With cold and flu season upon us, the best defense may be good gut health. Since much of our immune health begins in the gut, this recipe helps bolster gut health.

This is one hot topic. The National Institutes of Health is conducting a Human Microbiome Project to examine the role gut bacteria plays on health and disease. Research suggests that bacteria may play a role in developing diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, allergies and rheumatoid arthritis.

Each of us has a different mix of bacteria, which in turn influences our health. Food choices, physical activity, lifestyle, environmental factors, and even the way you were born, impact a person’s microbiota. Essential for health, they produce vitamins, break down food into the nutrients we need, teach our immune system how to recognize invaders and produce compounds that help fight off disease-causing bacteria.

Here’s where food comes in:

Foods rich in fiber and plant compounds such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes (split peas, black beans, pinto beans and lentils) satisfy the gut bacteria. Fermented foods and those with live, active cultures such as yogurt, kefir, miso, kimchi and unpasteurized sauerkraut and pickles (found in the refrigerated section at the grocery store) contain beneficial bacteria which helps keep the gut healthy.

Korean Noodles delivers some of the goods.

Why I like Korean Noodles:

This isn’t “pasta as usual.” The flavors are robust and the ingredients feed your gut bacteria.

It’s full of dark green, leafy vegetables. A type many of us fall short on, these are powerful vegetables with potassium, folate, fiber and carotenoids that help with cancer protection.

In less than 30 minutes and one cooking pot, you have a meal that is full of flavor and delivers healthy benefits.

One more thing —

Chop garlic 10 minutes before cooking. Allicin is the ingredient in garlic that’s responsible for garlic’s flavor and health benefits. But it’s shy. Allicin only becomes available when a protein and a heat-sensitive enzyme are released. Cutting (or pressing or chopping) garlic triggers the reaction. This is also what gives garlic its flavor and aroma and why it’s sometimes called the “stinking rose.” Just 10 minutes without heat allows the components time to reach their potential.

Keep your ingredients longer by storing them correctly:

Garlic: Choose a fresh bulb. The paper should be tight, not dry, frayed or shedding. A green sprout can indicate age. Store it in a dry, ventilated area. I use a fabric-lined basket.

Ginger: Fresh ginger should look, well, fresh, not wrinkled and shriveled. It can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen in an air-tight container. I usually peel before using, though ginger with light skin may not need peeled.

Sesame seeds: Store sesame seeds in the fridge or freezer.

Sesame oil: Store oil in the fridge to keep it fresh. Remove 15-30 minutes before using.

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website www.LiveBest.info for every day food solutions.

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