can’t hurt, might help medicine: the microbiome edition

I’ve mentioned in the past I practice “can’t hurt, might help” medicine. I’m not a big go-to-the-doctor person. I prefer nutritional solutions whenever possible, or at least, as a starting point.

Enter the microbiome. I’m not qualified to discuss the biology of it. Let me just say it appears a “healthy gut” is a good pathway to a healthy body; a healthy gut consists of loads of good bacteria; and good bacteria, unlike your munchkin, loooove their vegetables.

To further refine this bit of knowledge, a diverse set of bacteria is even better, and people who eat 30 different types of fruits and vegetables per week have more diverse microbiomes than those who eat 10 or fewer. So that sent me to the store.

Let me just preface this by saying as a vegetarian, 30 seemed like a reasonable enough bar. I’m certainly no stranger to the produce section. Yet pretty quickly, I hit a brick wall. You know how grocery stores “package” things like bunches of kale and carrots and broccoli? By the time I hit 30, I had so many fruits and vegetables in my cart another customer actually commented on it. And of course the resultant salad, which took two hours to prepare, was ridiculously large.

Still, I stuck with it, at least for a while, and over the months, I refined my technique. I concentrated on single fruits and vegetables and items that were packaged in smaller proportions (i.e., one pomegranate, one blood orange, one package of micro greens, et cetera). I have to say I put the cashiers through their paces identifying the items and then coming up with the grocery store codes. Occasionally, they’d ask, “What’s this?” and I’d have to admit I had no idea.

I’ve tried things I never would have tried, like passion fruit and dragon fruit and star fruit, along with rutabagas and sunchokes, and this week’s find: watermelon radishes. (Pictured below, aren’t they pretty?)

So discovering things you never tried, and then finding you enjoy them is a positive, but there is also a big negative. Eating like this is a time-consuming venture. Really time consuming. It’s so much easier to grab a bag of salad, or better yet, stop at the nearest salad bar where someone else does the hauling and washing and chopping.

For that reason I’ve I dropped back a bit. I still make a giant weekly salad, and I still rotate produce, or at least I try, and I still add new things as I see them. But do I hit 30? Doubtful. But it’s fine. In addition to “can’t hurt, might help,” I have another philosophy: taking a single step in the right direction is one step more than I took yesterday. And that’s pretty much good enough for me.


This week’s salad: watermelon radishes, red radishes (including the leaves), celery, asparagus, mint, dandelion greens, daikon, jalapeño peppers, leftover romaine lettuce, along with garbanzo beans and farro, and a balsamic vinegar and oil dressing.

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