THE GUT MICROBIOME…EXPLAINED

Let’s talk science!

According to trendwatchers, consumers are increasingly interested in learning more about gut health; understanding the use of probiotics and prebiotics as a natural way to support a healthy digestive system.

Let’s start at the beginning — what exactly is the “gut microbiome”?

A microbiome is the community of microorganisms that can usually be found living together in any given habitat. In the case of the gut microbiome this means the trillions of micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses living together in your small and large intestine (also known as “the gut.”) Though it may sound strange to hear we have bacteria and fungi living in our bodies, it is normal and even—surprise!—beneficial to our health when those microbes live in harmony. We each have our own unique network of microbes, which we begin to develop as infants and continue to develop as we age through environmental exposures and our diet patterns. The key to a healthy microbiome is a symbiotic relationship between the micro-organisms: a smaller number of pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes peacefully coexist with a larger quantity of healthy microbes. Disturbances in this delicate balance can be caused by prolonged use of antibiotics, illness or infection, and poor food choices over time such disturbances in the gut can negatively impact health.

The Microbiome and Your Health

The microbiome plays such a key role in our health and body function that some researchers refer to the microbiome as an organ itself! The microbiome can stimulate the immune system and help control how your body responds to infection. A healthy gut breaks down potentially harmful food compounds as well as harmful bacteria that are introduced to the body through contaminated food or water.

The microbiome also synthesizes certain vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin K, and amino acids. New research indicates that the microbiome may play a role in mental health because it produces 90 percent of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate our emotions. It also produces the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps control feelings of fear and anxiety.

How to Build a Better Microbiome

Eat More Prebiotics: Prebiotics are plant fibers that are food for good gut bacteria. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains like oats and farro to promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Try these recipes:
Grilled Scallion, Farro, Mint Salad, Lemon-Miso Dressing
Carrot Cake Overnight Oats
Cannellini Bean and Green Vegetable Farro Risotto
Eat More Probiotics: Probiotics are live, healthy microorganisms found in food. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt and kombucha. If you’re reading food labels, fermented foods with live active cultures will state the strain of bacteria it contains (for example, Lactobacillus bulgaricus or B. animallis) and the number of microorganisms per serving. Some common fermented foods may not actually contain probiotics baking or heat treating can kill the bacteria (think sourdough bread). Try these recipes:
Broccoli Apple Salad, Greek Yogurt Dressing
Savory Greek Yogurt Parfait, Cucumber Chickpea Sala
Soba Noodle, Kimchi, Cucumber Salad

Do I Need a Supplement?

We always recommend food first! However, if you choose to go the probiotic supplement route, look for the following on a supplement label:

Recommended Use | For example, “supports digestive and immune health”
Dosage | The amount you need to consume to receive some benefit
Strain of Bacteria | For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus MN5
CFU (Colony Forming Units) | The total number of live cultures in the supplement; avoid products that state the CFU at time of manufacture since this does not take into account the decline of CFU during storage
Use By Date | How long the supplement will contain live cultures

The New “Dry” Trend, What Conference Organizers and Attendees Need to Know

According to those who study the alcohol industry, consumption of “no and low” alcohol drinks will grow by 31% by 2024. Why is this important to conference organizers and attendees? Traditionally, many conferences and conventions have used alcohol as a social lubricant and an enticement for attendees. Happy hours, drink tickets, and post-meeting cocktails are all standard. How can organizers adapt to this new trend?

Be respectful of choices

People have a variety of reasons for not drinking, including health concerns, pregnancy, diet, addiction issues, and personal preference. Many companies also advise employees not to drink when “on the job” to avoid potential legal problems. Obviously, no one should question anyone else about why they do or do not eat or drink a specific item. Organizers may also want to review conference information and announcements to ensure that it’s clear the conference is a welcoming space for those who do not drink.

More diverse happy hours

Happy hours aren’t disappearing. But if you want to make sure that non-drinking guests feel welcome and comfortable, you may have to up your game in terms of what you serve. No one wants to feel left out. Instead of only offering wine, beer, and soda, think about creating a signature “non-alcoholic” cocktail or providing a variety of non-alcoholic options.

