pick a peck of pectin

July is a big month for me.

This weekend, July 16th, is my birthday!

But July is also the month of the anniversary of my husband’s passing. This year marks my 49th birthday and the 13th year observance of his death.

The two occasions fall just three days apart.

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 nuance 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.

This year I’m headed off on what I expect to be a very sweet trip to Hawaii with my family. We’ll celebrate my birthday, my niece’s graduation from high school, and what would have been my dad’s 80th birthday. We’ll honor his passing with this trip that he planned as well as Isamu’s. Holding these times together, with family, is as sweet as it gets.

Yet through it all, I don’t want to forget our focus together this month. . . our focus on honoring the gut with our special gut loving summer challenge.

You haven’t forgotten, have you?

If you’ve been playing along, you know that I’ve made it a mission this season 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).

How’s it been going for you?

Which ingredients have you tried?

Have you found new favorites for your cupboard or your belly?

This weekend, as it’s my birthday, 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 week’s summer lovin’ ingredient is only skin deep:

and it’s as sweet as homemade jam

it’s 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 you’ve met this summer, 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 or save the peels to make homemade pectin (you can find out how below).

If apples aren’t your thing, don’t fret, oranges, carrots, apricots and citrus peels are also pectin powerhouses.

You’ve heard me wax poetic many a time regarding healthy gut bacteria and today is no different. The power of pectin likely lies in it’s 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 it’s greatest!

And 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 intestines and throughout your entire digestive tract. This might be why eating an apple is a traditional remedy for relieving acid reflux and similar symptoms.

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

Apple PieWhen it comes to apple pie, pectin serves as a molecular glue. The tarter and less ripe the apple, the more strongly the pectin binds the apples together so they don’t turn to mush. That’s why summer is a perfect time for picking a peck of pectin-rich apples!

ingredients

walnut crust

  • 6 large medjool dates, pitted
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • 1 heaping tspn cinnamon
  • ½ tspn vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1-2 Tbspn coconut oil
  • pinch of salt

apple filling

  • 4 large apples (fuji or gala are perfect), washed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 1 tspn ground ginger
  • 2 Tbspn lucuma powder
  • 2 Tbspn water

salted date caramel

  • 6 large medjool dates, pitted
  • ¼ tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbspn coconut oil
  • 1/3 – ½ cups water
  • pinch of salt

preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F

For your crust:
Blend dates in high speed blender or food processor. Once creamy, add all other crust ingredients and blend until well combined (chunks of walnuts 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 (a mandolin is perfect here!)

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). Bake, covered, 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!

Here’s to sweet summer weekends.

Warmly,
Andrea Nakayama

 

Homemade Pectin

Apple Slice

Making homemade jam or jelly is a real treat, especially when the summer berries are bursting with flavor.

Traditional recipes call for sugar (lots of it!), but you can easily make jam with no added sweetener or swap in coconut sugar, raw honey or even stevia.

And if your recipe calls for pectin, you can save your apple scraps and make a homemade pectin that’s free of all preservative and chemicals.

Check out this recipe from Ginger Test Kitchen to make pectin in a few simple steps.

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.



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Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Is there an ingredient you'd like to learn more about? Is there a nutrition class you always wish existed? Let me know!