A Happy Gut for the Holidays
By Molly Knudsen, MS, RDN
Between the heaps of sugar from cookies and candies and the mountains of gravy from a seasonal roast, the months of November and December—actually let’s be honest, more like the months of October through January—are not known for being health-promoting.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to maintain your gut microbiome. The gut microbiome refers to the variety of microorganisms that live in your intestines. The gut microbiome not only influences digestion and absorption of nutrients, it has also been shown to support brain health, skin health, and weight maintenance.
A balanced diet can support a healthy gut. Consider exploring prebiotics and probiotics. Both prebiotics and probiotics can naturally be found in foods. Prebiotics are typically found in fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and probiotics may be found in foods fermented via natural processes.1 Here are a few healthy recipes you can cozy up with this holiday season while also nourishing your gut.
Kimchi Probiotic Power Bowl
Kimchi is a traditional Korean food. It consists of fermented vegetables, typically cabbage. Because of this fermentation, kimchi is full of good bacteria.2
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
- 1 Tbsp. peanut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
- 1 cup kimchi, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 7 oz. enoki mushrooms
- 3 cups kale, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. tamari sauce
- ¼ cup kimchi juice (the juice at the bottom of the kimchi jar)
- 4 eggs
- 3 stalks green onion, chopped (optional)
Heat the peanut oil, garlic, and ginger over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and quinoa and sauté until the kimchi is fragrant and slightly yellow, around 5 minutes. Next, add the enoki mushrooms, kale, tamari sauce, and kimchi juice and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the mushrooms and kale are tender.
In a separate skillet, cook 4 eggs over easy.
Serve egg over bed of quinoa and kimchi mixture. Garnish with green onion if desired.
Per serving: 323 calories, 13 g total fat, 3 g saturated fat, 380 g sodium, 42 g total carbohydrate, 7 g dietary fiber, 15 g protein
Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem artichokes do not resemble an artichoke in any sense. Also referred to as sunchokes, Jerusalem artichokes are a root vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. They contain the prebiotic fiber inulin, which is a soluble fiber that is readily fermented in by good bacteria in the gut. 3
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
- 2 lb. Jerusalem artichokes, washed/scrubbed and quartered
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. dried thyme, ground
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- ½ cup aged balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 375°. Combine and toss the artichokes, olive oil, and thyme in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
While the artichokes are cooking, reduce the aged balsamic vinegar: In a small saucepan under medium-low heat, bring the balsamic vinegar to a simmer, whisking constantly. Continue until the balsamic begins to thicken and the volume is reduced by half. This may take around 10 minutes.
Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar over the roasted artichokes and toss until the artichokes are evenly coated.
Per serving: 148 calories, 5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 96 g sodium, 24 g total carbohydrate, 2 g dietary fiber, 3 g protein
Cinnamon Apple Granola
Both apples and oats contain fiber, acting as a prebiotic for your gut bacteria to feed on. You can add this granola on top of yogurt or kefir.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 3 ½ cups organic, gluten-free oats (old-fashioned)
- 1 cup walnuts, crushed or halved
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¾ unsweetened applesauce
- 1 Tbsp. 100% maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1.5 cup dried apples, chopped
Preheat oven to 325°. Combine the oats, walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla extract over low heat until warm. Then pour the heated mixture over the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl and stir well. Spread the mixture evenly on a large baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, pull the tray out and stir everything around. Place the tray back in the oven the cook for another 20 minutes, or until the granola start to look crispy. Then mix in the dried apples.
Per serving: 237 calories, 6 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 17 g sodium, 26 g total carbohydrate, 3 g dietary fiber, 5 g protein
Nutrition information estimated using the USDA Food Data Central.
- McMillen M. Could Fermented Foods Boost Your Health? https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20170213/could-fermented-foods-boost-your-health#1. WebMD. Accessed April 3, 2019.
- Park KY et al. Health Benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as probiotic food. J Med Food. 2014;17(1):6-20.
- Bode L. Human milk oligosaccharides: prebiotics and beyond. Nutrition Reviews.67(s2):S183-S191.