Serve Food

Spending a little more energy (and money) on your appetizers will also help keep people who aren’t drinking happy. Remember, the point of a happy hour at a conference is to help people feel taken care of and keep them talking to each other. The more interactive the food, the more occupied guests will be. Some ideas to consider:

    • Fondue or other dipping foods
      Edible centerpieces that encourage nibbling
      Roll-your-own spring rolls
      Build-your-own taco, stir fry, or poke bowl meal.
  • These choices all have the added benefit of allowing people to choose their ingredients based on dietary needs and preferences.

    Coffee is the new drinks

    One benefit of drinking less is that it’s easier to get up in the morning! For many conference-goers, “Let’s grab coffee” has replaced “Let’s get a drink.” Consider focusing more of your networking opportunities around the morning instead of the evening.

    Get the dance started

    Many conferences like to end with a big party featuring a musical guest and dancing. There’s no denying that getting people to dance is easier when alcohol is involved. If you’re worried about whether or not people will have a good time at your social event, consider bringing in help. Hire a dance instructor to teach line dancing or consider non-musical entertainment that still allows people to interact. Several companies provide game shows or murder mystery events to keep participants entertained.

    Party favors and swag

    Unless your event is for the food and drink industry, you should not give items like shot glasses, carafes, and beer cozies as swag or favors.

    Alcohol isn’t disappearing, but with more and more people choosing a low or no alcohol lifestyle, conference organizers, attendees, and hosts will all have to find new ways to socialize.

    DEBUNKING COMMON ASIAN FOOD MYTHS

    May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the immense contributions from throughout the AAPI community and the tremendous impact and influence this community has had on American culture.

    When it comes to Asian food culture, our basic assumptions about slurping ramen and eating with chopsticks are misguided at best. This AAPI Heritage Month, let us help debunk a few common food myths from throughout the Asian diaspora.

    Myth: Fortune cookies are a Chinese dessert.

    Fact: The history of American’s favorite “Chinese” dessert is greatly debated, but all history records show this crispy cookie was invented in none other than San Francisco. Inspired by Japanese pastries made of sesame and miso called tsujiura senbei, Japanese baker Benkyodo Co. was the main supplier of fortune cookies until World War II forced Japanese-Americans into internment camps, at which point the Chinese-Americans began making their own fortune cookies — and the rest is history.

    Myth: General Tso’s Chicken was named for a famous Chinese general.

    Fact: When United States Navy Admiral Arthur W. Radford visited Taiwan, Chef Peng Chang-kuei prepared for the state banquet with a new dish consisting of chicken and chilies, naming it for General Zuo Zongtang. This original iteration of General Tso’s Chicken is a lot different than what we see today.

    Peng’s chicken dish inspired a chef living in New York City, who adapted the recipe for his own restaurant in 1972, adding a sweetness and crispier batter to the chicken dish we know today.

    Myth: All Indian food is vegetarian.

    Fact: One of the biggest myths about Indian cuisine is that it’s all vegetarian. Recent government surveys debunk this entirely with only 23-27% of the population identifying as vegetarian or vegan. Depending on which culinary region of India you’re exploring, you might try Kerala Spicy Pork Vindaloo, Goan Fish Curry, or seafood Jhinga Nisha.

    Myth: Ginger is a sushi garnish.

    Fact: Draping a slice of ginger over your sushi is a huge faux pas. The pickled ginger that comes with your sushi is really meant as a palate cleanser to be consumed between dishes!

    Enjoy a bite of ginger between different pieces of sushi allows you to distinguish the distinct flavors of each fish.

    Myth: All chopsticks are made equal.

    Fact: Chopsticks are as unique as every other utensil in your silverware drawer, they vary in size, material, and uses. For example, in China chopsticks tend to be longer and thicker; in Japan, chopsticks are shorter and have tapered tips; and in Nepal, chopsticks are typically made of bamboo.

    And not all Asian countries use chopsticks as their primary utensil. In some countries like the Philippines and Thailand, the most common utensils to eat with is a fork.

