The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was right when he said, “all disease begins in the gut.” Most of your immune system lies in your gut microbiome, an ecosystem in your intestines that houses trillions of bacteria and other organisms that directly affect your health. If things in your belly’s garden are out of whack, your health will take a hit. Imbalances in the gut microbiome have been linked to obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Studies have also found a link between a healthy gut and healthy aging. In one study, people over one hundred (whom researchers called “ridiculously healthy”) had a similar gut microbiome makeup as healthy thirty-year-olds. The takeaway? Keeping that gut healthy could lead to longevity.
Everybody’s gut microbiome is different, but through a stool test—numerous companies now offer mail-in tests—a lab can determine what bacteria and how much of each kind lies in your gut, and make suggestions on how to make that gut even healthier. Changes might include eating more fiber, sleeping more, managing stress, and adding probiotics or fermented foods to your diet. Fortunately, simple changes can affect that gut quickly. For instance, gut health improves in as little as two weeks with a switch to a vegetarian diet.
Seaweed in your salad might not sound appetizing—until you realize that seaweed is a superfood for your skin. Seaweed is loaded with essential minerals like copper, iron, and magnesium, all of which can improve your skin, nails, and hair. That’s one reason it’s been added to skincare products, but you should also add seaweed to your diet to get even more benefits. Not only can seaweed slow the aging process inside, it can also add protection from pollutants to the skin, give nails some strength, and add shine to hair.
There are numerous seaweeds you can find at the grocery store, including hijiki, wakame, nori (which you’ll find in sushi rolls), kombu, and kelp noodles. Depending on the type of seaweed, you can add it to salad, stir-fry, vegetables, and noodle dishes. You might even try some of the dried seaweed snacks that are popping up on grocery store shelves. They give you a healthy dose of the nutrients seaweed is famous for, including iodine and vitamins A, C, and B12 (which is beneficial if you’re a vegan and looking for a non-animal source of this vitamin), and they’re great if you’re craving a low-calorie, salty treat. The one caveat? If you have any thyroid issues, the high iodine content of seaweed may make it risky for you to eat, so ask your doctor first.