Kefir, kidney beans, kiwi and kebabs!
There's everything to do with helping gut health, bulking out chillis, boosting our Vitamin C intake and making that dirty take-away favourite and turning it in to a healthy home-cooked dish!
Something that has been consumed around the world for centuries, Kefir is a fermented milk drink traditionally made with goats milk and the addition of kefir grains.
Kefir grains are not typical grains like you would expect with wheat - as they do not contain gluten. They are a combination of living good gut bacteria and yeast fermentations.
Kefir is a hugely beneficial for the gut and studies have shown that it is the most powerful probiotic foods available today for gut health.
What then is a probiotic?
Probiotics are known as "good bacteria,” and they are living organisms. They help keep balance in the gut with regards to maintaining regular bowel movements, helping combat certain digestive conditions, and support the immune system.
What does kefir taste like?
Kefir has a tart, tangy flavour and can sometimes be described as carbonated due to its fermentation process.
Traditionally made from goats milk, today it is commonly made with cows milk and is available as plain or flavoured varieties.
Why should I drink kefir?
There are a great number of benefits to drinking kefir. However drinking just one glass of kefir isn't going to make much of a difference. Studies have proven that daily drinking over 2-4 weeks can start to have positive impacts on health.
But, let's first explain as to why the gut is so important.
The gut is responsible for being home to our microbiome - our microbiome is such an important part of our body that it has now been considered as its own organ.
Your microbiome is comprised of a number of different types of bacteria, viruses and fungi. These microorganisms play a hugely important role in nutrient absorption and food digestion.
The number of 'good' gut bacteria that you have in your microbiome are responsible for important things including the ageing process, immune system, disease protection, brain function right down to even your mood.
Bacteria cells are what make up the majority of microbiome.
As the bacteria cells are constantly turning over which is why if you want to improve your gut health, it is very easy to influence it by adding different types of food that you eat and introducing live cultures.
Some of the common health conditions linked to our microbiome health are things like acne, asthma, autoimmune diseases, depression and anxiety, IBA and obesity amongst others.
Kefir is good for your gut as it contains the following:
Calcium - Calcium is responsible for contributing to the normal function of digestive enzymes.
Vitamin A - Vitamin A is important for helping the immune system to function normally. This is important for helping to support the following autoimmune conditions and health conditions mentioned above.
Beans and pulses in general are a brilliant food stuff to add in to your diet. They are eaten around the world and are packed full of nutritional goodies like fibre, B-vitamins and are a wonderfully rich source of plant-based protein so great if you are vegetarian or vegan.
They are also super simple to prepare and a very inexpensive food.
What are the benefits of eating kidney beans?
Beans and legumes have many health benefits when consumed which include helping to reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar levels and increase healthy gut bacteria.
They are low in fat and also calories so are great to bulk our dishes when you are trying to keep you weight down and helpful to help you feel fuller for longer.
They are very cheap too compared to most other nutritious whole foods .
All in all, get more beans and legumes in to your diet as they are highly nutritious and also contain a little bit of almost every nutrient that you need.
It is important to note however that raw or improperly cooked kidney beans can be toxic and should be avoided being consumed unless cooked correctly. This however should not be something to put you off eating them as you can buy them pre-cooked in tins - or should you want to cook them from raw, you can easily soak them in advance of cooking.
Another undesired side effect can be they can make you a little windy!
Beans contain antinutrients that may cause bloating or flatulence. And with the right cooking and preparation methods most issues can be avoided.
Quick Eats: Chilli Con Carne
A good heart-warming chilli is a super good food to whip up for a midweek supper as its a great way to use those kitchen and store cupboard staples and it's such a 'throw in what you have' kind of meal or pip the accompaniments to your hearts content - there's not a lot to go wrong!
As long as you have onions, red peppers, garlic, spices, chopped tomatoes, red kidney beans, and some mince!
Serve with rice, garlic bread, pasta - carbohydrate of your choice, and pimp with sour cream, guacamole and cheddar cheese if you fancy!
You can even turn it in to a plate of nachos!
Kiwi's (also known as a Chinese Gooseberry!) are a nutrient-dense, awesome fruit - not only are they super tasty but they are an excellent source of Vitamin C and fibre. Rich in vitamins its also packed with antioxidants and can help heart and digestive health and aid immunity.
The Vitamin C contained in kiwi's is in abundance and can help stimulate the body's immune response. A kiwifruit (it's full name) contains up to 230% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C - so you can be sure you'll be getting vitamin packed goodness in every bite.
Vitamin C also can help contribute to collagen production which is what makes up a huge amount of cells and organs in our body, including the skin - so Vitamin C can help the body boost it's wound-healing ability.
Because kiwis are also rich in antioxidants they have the potential to protect the body from inflammation and disease. Antioxidants can help to remove free radicals from the body too. Free radicals in the body can negatively impact our DNA which can end up resulting in various forms of cancer.
Ki(wi) to my heart?
Kiwi's also have powerful properties that help to reduce blood pressure which can be useful when it comes to helping protect against strokes and heart disease.
Kiwi's also contain a good level (23-30% of an adult's daily recommended intake) of Vitamin K. Vitamin K is a great vitamin for helping bone health and adequate intake might help reduce the chance of getting osteoporosis.
Quick Eats: Super(food) fruit salad
Nothing is more delicious than a vibrant and totally eye and mouth bursting fruit salad -packed full of goodness.
A great combination is kiwi, mango, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
If you want you can add a little squeeze of orange juice over it - but I personally think just chopping up the fruits in any ratio and putting them all in a bowl can be delicious. Let yourself really get creative and see how much colour and variety of tropical fruits and delicious berries you can add in to your fruit salad to get your nutrition punch from every bite.
Now when we think of kebabs - our mind often goes to that greasy, highly processed kebab you might be used to scoffing down on the way home from a night out. BUT...the kebab I'm talking about is a juicy, nutritious, energy fuelling kebab which certainly has its rightful place on any table.
It's easy to think 'oh I'll just grab one from the shop' but often things like kebabs hide thousands of hidden calories, additives and not a lot of nutrition. So why not give this healthy and deliciously tasty home-made version a whirl.
You'll need chicken, garlic, onion, yoghurt, a few spices, some salad, flatbreads and whatever chilli sauce, pickles you want to add.
You can always be a little creative again - adding in some peppers or baby tomatoes to your skewer too. Feel free to free style and I think before too long - you'll not hurry back to the kebab shop!