    The Pros and Cons of Bleisure Travel

    With more and more people working remotely, the lines between business and leisure time have blurred. One result is the rise of “bleisure travel,” travel involving aspects of both work and play.

    Bleisure travel can be as simple as adding a “fun” day to a business trip or adding a business meeting to a fun trip. It can also be working from a remote or exotic location over a long period. Some business travelers choose to bring their families to take advantage of a great location or hotel room. Combining your work and personal travel has pros and cons.

    The pros of bleisure travel
    Money

    The most obvious reason to combine business and personal travel is that it can save you money. If your company is already sending you to a fabulous location, why not extend the trip by a day or two and enjoy it. You can expand your savings by using loyalty programs and using the same airlines and hotels for work and leisure, increasing your points.

    Time

    If you have limited time off, using some of it to travel to a location can be annoying. Adding a vacation to your business trip may mean that you don’t have to take time off to get to a location. If you can work during the day and play in the evening, you may lose even less time.

    Unusual locations

    Business conferences and meetings are often held in great travel locations, but sometimes those locations are a little off the beaten path. Taking advantage of a business trip to explore a new area may widen your horizons.

    More family time

    If you can time a business trip for when the rest of your family is available, then having a company-provided hotel room may mean that you don’t have to be separated from your family when working.

    The negatives of bleisure travel
    Blurred lines

    Many people who work from home cite never feeling truly “off work” as a problem. If you choose to combine your vacation with business, you’re compounding the problem. Everyone needs actual time off to recharge and refresh. If you’re a working parent you may find that business trips provide you the time you need to focus on work.

    Time zone confusion

    Frequent moving between time zones, even those only an hour apart, can disturb your internal clock and your external schedule. You may find it challenging to schedule meetings or appointments if you’re unsure what time zone you’ll be in on any given day.

    Inconvenient timing

    Many conference-goers need a day or two post-conference to follow up on connections made or information learned. You may let things slide if you go immediately from conference to vacation.

    Family pressure

    Although bringing your family on a work trip can save you money, it can also put a lot of pressure on your partner. This is especially true if you have kids that your partner is responsible for entertaining in an unfamiliar location while you work. You may also find that you resent not being able to do some of the fun things your family does while you’re in a meeting. Your family may also want to travel to different places than your company sends you. Taking actual family vacations means that everyone gets a chance to choose locations and activities.

    As travel becomes “normal” again, more and more people are looking for ways to extend their trips. If you plan to combine your business and free-time travel, make sure to think through all the potential consequences.

    BLACK BEAN, CHIPOTLE CAULIFLOWER, AVOCADO TACOS

    Fuel your body with our plant-based versions of classic dishes that will keep you satisfied all day long. Try a new take on an old favorite while boosting your nutrient intake! To complete your meal for the whole family or if you’re serving guests, pair our recipe for Black Bean, Chipotle Cauliflower, Avocado Tacos with a side of Mexican Quinoa Salador add a scoop of Grilled Portobello “Barbacoa” Taco Filling and wrap it all up in a large tortilla. Prefer meat-based protein with a south-of-the-border flair? Check out these recipes: Turkey Taco Meat Stuffed Avocado, Pico de Gallo, Cheddar and Chicken Stuffed Poblano Pepper “Tacos.”

    Ingredients

    CUBAN BLACK BEANS
    1 cup black beans, dry (can substitute 1 cup canned, rinsed beans)
    1 tbsp. canola oil
    1/3 cup yellow onions, diced
    1/3 cup celery, diced
    2 tsp ground cumin
    2 tsp ground paprika
    1/2 canned tomatoes, diced
    2 tsp lime juice
    3/4 tsp salt
    1 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
    CAULIFLOWER
    1 tsp canola oil
    2 tsp chipotle peppers, in adobo, minced
    2 tsp agave nectar
    2 cups cauliflower florets, cut
    TACO
    8 each yellow corn tortilla, 6″
    1-2 each avocado, sliced
    4 each lime, wedge
    Instructions
    Serving Size: 2 tacos I Makes 8 tacos

    Preparation:

    Cuban Black Beans

    Cover black bean with water and soak overnight.
    Drain and rinse beans. Add to saucepan and cover with water; let simmer 1 hour or until tender.
    Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion and celery. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add cumin, paprika, and tomatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add cooked beans, lime juice, salt, and vegetable broth. Simmer additional 30 minutes.

