eating healthy

A Healthy Gut Means a Healthy You

This guest post is written by our guest expert, Carl Mason, Fitness and Food Guru and longtime FRESH Start friend. Read on to learn this oh-so-important info about our guts and exactly how important it is to care properly for it, to ensure our overall health! You can find out more about Carl at the end of this article.

I say it often, “Your gut is the heart of your health.”

Just ponder that for a minute. Where does your body access nutrients that feed your cells? Where does nutrient absorption take place for your muscles, your brain, all your organs? Where are toxins isolated and expelled to prevent you harm? It all happens in the gut.

The gut is more than your stomach. It is a very complex, strategically functioning network that includes…

Your Mouth

Your mouth is the gateway to your gut. From the moment you smell dinner, your mouth waters and the digestive process begins. With every chew, the process continues as the enzymes of your saliva start to break down the food.

Your Esophagus

As you chew every bite, ideally 15-30 times, the food enters your esophagus where it is delivered into your stomach.

Your Stomach

Now that your dinner has arrived in the stomach, it is sterilized and the digestive process continues with the aid of hydrochloric acid. Meanwhile, the stomach’s enzymes process proteins and nutrients while the stomach churns this broken down food, called chyme, into a liquid.  

Your Small intestine

At this point, your brain gets involved and once it has decided that the food is properly broken down, it signals the release into the small intestine. This is where all those nutrients are absorbed and become the building blocks that keep you healthy.

Your Pancreas, Liver, Gallbladder

These three organs are now vital to the process. The pancreas secretes digestive enzymes into the small intestine that break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, while also producing insulin to help regulate your blood sugar. The liver, your protein building organ, produces bile, which is secreted into the gallbladder, that is then released, as needed, into the small intestine to break down fats. Now, this is a two way street as your small intestine then sends carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrients to the liver, where they are converted into protein and glucose, to be used as fuel for the body.

Colon and Rectum

Once the small intestine has done its job alongside these three vital organs, the remaining material is passed into the colon. Its role is to absorb all the water and electrolytes before passing any remnant waste to the rectum and out of the body.

It’s all very clever, wouldn’t you say?

It gets better. Within this entire network is something called your microbiome. It is essentially the atmosphere in your gut that is comprised of living microorganisms. And you feed it with every bite you take...either for good or bad. The trouble is, that the modern diet feeds the bad, and also kills the good.

All the refined foods filled with synthetic flavorings, preservatives, and additives are deadly to the microbiome. The lack of fiber, common in these foods, is yet another blow. Did you know that only 5% of Americans are believed to ingest the minimum recommended daily allowance of fiber considered good for your health? Five percent. That’s shocking, right? Yet, fiber is the number one nutrient that feeds a healthy microbiome.


So how do you make sure you are empowering a healthy microbiome and the fantastic health you are seeking?

Avoid Toxic Foods

Refined and processed foods are loaded with toxins that include antibiotics, glyphosate, and a long list of chemical additives, preservatives, and flavorings that replace everything that refining has destroyed. Every one of them is deadly to your gut health.

Avoid Refined Sugar and Oils

These, in addition to the negative effects of all the same toxins just mentioned, feed the bacteria that cause gas, indigestion, bloating, and chronic inflammation which throw a roadblock to your digestion and health.

Consume Prebiotics

You all know about PRObiotics but do you know about PREbiotics?

Probiotics must be fed in order to remain active and vibrant and that is where prebiotics enter the scene. They are, essentially, a plant fiber that your body cannot digest. They reside in your large intestine where they feed the probiotics to do their job.

Very simply put, eat loads of fiber from sources like activated whole grains, leafy greens, fresh fruit, and ample vegetables. I’d even consider a natural supplementation of psyllium husks taken first thing in the morning.

Consume Probiotics

You may be taking a probiotic supplement. Unfortunately, you are likely wasting your hard earned money. I know that is a frustrating statement to read. But don’t distress. There are very easy and far more delicious ways to get those much-needed probiotics.

Fermented of my favorite nutritional topics.

I know that word fermented doesn’t sit well with modern consumers. Yet, fermented foods have been a staple in cultures around the world for thousands of years. It has only been in the last 100 years that they have fallen from grace and nearly vanished from your nutritional health strategy. They were sadly replaced with pickles...vinegar based, shelf stable, pasteurized, pickles.

Properly fermented foods are loaded with billions of probiotics per serving which could be as small as a teaspoon. And they are alive, all natural, robust and ready to get right to work.

So what are they and how do you eat them?

Here’s my list…

  • Miso

  • Kombucha

  • Kimchi

  • Sauerkraut

  • Shoyu Soy Sauce

  • Pressed Salads

I realize this list may be foreign to many of you. It may even be daunting.

But these are all accessible, delicious and easy to include options.

Miso can be added to sauces, soups/stews or made as a simple broth to drink like tea.

Kombucha is a refreshing beverage while kimchi and sauerkraut are condiments in any meal.

Shoyu soy sauce is a traditional Japanese version that makes for great seasoning in grains or stir-fry.

Pressed salads are easily prepared at home with salted, sliced vegetable that you press underweight for an hour and then consume as a side to your meal.

