Good Gut A-Z: Letter A

Acorn Squash

All varieties of squash are great additions to a #GoodGut way of eating! Acorn squash is a great low-calorie, low FODMAP, and nutrient-dense food! This orange veggie is high in vitamins A and C, both of which are strong antioxidants. Vitamin C has antioxidant effects of its own, but it also functions to regenerate other antioxidants within the human body, boosting their effects, as well. Vitamin A, on the other hand, has a distinct antioxidant effect within the GI tract, where it reduces intestinal inflammation and aids in immune function by supporting antibody activity. When combined, vitamin A and vitamin C can reduce oxidative stress in the body. Another function of vitamin C is its ability to enhance the body’s absorption of non-heme iron, making it a very beneficial nutrient for plant-based eaters, since plant foods only contain non-heme iron.


One cup of acorn squash contains 7 grams of fiber. It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber – both of which are beneficial for gut health. Soluble fiber, also known as fermentable fiber, is broken down by gut bacteria to support a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is not broken down, but instead adds bulk to stool and helps to prevent constipation. The combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber in acorn squash make it an all around #GoodGut food!


Ways to eat it

Mashed or pureed acorn squash - a fun way to switch it up from mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes

Freeze cooked, cubed acorn squash to add into smoothies


Recipe: Acorn Squash Pie
Acorn Squash Pie

Ingredients (Makes 4 Servings):

  • 2 acorn squashes

  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon

  • 2 apples

  • 1/4 cup date paste


Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  2. Wash the acorn squashes.

  3. Cut each acorn squash in half and remove the seeds.

  4. Bake for 40 minutes.

  5. Date purée: Add 6 dates into a 1/2 cup of warm water and purée in a blender or food processor.

  6. Add the chopped apples, date purée, cinnamon, and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

  7. Remove from the oven and enjoy!



Aloe Vera

Yep, it’s not just for sunburns! Aloe vera is actually edible, and it can be just as therapeutic internally as it is for the skin. Aloe vera is a succulent plant that grows in

hot and dry climates. If you live in SoCal, you can grow it in your own backyard, patio, or balcony! Historically, this plant has been used as a topical remedy to soothe skin burns, and promote wound healing!


Similarly to how aloe has a soothing effect on irritated skin, it can also help to alleviate discomfort within the digestive tract. Aloe vera consumption has been shown to help alleviate some of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In fact, one study asked IBS patients to rate the severity of their symptoms before and after drinking aloe vera juice for eight weeks. They found that self-reported symptoms such as abdominal pain and gas improved after the treatment!


Supplementation of aloe vera has also been shown to resolve clinical symptoms of ulcerative colitis after just four weeks: one study comparing the effects of aloe supplementation for patients with ulcerative colitis to that of a placebo group found clinical remission occurred in 30% of patients treated with aloe vera, and only 7% of those treated with a placebo. Repeated research in this area is still needed to determine it’s significant impact on treating irritable bowel disease (IBD), however these results do suggest that supplementation of aloe vera in addition to traditional therapy may contribute to improved disease outcomes.


Ways to Eat It

*There are three parts to the aloe vera leaf: the skin exterior, the gel interior, & the latex layer in between. All are edible, but it is most common to only consume the gel*

  • Blend aloe vera gel into smoothies

  • Add the gel into salsa - the cool aloe pairs well with spice

  • Aloe vera iced tea - mix the gel with your favorite herbal tea


Green Gut Smoothie With Aloe
Green Gut Smoothie with Aloe


Apple

We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. While apples alone won’t prevent ailments and doctor visits, they are certainly a very nutrient-dense food to include in your diet! Although the season for apples is in the fall, they are almost always available at any time of the year at your local grocery store. This makes apples a great choice in produce at any given time!


Apples are a great low-glycemic, low-calorie fruit that contain a lot of water and #GoodGut fiber. One medium size apple provides around 15% of the daily recommended intake of fiber for adults. Apples also contain pectin, which is a soluble fiber that feeds good gut bacteria. Pectin has also been shown to reduce intestinal infection and maintain healthy gut transit by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria within the gut. In addition to fiber, the combination of phytochemicals and antioxidant compounds found in apples help to reduce the risk of liver and colon cancer. The flavonoid quercetin found in apples supports a healthy immune system and also has an antiinflammatory effect! Other beneficial compounds in apples include chlorogenic acid and catechin, which can protect cells of the stomach lining from damage caused by anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and aspirin) that could otherwise lead to the development of stomach ulcers.