    Cauliflower

    In a bowl, whisk together oil, chipotle in adobo, and agave. Toss with cauliflower.
    Place on a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast at 425°F until cauliflower is caramelized and tender, about 10 minutes.

    Tacos

    Warm corn tortillas.
    Top each corn tortilla with 1/2 cup of Cuban black beans, 1/4 cup of chipotle cauliflower, and 1-2 slices of avocado. Serve 2 tacos with 1 lime wedge.

    Nutrition Info per one serving:

    Calories 390, Total Fat (g) 12, Sat Fat (g) 1, Sodium (mg) 420, Protein (g) 16, Carbs (g) 58, Fiber (g) 18, Sugar (g) 5

    What Kind of Swag Should You Give or Get at Conferences?

    People love free swag. Science has proven that the idea of something “being free” makes people behave in irrational ways. No one knows this more than the weary business traveler packing to come home from a conference or trade show and finding their carry-on bag is now full of magnets and post-it notes. So, what kind of swag should you take from, or give on, a conference or trade show floor?

    Tote Bags

    Swag has three purposes for vendors:

    • Attract people to the booth

    • Remind people of your company once they’re home

    • Advertise your company at the conference or trade show.

    Tote bags do all three of these things. People at conferences and shows need tote bags, if for no other reason than to hold the other swag they pick up. Tote bags are also large enough to fit full logos and contact information. People tend to keep tote bags and use them long after the conference. For attendees, a tote bag is always worth picking up.

    T-shirts

    A high-quality t-shirt can be a great freebie, but as a vendor, you have to think seriously about where people will wear the t-shirt. If your customer only wears the shirt to sleep or work out, will it really help advertise your business? Conference-goers should almost always pick up a free t-shirt (unless, of course, you have a drawer full of them at home already).

    Personal Care Items

    Chapstick, mirrors, hand sanitizer … these are great items to pick up at a conference as you may need them during the trip. But for vendors, they frequently aren’t the best option. These items are easily disposable and unlikely to be naturally tied to your brand.

    Buttons/Pins

    No. Don’t pick them up. You have absolutely nothing useful you can do with that button after the conference is over. The only possible thing you can do with a button after the meeting is give it to a child you forgot to buy a present.

    Office Supplies

    It sounds simple, but office supplies (pens, Post-it Notes, rulers, etc.) are an excellent choice for both the vendor and the conference-goer. You want your conference swag to remind people of your company; you also want it to remind people at the right time. As comfortable as your t-shirt is, it’s unlikely that your target audience will be wearing it at work. On the other hand, office supplies are used exactly when you want your customer thinking about you at work. These items are small and easy to pack for conference-goers, and you can never have too many Post-it Notes.

    Brochures/Look Books

    In the old days, savvy conference-goers would mail all the catalogs they picked up home and look at them later. Today though, it’s just too much paper. You can get away with putting your catalog on a branded flash drive, but that technology is also becoming obsolete. You’ll want to print a few catalogs for people who like to do things old-school, but a much better option is to email people a link once they’re home.

    If you do wind up picking up unnecessary conference swag don’t be afraid to give it away. Remember, people love free stuff!

    ONE FOOD, FOUR WAYS: TOFU

    As we approach Year Three of the coronavirus pandemic, more and more of our readers are experiencing cooking fatigue. Gone are the days of sourdough starters, emotional support banana bread, and TikTok famous baked feta; drained of any culinary creativity, the novelty of shopping for and preparing homemade meals has, frankly, worn off. Now, cooking just feels like a repetitive chore. ​
    In addition to battling dinner boredom, the pandemic has amplified our national food insecurity crisis. With sourcing and delivery issues in the supply chain, people are stressed about where their food is coming from and if/when it’s coming at all.

    If you need inspiration to change up your at home menu, or are looking to stretch an ingredient for a few extra meals each week, we’ve got you covered. Let’s talk about a versatile and plant-based protein: tofu.

