New Menu: Nutrient Density, Gut Health + More!

TurF’s new fall/winter menu is both thoughtful and deeply nourishing, designed to feed the body AND soul – because that’s what the TurF experience is all about. The menu is built on seasonal ingredients to support the body through transition and what we intuitively crave. Whether it’s fueling up for a fall hike, post-class nourishment or picking up grab & go items for a weekend of skiing, the menu plays with comforting and innovative flavours with a focus on nutrient density. I’m so impressed with what Kyra and her team came up with, I wanted to dive into the new menu and highlight what makes it so special, which we’ll be digging into over a series of posts. Today, we spotlight the overarching theme of the menu – the WHY behind each and every ingredient selection. 

To begin, I want to highlight the concept of nutrient density. It’s a formula that determines the ratio of nutrition – think vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, omegas – to the energy said food provides. A can of coke, for example, would have little nutrient density; for the amount of calories consumed, you’re not taking in any supportive building blocks, it’s not actually fueling your cells, only skyrocketing your insulin levels (no bueno). TurF’s menu items, in stark contrast, are incredibly nutrient dense and flavourful, with virtually every TurF main boasting all of the necessary components of a complete macro bowl: a carb, protein, fat, something fermented and colourful fruit or veg for antioxidants. For example, I love how something like pancakes gets a major nutritional upgrade by working with buckwheat and protein powder to stabilize its effect on one’s blood sugar, and strawberries and lemon to add some vitamin C and fibre. 

Another thing I want to highlight is how alkaline the menu is thanks to its plant forward nature and plethora of fruits and veg, which is especially important for individuals who have a lot of mental and/or physical stress, both of which make the body acidic.

The central vision for the new menu is gut health – dishes designed to support the microbiota, aka bacterial community, that lives within our GI tract. Each beneficial bacteria has its own favourite prebiotic food to fuel it (and conversely, the “bad” bacteria feed off of sugar). Our beneficial bacteria live in harmony with the “bad” when we are fueling ourselves with a diverse array of nutritious foods and fibre, and keeping stress low and sleep quality high. It then makes sense then that the less diversity you consume, the fewer microbes can survive and the easier it is for the more nefarious bacteria to take over, which leads to gut imbalances like SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth). This is why we want to avoid eating the same thing over and over again – keep it interesting for your gut microbes (and your tastebuds)!

What I love about TurF’s new menu is it incorporates so many ingredients that most of us probably aren’t cooking with at home: fermented foods like homemade kimchi and miso (amazing for upgrading your microbiota diversity – kimchi has more probiotics in 1 gram than most probiotic capsules), edamame, mung beans, pickled beets, buckwheat, peashoots, name a few. We’ll dive into these ingredients when we spotlight each menu item and its benefits in later posts :)

When our gut microbiota is diverse and flourishing, we feel the effects on our mood (our gut produces serotonin, our happy molecule, and GABA, our calming molecule), our immune response and ability to bounce back from colds and infections (our intestine is home to 80-85% of our immune system), our energy levels, our digestion and elimination (are you pooping twice a day?), our skin health, our ability to produce and absorb B12 and vitamin K, and our ability to maintain a healthy weight as our microbes determine how many calories we extract from our food – so fascinating! 

All this to say, if you want to feel like you’re thriving and living an enormous life, prioritize your gut health. Dial in on your sleep quality, find tools and techniques to manage stress, consume sugar and alcohol in moderation, and indulge in some of these incredible menu items this winter. Your body, microbes and mind will thank you :)  

By Trilby Goouch, soon-to-be Certified Nutritional Practitioner and TurF teacher