy Health

Happy New Health Year. Here’s to better health and a strong resolve to become a healthier you with a healthier family. Weight loss is usually on top of the list. But what about gut health? Proof is emerging that the bacterial, or microbiome, culture in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth and even on our skin may be working against our health.  Experts agree our environment and western diet could be negatively affecting the ratio of good and bad bacteria. Good news: our diet can improve our gut microbiome by adding probiotic and prebiotic foods and fiber to what we eat.

Our GI tract hosts billions of bacteria consisting of roughly 1,000 known species. New genetic technologies make it possible to identify the genetic makeup of these microbes, identify those that are healthy for us and those that aren’t, the roles they play and how they may prevent disease. The use of antibiotics, elective cesarean sections, less breast feeding, better hygiene practices and reduced dietary fiber intake have negatively changed our gut bacteria.

Probiotics, meaning “for life”, are the beneficial bacteria as well as the foods containing those bacteria. They may help improve immune function, prevent infection from hostile bacteria, and improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.  Prebiotic foods are those that “feed” healthy bacteria. You benefit from a combination of both.

Probiotic foods include yogurt with active bacterial cultures, fermented foods like miso and tempeh (fermented soy beans), sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir- a fermented milk product like yogurt. By far yogurt is the most popular and versatile. For a yogurt to be considered probiotic, it must be treated with the strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Prebiotic foods include whole wheat, oatmeal, beans (legumes), onions, garlic, asparagus, apples, grapes, blueberries and under ripe bananas.

Research shows that a healthy microbiome protects against colon cancer, improves irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcer disease, antibiotic associated diarrhea, constipation and supports oral health. There also is a link between our guts and brains indicating a healthy gut may reduce depression and anxiety.  Although a weak relationship is known at this time, a healthier gut may prevent or improve type 2 diabetes and reduce obesity.

In general, follow a plant-based diet also rich in fiber to increase the diversity of the microbiota. The American Heart Association recommends 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Americans average half that. Focus on whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Not only are you improving your gut health, you are getting a nutrient dense variety of vitamins and minerals. If you are considering increasing fiber foods, start gradually to prevent bloating and GI discomfort.

Probiotics supplements are an alternative approach. They are not regulated by the FDA so be sure to buy a known brand and follow directions.

**Recipe Tip


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook two cups ziti according to package directions, drain. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, 1-1/2 c. chopped onion, 2 cloves garlic minced, 1 cup chopped red pepper, 1 zucchini, sliced. Sauté without browning until vegetables are tender, but slightly firm. Stir in cooked pasta, 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (S&W Italian Recipe), 1 c. small broccoli flowerets, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash (original flavor), 1 c. shredded Mozzarella cheese (low moisture-part-skim). Combine everything; transfer to baking dish. Top with 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese. Cover loosely with foil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until hot.  Servings: 4 to 6.

Note: Any vegetables can be added including carrots, corn, spinach, asparagus. Also add small meatballs or Italian sausage (pre-cooked, oil drained). Meat or sausage increase calories and saturated fat. The recipe can be doubled.




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