This soup never made my book, Fight Fire with Food (which is coming soon) but is so delicious and contains tarragon which is a very healing spice. The plant is used to treat digestion, increase appetite, prevent water retention, can help with tooth pain, and promotes sleep. I love the taste and look of tarragon and it is so easy to grow in your garden or on your windowsill. Zucchini has many health benefits as well. Interesting fact: botanically, zucchini is a fruit. Like tarragon it also aids in digestion, is loaded with nutrients, is high in water content and in fiber. This summer squash is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. For those with blood sugar issues, it is good to know that zucchini lowers your blood sugar levels, due to its high fiber content. Also good for heart health, eye health, weight loss, thyroid and adrenal functions. It almost sounds too good to be true! It is so easy to grow in your garden but don't plant it next to a watermelon plant as they will cross pollinate and you will get a watermelon looking zucchini that is tough in the center. True story. Hope you enjoy this recipe. Picture by Kelly Reeve, kellyreevephotography.
Zucchini Soup with Fresh Tarragon
4 large zucchinis, diced
2 tablespoons (30 ml) coconut oil
1 small shallot, diced
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups (750 ml) chicken broth
4 tablespoons (60 ml) slivered almonds, for garnish
1 teaspoon (5 ml) finely chopped fresh tarragon
Fresh lemon zest
Cook the zucchini in a large skillet over medium heat with the coconut oil, shallot, sea salt, and pepper, until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the chicken broth and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until soup is warm throughout. Remove from the heat and transfer to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Divide into serving bowls and serve warm, garnished with almonds, tarragon and lemon zest.
All Disease Begins in the Gut
Every day that I study our bodies, and its relationship to food I learn something new. Hippocrates said nearly 2500 years ago that, “all disease begins in the gut”. All aspects of our health depend on good digestion and yet its importance is often underestimated by many people. The gastrointestinal system contain more health determining bacteria than any other part of our body. It not only digests our foods, it effects our immune system, metabolism and inflammation levels. This week I would like to share some interesting facts and tips on how to improve your digestion and deal with “leaky gut”. Here are some interesting facts about digestion:
* Satiation is a major clue in letting us know whether we are well nourished or absorbing nutrients efficiently. Hungry all the time? No appetite at all? Your body is talking to you.
* Do you feel bloated, have gas or indigestion after eating? Conversely, having no desire to eat means that food sits in your stomach for too long- a sign of low stomach acid. 90 per cent of
people have too low stomach acid so those antacids you are popping are not the answer and
could be making your situation worse.
* Symptoms of low or high acid are the same. Reflux happens when food stays in the stomach too long, due to a weak cardiac sphincter. The food comes back up the esophagus. Antacids do
more harm than good, causing the food to sit in your stomach even longer. Long term they
deplete your body of nutrients and have a host of unpleasant side effects.
* Low stomach acid may be the result of stress, excessive carbohydrates, allergies, alcohol use,
carbonated beverages, and nutrient deficiencies especially zinc and B6.
* Optimal digestion can only happen when you are in a parasympathetic state, relaxed, stress free and focused on eating. Wow, I see a big problem here with our present day, eat on the run way of life. And where multi-tasking is often the norm.
* Digestion begins in your brain when you begin thinking of food.
* The production of stomach acid is reliant on a hormone called gastrin which is created in the stomach. Stomach acids are necessary to break down food, and protect you from parasites and bad bacteria. We need our stomach acids to be between 1.5 and 3 on the pH scale. So we need stomach acids to break down protein and conversely too much protein and too little acid will result in undigested food hanging around in your gut causing irritation and inflammation in the lining of the stomach, and this is why too much protein isn’t good for us.
* We get a new stomach lining every 21 days. There is hope!
* Carbs are digested in the mouth, proteins in the stomach and fats in the duodenum, the first and shortest part of the small intestine.
* People with optimal gut health should poop two snakes (S shaped) a day!
* Toxic stress can also negatively effect our ability to digest. Polluted air, perfumes, toxic
exposure all inhibit our saliva production and the production of salivary amylase. When this
happens those carbohydrates that are supposed to be broken down in the mouth instead work
there way down the digestive tract and begin to ferment. Here comes gas and bloating!
* The top threats to your gut microbiome are: stress, a poor diet of processed foods, refined
grains and sugars, contraceptives, and overuse of antibiotics and other drugs.