    [Read this: What the FLIK is…the difference between tofu, tempeh, and seitan?]

    Tofu has been an age old standard protein option for vegetarians and vegans, and is one of the most flexible plant-based proteins to cook with. Relatively tasteless, tofu is known for taking on flavors of spices and sauces really well. It can be eaten plain and raw, grilled, pan seared, baked and even freeze-dried.

    Here are 4-ways to prepare this delicious protein:

    Sheet Pan Tofu, Vegetable Fajitas – When Meatless Monday meets Taco Tuesday, you end up with tofu fajitas. This family-friendly meal, calls for a rainbow of colorful veggies, and allows you to kick-up the heat to your personal desire.

    Asian Tofu Salad, Golden Beet, Ginger, Turmeric Vinaigrette – Perfectly paired with winter staples like beets and ginger, this refreshing salad highlights a homemade vinaigrette and a ton of protein thanks to the two-pack-punch from tofu and edamame.

    Tofu, Green Pea “Meatballs,” Curry Sauce – These tofu meatballs work swimmingly with this sweet and savory masala curry sauce. Prepare them in the crockpot as an easy weeknight meal.

    Tofu Poke, Wakame Seaweed, Corn – A vegan-style poke bowl that is prepared with tofu and a very-trendy seaweed, brings some seafood flavor without any fish. This build-your-own bowl adds the benefit of seaweed’s health benefits of iodine and antioxidants, so eat up!

    What Conference Organizers (and attendees) Need to Know About Force Majeure

    The Covid-19 pandemic introduced a lot of new words to our vocabulary. Once only known by lawyers, “Force Majeure” and “Force Majeure Clauses” have become common phrases for more people.

    What Is a Force Majeure Clause
    Force Majeure is a French phrase that means “superior force.” A Force Majeure Clause is a contract clause that frees both parties from obligations or liability when there’s a major issue. The idea is that a superior force (an earthquake, for example) has made it so that it would be impractical, inadvisable, or even impossible to hold people to the contract.

    What Do You Include in Force Majeure
    Force Majeure clauses frequently cover natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes. Other covered events may include war, labor strikes or disruptions, and yes, pandemics. Force Majeure clauses are not only for canceled events. A lawyer can write the clause in a way that allows your event to underperform. Let’s say that a week before the event, you realize that a new strain of Covid-19 will limit the number of people attending your event, but you don’t want to cancel. However, you’re worried that not having as many people at the conference will mean that you don’t make your food and beverage minimum (which will cost you money). A lawyer can draft the force majeure clause to excuse liability associated with cancellation and underperformance.

    Force Majeure Can Be Negotiated
    There’s no negotiating with a pandemic, but you can negotiate with your conference vendors the kinds of things to include in your clause. It’s important to be specific in these clauses because courts tend to interpret them narrowly. For example, say “terrorism” or the broader “threats of terrorism” are listed in your contract. It does not necessarily follow that if there is a police riot that prevents people from attending the event, your contract will cover it. It’s important to consider your location when negotiating the clause. What kinds of weather disturbances are likely? What kinds of political or transportation disturbances? You can’t specify or anticipate all potential events, so a concluding catch-all phrase should be appended to the list, such as “and any other events, including emergencies or non-emergencies.”

    Who Needs to Know This?
    If you’re simply attending a conference or presenting at one, the Force Majeure clause might not be that important to you. You should make sure to review your contract to see what the refund policy is if you can no longer attend due to forces outside your control. If you are planning on asking for a refund for non-attendance, make sure to do so early. If a conference organizer is not well-protected by their contracts, they may find it challenging to refund registrations fees.

    If you are planning the conference, a conference vendor, or even planning to have a booth or table at a conference, the Force Majeure clause could be important to you. Make sure to read all contracts carefully so that you understand your options and obligations.

    The Covid-19 pandemic upended our lives and businesses in many ways. Now that we’ve all seen firsthand what an unexpected event can do to lives and plans, people are likely to be more careful in creating contracts going forward.

