Holistic Nutrition: Supporting Gut Health with a Superfood Apple Pie
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
July is a big month for me. The 16th, is my birthday! But July is also the month of the anniversary of my husband’s passing. The two occasions fall just three days apart.
Embracing life’s contrasts: celebration and sadness.
I think we all know that both can trigger a hankering for comforting foods and sweet treats that don’t necessarily sit so well in a delicate system like mine (and possibly yours too?). We tell ourselves that we deserve that extra helping of strawberry shortcake or, screw it, tonight I’m going to have that summery mango margarita.
In the years that I’ve now been holding these two occasions so close in proximity, they’ve provoked a deep awareness about the different ways in which we culturally honor, celebrate, and observe. As a result, I’ve been observing just how we observe!
During this time I’ve come to realize that this is ultimately a time of year to find sweetness — the sweetness of love and loss and privilege, all wrapped together in a strange yet sacred way.
I’ve found that the traditional ways we’ve come to celebrate, which may include sugar or indulgence, no longer hold much pleasure for me. Since I want to wake up each day feeling vibrant and energetic, I like to find ways to celebrate and find sweetness that nourish all that I have ahead of me, and all that I have within me.
I like to sink into the pleasures of a life well-lived and find the nuances of what that means for me each year. Just where is the sweetness that I want to savor? I promise, it’s less heroic than it sounds. It really doesn’t need to be that hard or feel deprived to both honor and celebrate. Yet through all the ponderings, I don’t want to forget our holistic nutrition summertime focus honoring the gut.
Each summer I make it my mission to introduce you to some surprising ingredients that you can incorporate into your daily routine that benefit your gut healing intentions (we should all have them.)
And since my birthday is just around the corner, I wanted to make this dose of GI goodness as sweet as possible. I want to invite you to celebrate and honor with me! This summer lovin’ ingredient is only skin deep: and it’s as sweet as homemade jam. It’s pectin!
The power of pectin
If you’ve ever tried your hand at making homemade jam, you’ve likely heard of pectin. It’s the powdery substance that thickens and gels your strawberries or peaches into sticky jelly or jam. But what does pectin have to do with gut lovin’? And is it really a food?
Like many of our other gut lovin’ ingredients, pectin’s power comes back to our old familiar friend fiber (do you see a trend?). Pectin is a specific type of soluble fiber found in the cell walls and tissues of plants. And one fruit in particular (the one that’s known for “keeping the doctor away”) has the highest source of pectin. You guessed it…APPLES!
And if we’re talking specifics (which we are!) most of the pectin is in the peel so be sure you eat the whole fruit when you’re enjoying your apple-a-day. If apples aren’t your thing, don’t fret, oranges, carrots, apricots, papayas, mangos and citrus peels are also pectin powerhouses.
Pectin for your microbiome
You’ve heard me wax poetic many times regarding healthy gut bacteria and today is no different. The power of pectin likely lies in its ability to feed your microbiome. There’s been some notable research around pectin that’s caught my eye… Two apples a day for two weeks increased the number of Bifidobacteria (that’s the primary type of good gut bacteria in your colon), as well as other good gut bacteria including Lactobacillus and Enterococcus. That’s gut food at its greatest!
Pectin for detoxification and digestion
When the good gut bacteria increases, it slowly crowds out the bad bacteria, creating a shift in your microbiome that has positive effects on all aspects of your physical and mental health; reaching far beyond what’s happening in your gut! Like other soluble fiber, pectin also acts as a powerful broom, helping to sweep toxins and waste from your digestive tract.
The last piece of pectin merit that I want you to know about is that pectin appears to increase acetic acid which helps balance the acidity in the large intestine and throughout your entire digestive tract. This might be why eating an apple is a traditional remedy for relieving acid reflux and similar symptoms.
Pectin recipe for gut health and feed your sweet tooth
Ready to eat some apples? Here’s the gut lovin’ apple pie my super sweet nutrition team created to help me (and my microbiome) celebrate my birthday. Join me for a slice!
Superfood Apple Pie with Salted Date Caramel
When it comes to apple pie, pectin serves as a molecular glue. The more tart and less ripe the apple, the more strongly the pectin binds the fruit together so they don’t turn to mush. That’s why summer is a perfect time to pick a peck of pectin-rich apples!
- 6 large medjool dates, pitted
- 2 cups raw or sprouted walnuts
- 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup coconut flour
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil
- pinch of salt
- 4 large apples (fuji or gala are perfect), washed and thinly sliced
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 Tbsp lucuma powder
- 2 Tbsp water
salted date caramel
- 6 large medjool dates, pitted
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1/3 – ½ cups water
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350°F
For your crust:
- Blend dates in a high speed blender or food processor.
- Once creamy, add all other crust ingredients and blend until well combined. Walnut chunks are ok!).
- Use coconut oil to grease a 9-inch tart or pie pan and press mixture evenly to the bottom and slightly up the sides.
- Bake for 5-10 minutes.
For your filling:
- Thinly slice apples with a mandolin or by hand.
- Toss apples with remaining filling ingredients until well coated.
For your caramel:
- Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor until completely smooth. Add more water to get the desired caramel consistency.
Put it all together:
- Add half the apples to the pre-baked crust in an even layer.
- Spread 1/3 of the date caramel over the apples in a thin layer.
- Add remaining apples.
- Cover pie with parchment paper and an oven-safe pot lid (to prevent the apples from drying out), then bake for 25-30 minutes.
- Remove lid and bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely and enjoy!
P.S. You’ll likely have some leftover caramel sauce but hey, it’s my birthday so have a little extra drizzle on top! Trust me, you’ll want more!
Your gut lovin’ homework?
Find out if an apple (or two) a day does indeed keep the doctor away and try the pie! Here’s to sweet summer weekends.
As always, remember that we’re each unique and we all respond differently to new ingredients. While introducing more fruit and pectin to your diet, be sure to start low and go slow. If you have a delicate GI and have any concerns, please consult your dedicated healthcare provider.
Giuntini EB, Sardá FAH, de Menezes EW. The Effects of Soluble Dietary Fibers on Glycemic Response: An Overview and Futures Perspectives. Foods. 2022;11(23):3934. Published 2022 Dec 6. doi:10.3390/foods11233934
Pascale N, Gu F, Larsen N, Jespersen L, Respondek F. The Potential of Pectins to Modulate the Human Gut Microbiota Evaluated by In Vitro Fermentation: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2022;14(17):3629. Published 2022 Sep 2. doi:10.3390/nu14173629
Garcia-Mazcorro JF, Pedreschi R, Yuan J, et al. Apple consumption is associated with a distinctive microbiota, proteomics and metabolomics profile in the gut of Dawley Sprague rats fed a high-fat diet. PLoS One. 2019;14(3):e0212586. Published 2019 Mar 14. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0212586
Dang G, Wang W, Zhong R, Wu W, Chen L, Zhang H. Pectin supplement alleviates gut injury potentially through improving gut microbiota community in piglets. Front Microbiol. 2022;13:1069694. Published 2022 Dec 9. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2022.1069694
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