* The top consequences of poor digestion are stomach ulcers, autoimmune diseases, mental
illness but lesser but still serious are also caused by poor gut biome such as ear and yeast
infections, nail fungus, hormonal imbalances, eczema and acne. Also, without a sufficient
amount of acids you cannot absorb calcium and magnesium both which help the heart muscle
contract. So there is a connection between digestion and heart issues. (More on this in a future blog).
* Good bacteria in your gut produce important B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin and
cobalamin (B12). And 90 per cent of serotonin is produced by good bacteria in the gut.
* We need to eat foods that create an environment for bacteria to grow. These prebiotics feed the microbes in the gut. Eat low sugar fruits such as berries, vegetables such as dark leafy
greens, herbs and spices, and dark chocolate.
* Probiotics may be necessary to get your microbiome in good working order especially if you
have had your appendix removed ( a bacteria generator) or if antibiotics have been taken.
* Fiber rich foods helps control blood sugar levels and prevent constipation.
Improve your digestion and you improve your health. All aspects of your life! Keep tuning in for more help in improving your digestion. And keep eating healthy vegetables and greens! Please share.
Going Low Carb
Wildly popular is the low carb diet and for good reason. Simple carbohydrates, nutrients that are
composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen, are high on the glycemic index and having been getting a lot of attention lately as the cause of most of our health issues. Simple carbs are fruits and fruit juices, table sugar, corn syrups, and all foods that are refined and processed. Simple carbs are addicting and result in constant feelings of hunger and cravings that never seem to go away. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, have fiber in them such as greens, squash, broccoli and are low on the glycemic index and have considerably less impact on our blood sugar. Many diets recommend 60 per cent of your diet be composed of carbs. The proponents of these diets are living in the past where sugar was glorified and fat demonized. These recommendations have led to the demise of our health and well-being. It is carbohydrates that have led to our obesity epidemic, crisis in health due to nutrient deficiencies, fatty liver disease and diabetes. In fact, when people rely on carbs to get their nutrition their deficient bodies will pull nutrients from their bones to get what they need. It may be surprising to you, that our bodies are composed of only 2 per cent carbohydrates and inside the human body there is only one teaspoon of glucose. These facts alone should make one realize that overloading the body with carbs just doesn’t make sense. Another fact is that if you didn’t eat any carbs your body could make sugar on its own, converting some of the protein and fats you consume, to glucose.
One way to check how your body reacts to carbs is to use a glucometer. This is the same device
diabetics use to test their blood sugar. You can do your own experiment by testing blood sugar before and after eating a carbohydrate to see how your body responds and what you can tolerate. If blood sugar takes a big spike you’re body may not be tolerating sugars well and these foods should be avoided to prevent becoming diabetic.
Some points to consider regarding eating carbohydrates:
* Healthy carbs like leafy green vegetables, non-starchy vegetables, and berries can provide a
quick fuel source, are full of fiber, help lubricate our joints and feed our good gut bacteria.
* Try to eat as many colours of vegetables when in season and eat local and organic when
* If you can tolerate some carbs eat whole fruits versus juices. If you are diabetic think of fruit as natures candy and avoid it. Like vegetables eat fruit low in sugar , in season and organic.
Strawberries are excellent for you but buy organic as most are full of pesticides.
* If you add a healthy fat to your fruit it will blunt the effect of the sugar. Strawberries and
whipped cream anyone!
* All sugars even “healthy sugars” are sugar to our bodies. It can’t tell the difference between
white sugar and honey. They are equally high on the glycemic index. They may have other
nutrient benefits but if you have carbohydrate intolerance you need to avoid them all, even my
favourite, maple syrup.
* Incorporate fermented foods into your diet to replenish your intestines with good healthy
bacteria and help you absorb minerals properly. Only buy fermented foods that are found in the
refrigerated section of your grocery store and introduce them slowly to avoid gas and bloating.
In conclusion, we now know that healthy fats are good for us and we need to limit our carbs particularly those refined sugary types. I recommend a gradual approach to eliminating carbs to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms that often mimic the flu. Sugar is like a drug and it is one that does a lot of damage to our body and our brains so we all need to make this change.
Susanne Jakubowski is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, Thai Yoga Therapist, and cancer survivor.