In fact, here is my favorite pressed salad recipe:

Easy Pressed Salad

  • 1 head napa cabbage or any other leafy green, thinly sliced

  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced

  • 1 small daikon or 6 red radishes, thinly sliced

  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin on the diagonal

  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced paper thin

  • 2 medium carrots, grated

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar OR umeboshi plum vinegar

Place all the vegetables in a glass bowl. Add the salt and mix well then place a plate over the vegetables and press down with something weighted like a brick, a thick book or rock. Press for 1 hour. Remove plate, and squeeze out excess liquid. If the salad is a bit salty, rinse with cool water and dry thoroughly. Toss with vinegar and serve.

Keep in mind, you can use most any vegetables you like.

As you explore these truly good probiotic eats, just beware that not all are created equally and selections such as sauerkraut must not be the vinegar-based varieties down your grocery store aisle. The authentic versions will be in the refrigerator section.

Be mindful of the quality and authenticity and you’ll get incredible benefits.

Now that you understand the basics of your digestive system and its function and have a simple guide to feed it well, you can begin to make a beautiful transition to better health.

Remember, you deserve great health. You were designed for it and every provision has been made to ensure it. It’s your time to thrive in health and it begins with your gut.

Happy eating!
~ Carl


Carl headshot.jpg

Carl Mason uses the elements of nutrition, fitness, mindset, self-care and home health to create a lifestyle of health. He used these very tools 22 years ago to cure his “incurable” cancer following five years of chemo and radiation. Today, he is professionally and personally dedicated to sharing this blueprint with the world. Even his off-work hobbies reflect these values and passions. You can reach him through his powerful group at or email him directly at

Spring Clean Your Pantry With FRESH Foods {FREE Printable!}

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? Spring cleaning time for your kitchen! Cleaning, organizing and arranging our homes and habits to do away with the old and make room for the new! Let’s start with that dreaded corner of the kitchen that is SO vital to have in place for our FRESH family meal plan, but NOT always the most fun to clean out and organize - the PANTRY! Here's what my pantry looked like BEFORE I cleaned it up for the health coaching video you can watch below!

For myself, to have the BEST options for my family meals and snacks at our fingertips, a thorough spring cleaning of our pantry was in order! So I’m sharing with you what we stock on a regular basis—our family’s main stay healthy choice options so that I can put together the FRESHest dinners or snacks quickly and easily.

Watch the video below to see what I stock my pantry with every week!

Here’s what you will almost ALWAYS find in my kitchen pantry:

#1. Keep a bowl of FRESH fruit for the family on the counter.

Choose fruits that are on sale and in season to help you stay in budget. - These items stay fresh longer when they are left out in the open, on the counter

#2.  Breakfast items: cereal, ready-to-make oatmeal – try to use only the types that are low sugar

  • We do use low sugar instant oatmeal occasionally, but the best is old-fashioned oats. (Just cook with water, a bit of cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar for a delicious breakfast!)
  • Nature Valley protein bars—high in protein, low in sugar!
  • Low or NO sugar Greek Yogurt parfaits with FRESH fruit and homemade granola are another fave around here!

This is just a short sneak peek of our breakfast items. We do LOTS of smoothies and eggs are OFTEN on our go-to list for breakfast.

#3.  Dinner prep – canned beans and healthy whole grains

  • Black Beans
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Brown rice pasta (Though we usually only eat pasta once a week or so)
  • Quinoa (red and white!) and brown or wild rice mix

#4. Vinegars and cooking wine and sauces – to keep the flavor intact without commercial seasonings!

  • Rice vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar (in homemade salad dressings, with sautéed greens)
  • Red wine vinegar (in crock pot meals and roasts)
  • Balsalmic vinegar (use with roasted veggies or over fresh tomato, mozzarella & basil salad)
  • Low sodium soy sauce OR Bragg's Liquid Aminos in place of soy sauce (use often in stir-fries!)

#5 Sweeteners

  • True, pure sugar or brown sugar (use VERY LITTLE!)
  • Light syrup or sugar-free syrup (Mrs. Butterworth’s Light for pancakes)
  • A bit of stevia for sugar-free lemonade and limeade and coffee or tea

These two are the ONLY pure and natural found-in-nature sweeteners (and MOST of what I use!):

  • Pure maple syrup
  • Honey

#6. Pantry FRESH veggies

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes

#7. Nut butters

Ideally, low-sugar varieties of almond butter, peanut butter or other nut butters

#8. Reduced sugar ketchup & other condiments

 #9. Raw nuts (though I often keep them in the freezer for BEST freshness)

#10. Oils I use:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Canola, Sunflower, Avocado & Other Plant Oils (SOME Coconut Oil, VERY little)

#11. Snacks

  • Seaweed Snacks
  • Drink Mix – Crystal Light Pure (has Truvia instead of aspartame)
  • Nesquick - 25% less sugar chocolate drink mix

Bottom Line for Spring Cleaning YOUR Pantry:

STICK with YOUR personal tastes and mainstays – you are the cook in your own kitchen, you know what works for you! Wean out super-processed and packaged snack foods…anything with “fake” food-like ingredients. Stick to whole, pure & FRESH foods as much as possible. (Good rule of thumb is to follow the 80/20 rule…80% FRESH and whole foods, 20% “other” or treat foods!)

To make keeping your pantry stocked with healthy items easier, we've put together a couple of free printables for you!

Click on the image{s} below to download and print these helpful sheets for your kitchen!

Coach Bess' Must-Have Pantry Staples Inventory Printable

We'd love to hear from YOU!

What are the top 5 must-have staples that can be found in your pantry? Share with us in the comments section below!