Talk surrounding digestion and gut health is currently on the rise. In the age of kombucha, artisanal sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar shots, probiotics in the form of chips, bars, gummies, and more it is easy to feel overwhelmed. How could anyone have possibly had a healthy gut 20 years ago when most of these products didn't exist? Although it may seem as though you must do a million and one things to keep your digestive system happy and your gut healthy, the number one thing you can do is consume real whole foods. In fact, a list of top five things to do to improve digestion from John Hopkins University does not include single ferment, supplement, or fancy probiotic but rather emphasizes the importance of eating fiber, consuming whole grains and leafy greens, lean protein, and reducing fructose intake. Chocho can fit into this list of five things as it provides fiber, lean protein, and has minimal fructose and provides even more benefits as it contains glutamine and is lectin free. To better understand what this all means, let's take a closer look at the ways in which chocho can improve your digestive system and your gut health.
Cocho contains 7g of fiber per serving, or almost 30% of your daily value of fiber. According to Linda Ann Lee M.D. of Johns Hopkins, you need at least 25 grams of fiber per day for optimal colon functioning. Lee says that when gut bacteria ferment fiber, they produce short chain fatty acids which encourage proper functioning in the cells lining the colon. This is especially important because 70% of our immune cells live in this area. Research shows that proper fiber intake feeds good gut bacteria and helps them thrive. As they thrive, they increase in number and diversity and the more microbes we have in our intestines, “the thicker the mucus wall and the better the barrier between our body and our busy bacteria population.” This thick mucosal barrier lowers inflammation throughout the body while the bacteria aids in digestion (cite). Consuming chocho can help you reach your daily fiber needs, promoting gut bacteria, strengthening your mucosal barrier, and reducing inflammation throughout your body.
When most people hear protein, they immediately think of meat, and when people hear lean protein they think of chicken. However, meat is not necessarily the best option for everyone, or the planet. High fat proteins such as red meat can cause negative reactions such as contractions in the colon. Red meat also promotes colon bacteria that are associated with an increased risk in clogged arteries, so it may not be so good for gut health (cite). This is where lean proteins come in, and no we're not talking about chicken. In fact, legumes are an amazing source of lean protein as they contain less fat and more fiber than protein from meat. In a list of top lean proteins, legumes are ranked above poultry. And research shows that protein from plant sources is less obesegenetic (obesity causing) than protein from animal sources. Pretty crazy, right? Cooked beans, peas, and lentils average about 8 grams of protein per ½ cup serving and are low in fat and high in fiber. Chocho has even more protein than that, clocking in at about 33 grams of protein per half cup serving. By adding chocho into your daily routine and/or subbing it for your animal protein can improve your digestive health and possibly help to reduce your risk of clogged arteries and obesity.
Often people looking to improve their gut health may be already prone to gas and bloating. This may come from an over consumption of fructose, or fruit sugar. Foods like apples, pears, and mangos are high in fructose and although we love fruit, overdoing it can lead to gut issues. Research shows that high levels of glucose or fructose in the diet may interfere with gut microbiota and increase intestinal permeability, leading to inflammation and other health issues. This is part of why we chose to use just a small amount of coconut sugar in our vanilla and cacao chocho blends. Coconut sugar is only about 35% fructose while regular table sugar is about 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Our other sweetener, monk fruit extract, is completely fructose and glucose free. And, because there is only 2g of coconut sugar per serving of chocho, you do not need to worry about over consuming fructose when eating chocho.
Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning that although your body produces its own glutamine, there may be times you need to consume it as your body may need more than it can produce. Glutamine comes in two forms, L-glutamine and D- glutamine. D- glutamine is relatively unimportant in living organisms and is not found in food, so we're focusing on L-glutamine, which is the kind of glutamine found in foods and supplements, like chocho. L-glutamine is actually the most abundant amino acid in the blood and other body fluids. Similarly, L-glutamine is the most abundant amino acid found in chocho- chocho contains 5.19g of glutamine per 100g. Chocho is actually the only species of the lupin family that contains glutamine
So, what does glutamine do and why is it important for gut health? To start, glutamine promotes enterocyte proliferation and regulates tight junction proteins. Enterocytes are the cells of the intestinal lining, which are connected to each other through cellular connections known as tight junctions that help to keep your gut bacteria and broken down food particles where they should be. Additionally, enterocytes are important for iron absorption, protect against microbial invasion, and help with digestion (source: Science Direct). Through promoting the proliferation of these cells and tight junction proteins, glutamine helps to keep your gut lining strong and intact. Glutamine helps to suppress pro-inflammatory signaling pathways, which can reduce inflammation. Glutamine also protects cells against cell death known as apoptosis (cite)
Glutamine is also an important energy source for your intestinal cells as well as your immune cells. Since the intestines are considered the largest portion of your immune system, it is important to keep your gut healthy for proper immune functioning. And, because Glutamine helps to keep tight junction connections strong, it helps to maintain the barrier which separates the inside of your intestines from the rest of your body, protecting against a condition known as leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs when toxins and “bad bacteria” spread from your intents to the rest of your body because of a break in the barrier, so keeping the barrier strong and the intestinal cells or enterocytes connected is important (cite).
There are certain times when it is really important to consume glutamine: after an injury, during an illness, or when suffering from chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases. It is especially important to consume L-glutamine during these times because it is considered an immunonutrient, or a substance that can modulate the immune system, possibly enhancing immune functioning, and have an immunological and pharmacological effect when consumed in amounts above the daily recommended requirement. During times of severe metabolic stress such as after a major surgery, glutamine is depleted from muscle stores and consuming glutamine may help improve recovery and disease states (cite). Research on glutamine content in food shows that glutamine content varies from .01 to 9.49 g/100g, but chocho has 5.19g/100g making it higher than any food in that study. Consuming just one serving of chocho (38-32g) gives you about 2.25g of glutamine which is higher than the amount of glutamine in 100g of eggs, beef, skim milk, tofu, white rice, and corn.
Lectins are a kind of protein found in about 30% of real whole foods. However, this is not the good kind of protein that builds our muscles strong but rather is a protein created by foods to discourage predators, such as humans, from consuming them. Let's take beans for example. You would never eat a raw bean, would you? You know that when you cook dry beans you need to soak them for a long time and then pressure cook them or cook them for a few hours. This is because beans have lectins, so if you have ever eaten undercooked beans and experienced gas and bloating, lectins might be to blame. The soaking and cooking helps to remove the lectins (cite).
But what do lectins do to you? Lectins can bind to cells lining the digestive tract and are also known as an anti-nutrient, meaning that they inhibit the absorption of other nutrients. Because of their anti-nutrient properties and their interaction with the digestive tract, they can affect the growth and action of the intestinal flora. According to an article published by Harvard, “because lectin proteins bind to cells for long periods of time, they can potentially cause an autoimmune response and are theorized to play a role in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes” (cite).
So, when trying to improve gut health or when already suffering from an autoimmune disease reducing lectin consumption may be an important part of your journey. Because of the way we process our chocho, which includes a soaking and washing process to “debitter” chocho, we remove all the lectins in our products. You too can reduce your lectin intake by thoroughly soaking and cooking (and possibly pressure cooking) beans, fully cooking nightshades (such as tomatoes), peeling and deseeding vegetables (ex. cucumbers, eggplant, squash), fermenting your food, and consuming lectin free foods like chocho. To learn more about lectins and gut health, you can read our whole article about lectins here.
Research suggests that our guts and digestive systems universally benefit from consuming real whole foods: Prioritizing adequate daily consumption of fiber, lean protein, and glutamine while not overdoing it on fructose and lectins. But, when trying to improve digestion and gut health make sure you are prioritizing solutions that work for YOU. Chocho may fit into this solution, as it provides fiber, lean protein, little to no fructose, high quantities of glutamine, and no lectins. Let us know how chocho is fitting into your diet and impacting your digestive health at firstname.lastname@example.org.