The majority of an apple's phytonutrients and pectin are found in the peel! For that reason, it's best to eat an apple in its whole form! However, when eating apple peel, we recommend you try purchasing organic!


Ways to Eat It

Chopped into a salad for a sweet contrast

Slices dipped in nut or seed butter

Baked or stewed with warming #GoodGut spices, such as ginger or cinnamon


Apple Cinnamon Porridge
Apple Cinnamon Porridge


Avocado

We love avocados as a source of healthy, plant-based fat, because they also provide #GoodGut fiber to feed our intestinal microbes! Just one medium size avocado provides a whopping 10 grams of fiber! The healthy fats and fiber in avocados are beneficial for our microbiome and our metabolism, in fact one study found that those who consumed avocado daily had an increase in beneficial gut bacteria. Despite consuming more calories, those in the avocado group actually excreted more fatty acids in their feces, revealing that avocados have a beneficial impact on fat metabolism that may be useful for treating overweight and obesity!


Avocados are also rich in potassium, which is an important electrolyte for maintaining fluid balance within the body and supporting muscle contractions, including the contractions that help food move through the digestive tract. While potassium deficiency is rare, individuals with diarrhea (such as those with IBS-diarrhea subtype) are at risk of potassium deficiency, because excess body fluid is lost in watery stool. Individuals with IBS may also benefit from avocados, due to their low-fructose (FODMAP) content. Fructose is a sugar that is fermented in the colon, and can lead to gas and bloating. A low-fructose diet, including foods like avocado, may help to reduce IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea. However, it is also important to note that avocados are high in sorbitol (another FODMAP), so though they are low in fructose, be sure to pay attention to the sorbitol level!


Ways to Eat It

From smoothies, to eating it by itself, avocados are so versatile that you can have them in anything you want.

Some options are: Salads, Soup, Bowls, Juices, or Dressings!


Married to Health’s Vegan Caesar Dressing
Vegan Caesar Dressing

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References

Boyer, J., & Liu, R. H. (2004, May 12). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits.

Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC442131/

DiNicolantonio, J. J., & Lucan, S. C. (2015, September). Is fructose malabsorption a cause of

irritable bowel syndrome? Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729202/

Dong, P., Tao, Y., Yang, Y., & Wang, W. (2009, November 20). Expression of retinoic acid

receptors in intestinal mucosa and the effect of vitamin A on mucosal immunity.

Retrieved from

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0899900709003402?via=ihub

FoodData Central Search Results. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168202/nutrients

FoodData Central Search Results. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102652/nutrients

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https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169293/nutrients

Khedmat, H., Karbasi, A., Amini, M., Aghaei, A., & Taheri, S. (2013, August). Aloe vera in

treatment of refractory irritable bowel syndrome: Trial on Iranian patients. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872617/

Langmead, L., Feakins, R. M., Goldthorpe, S., Holt, H., Tsironi, E., Silva, A. D., . . . Rampton, D.

S. (2004, March 18). Randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial of oral aloe

vera gel for active ulcerative colitis. Retrieved from

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2036.2004.01902.x

Lattimer, J. M., & Haub, M. D. (2010, December). Effects of dietary fiber and its components on

metabolic health. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257631/

Makki, K., Deehan, E. C., Walter, J., & Bäckhed, F. (2018, June 13). The Impact of Dietary Fiber

on Gut Microbiota in Host Health and Disease. Retrieved from

https://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/fulltext/S1931-3128(18)30266-X?_returnURL=h

ttps://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S193131281830266X?showall=true

Mlcek, J., Jurikova, T., Skrovankova, S., & Sochor, J. (2016, May 12). Quercetin and Its

Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6273625/

Office of Dietary Supplements - Potassium. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/

Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin C. (n.d.). Retrieved from

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

Thompson, S. V., Bailey, M. A., Taylor, A. M., Kaczmarek, J. L., Mysonhimer, A. R., Edwards, C.

G., . . . Holscher, H. D. (2020, August 17). Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal

Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with

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