    IMMUNE SUPPORTING NUTRITION

    The immune system is a network of organs, white blood cells, proteins, and chemicals that work together to keep you healthy. As foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens enter the body, a healthy immune system works to destroy or limit them, preventing infection or disease. When the immune system is compromised, or not working at an optimal level, it can’t fight a winning battle against these invaders, and thus, illness can result. The best way to improve the health of your immune system is not through supplements, shakes, or pills, but through healthy lifestyle choices such as getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy, balanced diet. The role of diet in promoting a strong immune system begins before you get sick, so follow a nutrient-dense eating pattern as outlined below to bolster your defenses and make the fight against illness faster and easier. ​

    START WITH GOOD HYDRATION
    Although we typically talk about food first, when it comes to the immune system, the mouth is a first-line immunological barrier and proper hydration is key to a healthy mouth. Many viruses and bacteria enter the body through the mouth, and our saliva acts as a barrier to help keep them out. Therefore, staying well hydrated decreases dry mouth, keeping salvia plentiful. Dehydration may also increase the stress hormone, cortisol, which has been linked to immunosuppression. To maintain proper hydration, drink enough fluids (water, unsweetened tea, seltzer, milk) throughout the day to ensure you never feel thirsty and your urine is pale in color.

    NO GUTS ABOUT IT
    A huge proportion of your immune system (nearly 70%!) is in your gut thanks to your intestinal flora. A healthy digestive system relies on the balance of healthy bacteria to not only help you absorb nutrients from food, but also to support the immune system and enhance overall health. The millions of bacteria in the gut work symbiotically with the immune system to ensure the body is protected and can eliminate any harmful pathogens it encounters. If the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut is thrown off, it can result in decreased immunity, leaving the body vulnerable to harmful invaders. Luckily, we can improve the healthy bacteria in the gut through diet. Consuming foods with ‘good’ bacteria, i.e. probiotics found in kefir, yogurt and sauerkraut, may enrich intestinal flora to improve immune function. Since bacteria cannot flourish without food, a colorful, fiber-rich diet including fruits, vegetables and legumes feeds microbes to build a healthy gut.

    GET COLORFUL
    The micronutrients and plant chemicals found in fruits and vegetables are as good as gold to a healthy immune system. Many of these vitamins and minerals have antioxidant properties that help regulate the millions of biochemical processes that keep this system shining bright. Vitamins and minerals specifically exhibit important immune-modulating functions by entering cells and regulating gene expression. Vitamins A, C, D, and E, minerals zinc and selenium, and antioxidant compounds like beta-carotene and flavonoids play important roles in immune function. It is best to get these nutrients from whole foods rather than supplements as they tend to work in combination with other nutrients and plant chemicals also found in food. There is no specific fruit or vegetable that’s best; focus on a variety of colors such as green, orange, white, red, blue and purple, and incorporate nuts, seeds, whole grains, and lean protein from beef, poultry and seafood to ensure a well-rounded micronutrient intake.

    DON’T FEAR (HEALTHY) FAT
    A diet rich in healthy unsaturated fats has been shown to support a healthy immune system. Long-chain polyunsaturated fats can help modulate immune function, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to alter the fat composition of cell membranes, help regulate immune cell function, suppress over activity, and act as anti-inflammatory agents. These healthy fats can be found in fish (salmon, tuna, anchovy), nuts and seeds (chia, flax, walnuts) and vegetable oils (olive, soybean and canola).

    THE POWER OF PROTEIN
    Proteins (made of amino acids) don’t just build strong muscles, they are elemental in the structure of every cell, tissue, and organ working to keep you well. Protein molecules assist immune cells (i.e. white blood cells, B cells, phagocytes, and antibodies) to carry out their jobs, like distinguishing between normal body chemicals and foreign invaders, destroying harmful organisms, and mounting an immune response to infection. Ensure your diet is rich in quality proteins from both plant and animal sources including lean cuts of beef, poultry and pork, fish, eggs, beans, and whole grains.

    A healthy immune system starts with a healthy diet, so this winter focus more on whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals, and less on supplements and processed foods to ensure your immune system is in tip-top shape.