Gut Feelings: Enhancing Your New Year With Good Practices

Join us in treating your gut to good feelings and good health.

This post comes from our FP Contributor, Lexie Smith!

My gut likes 2016 so far. I have been treating it real nice, indulging in some routines that I know from experience make the days a little sweeter. It doesn’t take earth-shattering changes to start feeling better. Here are some that help:

Lots of beverages, all day every day.
In the morning: water sans ice, with lots and lots of lemon juice. This is of course a standard for hydration, but lemons also possess a myriad of health benefits, including encouraging active digestion, reducing inflammation by lowering the body’s acidity, stimulating your liver which helps to flush out toxins, and providing you a little energy boost, sans caffeine. I leave a lemon out on my cutting board at all times, and slice off a crescent to squeeze into a glass of water whenever I walk by. You’ll get more juice out of them if they’re at room temp, by the way. And if you’re feeling brave, pour a couple tablespoons of good apple cider vinegar in there (I prefer my lemon-apple cider vinegar cocktail hot). Your gut will thank you.

I will always, always drink coffee. It’s one of the real reasons I wake up in the morning, so I’d never preach giving it up. What I am steering clear of these days is almond milk — the massive production of almonds in the last couple of years has left the already dehydrated California landscape (where most of the almond farming takes place) in an even more brittle state. PSA: It takes 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond. The widely increased farming of almonds is irresponsible and entirely unsustainable, not to mention that the almond milk you buy in stores has a fraction of the health benefits of a whole almond itself. If you can’t live without them, eat the unprocessed nuts and ditch the milk. In coffee I use a little organic whole milk or, if I’m not feeling the dairy, I’ll use coconut, hemp, or a good soy if I can find it, making sure there are no added sweeteners.

My most prized moment of the morning, though, has been coming from the newest addition to my routine — a glass or two of miso broth. It satisfies hunger and gives me a dose of probiotics in the morning, while lifting my energy and sometimes even getting me through until lunchtime. Mix 1-2 teaspoons of red miso with 12 oz of hot water and squeeze some lemon in there. Throw in some seaweed if you’re fancy. Repeat.

I’ve been drinking a glass of red wine at night instead of eating sweets. It warms me inside and out, helps me sleep, and doesn’t leave a lingering blanket of haze in the morning like sugars and other alcohols can. There’s been an ongoing campaign for the health benefits of red wine, and it’s a bandwagon I’m sure has room for many more of us.

On the food front:
I’ve been eating lots and lots of beets. Somehow, I’d been overlooking them aside from their unrivaled pigmenting abilities. No more! They can be bright and astringent or velvety and rich, depending on adornment. I am constantly surprised by the yield I get from a couple roots, and their sweet or savory editions work throughout the day. I’ve been peeling the beets and drizzling with a little olive oil and salt, wrapping in foil and baking at 400F until a knife runs easily through, usually after 30 minutes. I keep a few roasted in the fridge and dress accordingly for whatever the occasion — balsamic and honey, sesame oil and soy, lemon, yogurt and dill, or whatever else I have on hand.

I’m making a lot of sourdough rye focaccia. I’ve been frustrated by the task of aligning naturally leavened bread making with an unpredictable schedule. You can’t rush natural yeast, nor can you purr and coddle and make it move along any faster than its own will wants it. Focaccia is an answer to this, for its flexibility and adaptability to timing and surroundings. Sourdough is also the only kind of gluten I’m allowing myself these days and, if you have any sensitivities to the grain, I suggest you do the same.

Here’s why:
– The yeast and bacteria in sourdough pre-digest the starches, making the grains more tolerable.
– The gluten protein is broken down into amino acids.
– The lactic acid content in the starter turns phytates (which prevent mineral absorption) into phytase (which allows for the opposite). Rye has the least amount of phytic acid to begin with, not to mention it makes for a ripping, hearty sourdough starter that’s near impossible to kill.

And lastly. It may be 2016 but I’m not done with kale yet, guys. However, lately I’ve been dressing it in tons of coarse mustard, lemon juice and just a drizzle of olive oil, instead of a heartier nut-based vinaigrette, which was my previous standard. It lightens and brightens the whole show, and has given me a new bed on which to rest my endless soft boiled egg supply.

Check back in this week for some more of the goods making me feel great this year.

More posts from Lexie Smith!

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Love this post—lots of great suggestions. Thanks!


Great ideas, except it is a little ironic for you to bash almond milk(totally agree with your points) and then suggest using cow milk, considering the incredibly environmentally destructive industry that is dairy fairing(even small scale organic is unsustainable!!) If we are comparing the two, almond milk is actually less destructive and certainly better for your health(no acidic animal protein and unhealthy fats)


I agree with Chloe about the dairy thing!
In Finland (it’s Swedish tho) we have this AMAZING oat milk, it is SO good with coffee. The company is called Oatly.


Hi Chloe and Miss! You have excellent points. I drink responsibly farmed (in the capacity possible) cow’s milk only when a good dairy alternative is not an option, probably less than once a month (I’m basically lactose intolerant). Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, dairy farming remains a widespread issue for the depletion of land integrity. I’m with ya! I think that changing western integration of dairy into the diet is a pretty large undertaking, and discourage the replacement of it with yet another harmful farming method. I just hope we remain aware and educated and take small steps… Read more »


I love FP posts about food. Love love love them. Thank you for being so realisitc & down to earth here.