Many studies are linking conditions such as migraines, digestive issues, weight gain, low immunity and even depression to the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
A few weeks ago, a conference hosted by the Academy of Dietetics Food and Nutrition (FNCE) in Boston addressed the issue extensively, conveying the importance of consuming the right combination of prebiotics and probiotics.
Probiotics are active, live microorganisms that help promote a healthy gut. They can be found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, aged cheeses, tofu and fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and pickles.
But consuming probiotics alone is not enough. Probiotics need food to function and multiply, which is where prebiotics come into play. Prebiotics are fibers that are found in plant-based foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables. Some of the best examples include oatmeal, legumes, bananas, asparagus, jicama, and much more.
In the FNCE expo, different companies offered an array of products: from the newest body composition machines, nutrition analysis software and multiple mobile apps to the hottest food trends, including both packaged and whole foods.
Here is a list of my top five finds worth mentioning.
Moringa vegetable powder
I found this product by visiting the Kuli Kuli booth and, wow, was I impressed. If you are a kale lover for its nutrition benefits, you are going to love moringa. Moringa is a small leafy tree, whose leaves have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It has twice the amount of protein than kale, four times more calcium, six times more iron, 1.5 times more fiber, 97 times more B2 and five times more B3. It is also rich in vitamin A, potassium and other anti-oxidants.
This is a natural, skinny sweetener with benefits. Stir is 100 percent natural, made from the highest quality Certified Organic Coconut Palm Nectar. Not only is it low glycemic – it contains 37 percent less calories than sugar, 10 calories per serving –, it also provides nutrients such as potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamins, amino acids and a gram of beneficial prebiotic fiber.
If you are a milk lover but can’t drink it due to gastrointestinal discomfort, here comes a2 milk. It is the only cow milk in the U.S. market that is free from the A1 beta-casein, a protein that has been linked to digestive discomfort, similar to lactose intolerance. Many people self-diagnose with lactose intolerance and eliminate milk or replace it with plant-based alternatives, which can put them at risk of poor diet quality and nutrient deficiencies. a2 Milk is a naturally nutrient rich cow product that may bring people back to milk!
This may not be the hottest find, since barley has been with us for thousands of years, but I have recently found out some information about it that makes it stand out. Barley is a whole grain that can help with reducing obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Most importantly, barley has a connection with the prebiotic and probiotic talk. The fibers found in barley are prebiotic, which can lead to a healthy gut. It also contains soluble beta-glucan, which reduces cholesterol.
Legumes were all the rage in the FNCE expo last month. They seemed to be the main ingredients in many food products such as dehydrated snacks, protein bars, protein powders and of course canned and whole food products. Legumes are a superfood providing complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Legumes contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, which can promote bowel regularity, lower cholesterol and help keep blood sugar levels in check.
Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition and weight loss center in San Francisco. He is the founder and creator of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of three books, Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes and his newest book, Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss.