In this inspiring interview, Michelle Babb, author of two best-selling anti-inflammatory cookbooks, shares her favorite natural products, tips on eating for brain health and advice for using food as medicine!
Welcome back to the In Her Shoes series, where we share inspiring interviews with influential experts in health, nutrition, and lifestyle.
Whenever I meet healthy, beautiful, successful women, I’m always dying to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. What do they eat? What products do they use? What’s their routine? I’m obsessed with other peoples’ stories and love sharing uplifting women with y’all!
Today we’re chatting with Michelle Babb, registered dietitian and author of two of my favorite books on the anti-inflammatory diet, Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy and her newest book, Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain.
GETTING TO KNOW Michelle Babb
If you've been following along for a while here, you know that I'm a huge proponent of anti-inflammatory eating–this non-diet diet (i.e. lifestyle) is the number one thing I did to reverse my PCOS and Leaky Gut naturally.
So I'm a huge fan of Michelle Babb's books, which help readers fine tune their gut microbiome to reduce inflammation, which nearly every chronic disease (from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and dimentia) is associated with.
Even if you don't have a disease yet, you may be inflammed if you suffer from low energy and fatigue, poor sleep, foggy brain, painful joints, digestion issues, hormonal imbalances and food allergies.
But her newest tome focuses specifically on how eating certain foods can affect our mood, and through incorporating these “good mood foods” into our diet, we can achieve a clearer mind, alleviate depression and anxiety and even memory loss.
Fascinating!! I, for one, know the brain-gut connection is real (anyone else get a stomach ache everytime they're anxious?). But did you know that if you suffer from some sort of mood disorder, it could potentially be helped by small changes in your diet?
Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain features over 75 recipes, plus an in-depth introduction to the gut-brain link, outlining the nutrients we need to function at our best…AND it clearly lays out (in a handy chart) which foods can help your brain and how.
For example, clinical trials have found that omega-3 fatty acids (like those is fish, avocados, nuts, chia and flax seeds and egg yolks) may help control depressive symptoms. Likewise, nutrients like Vitamin B6, B12, Folate, Vitamin C, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium and Choline have the most influence on neurotransmitter balance.
In fact, there are between 200 and 600 million neurons in the gut that communicate bidirectionally with the brain, which might explain why diagnoses of anxiety and depression are seen in up to 60 percent of patients with digestion issues like IBS,
I love the way Michelle's unique, holistic perspective using nutritional therapies, and yet an anti-diet approach, empowers us to heal ourselves naturally. She's a woman after my own heart.
Needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited that Michelle is here with Root + Revel–I know that you’re going to find so many inspiring tips and tricks in this interview!
So let’s get into it; let’s take a peek at what it’s like to spend a day walking in Michelle Babb’s shoes.
WHAT ARE THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF YOUR DAY LIKE?
I start making breakfast almost immediately after rising. I start the water for green tea or coffee, but I always eat breakfast before I drink my tea or coffee.
I love a cup of really good coffee in the morning after breakfast, but I've also acquired a taste for green tea (which took a while!). I love Tazo Green Ginger Tea, and I purchase my coffee here in Seattle at a local shop called C & P Coffee Company. I try to alternate between the two. Aside from that, I'm pretty much just a water drinker.
WHAT’S YOUR TYPICAL BREAKFAST?
I love a tofu scramble with Wildwood extra firm organic sprouted tofu, sauteed mushrooms, peppers, leeks, and kale or chard, and a generous amount of turmeric, cumin, and nutritional yeast. Find the recipe here. I also love to make breakfast salad with mixed greens and sauteed veggies, topped with 2 eggs over medium. The Moody Blues Smoothie from my book is also a great way to start the day.
SHOWER TIME! WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO PRODUCTS?
WHAT’S YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE?
I love to exercise for stress relief and my favorite form of exercise is running. My ideal workout time is in the morning, when I can fit in a 6-mile run and listen to music, but I don't always have that luxury with my schedule, so I fit it in whenever I can.
TIME TO GET READY! WHAT ARE YOUR GO-TO BEAUTY AND SKINCARE PRODUCTS?
WHAT’S IN YOUR MEDICINE CABINET?
No prescriptions, but I take a high-quality fish oil supplement, vitamin D3, and Curcumin whenever I feel like I'm suffering from acute inflammation. I also keep vitamin C and Priority One Biovegetarian immune system support vitamins when I'm feeling stressed or compromised.
[That being said, like Dr. David Perlmutter states in his book Brain Maker, “no pharmaceutical approach can come anywhere close to a dietary prescription for managing your intestinal bacteria,” or what I like to call the ultimate ecosystem of the body, your microbiome.
And when we neglect or abuse this delicate ecosystem with overuse of processed foods, antibiotics, alcohol, other prescription and recreational drugs and lots of stress, we set ourselves up for neuro-gastro disaster.]
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE ON-THE-GO SNACKS?
I love my hummus and veggies! I like to pack a gallon-size bag with a variety of multi-colored, sturdy veggies and take to work for the week along with a container of hummus. I make it a goal to get through all the veggies by Friday. [Clean, colorful plant-based foods are the name of the game.]
I also really like crispy chickpeas for a snack that travels well.
WHAT’S A TYPICAL LUNCH LIKE FOR YOU?
Lunches are usually some version of a beans, greens and grains bowl. One typical combo is black beans with quinoa, broccolini, avocado and salsa.
[Eating this way, an anti-inflammatory or Mediterranean-style diet, supports a robust microbiome and a healthy brain-gut connection. In fact, the incidence of depression is much lower in Mediterranean countries compared to the United States, and diet may be one of the most important factors.
So I try to get a wide variety of plant-based foods, an ample amount of healthy fats, and a selective array of high-quality proteins in every meal.
Even better, the true beauty of this way of eating is that the food is exciting and delicious and prep does not have to be overly complicated.]
WHEN YOU’RE GROCERY SHOPPING, WHAT INGREDIENTS DO YOU AVOID ON THE LABEL?
I avoid foods that have ingredients I can't recognize or pronounce. I limit foods that contain added sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, and I avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. I generally avoid most snack-type processed foods.
[Eating too many calories, too much fat and sugar, white flour products, food allergens, food-borne chemicals, and bacterial contamination can all contribute to inflammation, so I'm careful to avoid too much of those. Plus, there's a direct correlation between an increase in consumption of sugar-laden, highly processed, deep-fried foods and a steady rise in depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
Conversely, fish, fruit, vegetables and whole grains are associated with less inflammation in the body, and as we better understand the connection between inflammation and the brain-gut connection, we can start to identify ways to use food to improve and safeguard brain function.]
WHAT’S IN YOUR PANTRY?
I always have quinoa, sprouted brown rice, lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, and lots of extra virgin olive oil. If I've got all those things and a produce bin full of veggies, I can make all kinds of delicious creations!
[I also stock up on nuts and seeds and plenty of herbs and spices, like cinnamon, ginger and turmeric.]
DINNER TIME! IF YOU’RE EATING OUT, WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR ON MENUS TO STAY HEALTHY?
If I'm in the coastal regions, I love to order fish when I eat out. [Fish is the preferred animal source of protein.] I also try to be deliberate about my choices so that I still end up eating mostly veggies. Sometimes that's by ordering a side salad; other times that happens by electing the veggie option instead of fries.
WHAT’S ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND?
Right now I'm reading “Devoured” by Sophie Egan. It's a fascinating look at the evolution of our food culture in the U.S. and it talks about how what we eat defines who we are. I couldn't agree more!
BED TIME! WHAT’S YOUR NIGHTLY ROUTINE?
I'm generally in bed by 10 or 10:30. I do best when I try to minimize my exposure to electronics about an hour before bed, but I don't do that as often as I would like.
I love to sip on some golden milk (coconut milk with turmeric, ginger and honey) before I go to bed. I keep an essential oil diffuser on my nightstand and I like to put in a few drops of lavender oil before I tuck into bed.
I enjoy drinking wine or handcrafted cocktails with fancy ingredients like bitters when I spend time with friends on the weekends.
FAVORITE HEALTHY INDULGENCE?
I absolutely LOVE roasted Brussels sprouts and really can't get enough of them. I think I could eat them with every meal and still not get sick of them.
FAVORITE PRODUCT THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO TRY?
My go to “sauce” is Karam's garlic sauce. It's incredible! It's just blended garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper…. and love. It reminds of alfredo sauce, so it's great for those of us who avoid dairy. I put it on veggie saute, use it to make pesto, drizzle it on quinoa, etc., etc. It's good on almost anything!
And that’s a wrap. HUGE thanks to Michelle Babb for sharing her story with us.
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