The health world is fixated on fiber, constantly telling us how important fiber is and how we should all be eating more of it. Back in the day, our cultural obsession with fiber was all about being “regular.” You had to load up on fiber to keep things moving, so to speak. Nothing was more important. So we started our days with bland, tooth-cracking breakfast cereal that tasted like tree bark and sparked no joy. But hey, it was loaded with fiber and therefore good for us, right?
I’ve long been skeptical of that particular story, mostly because every major health agency that recommends higher fiber intake also says that we should get much of that fiber from whole grains. And you know how I feel about that. If whole grains aren’t essential (or even healthy, if you ask me), then how could the fiber they provide be essential? It doesn’t add up.
Now, though, as we learn ever more about the emerging science of the microbiome, the fiber story is starting to shift. It’s become less about pushing “roughage” through our colons to create bulkier, more impressive bowel movements (although some people still promote this supposed benefit). Certain types of fiber, it turns out, are essentially food for the microbes living in our guts.
While it’s easy enough to pop down to the grocery store and buy butter, yogurt, or kefir, it can be very rewarding—and easier than you think—to make your own products at home. Making staple dairy foods at home allows you to control what goes into them, control the process, and reconnect to the traditional way of doing things.
Yogurt and kefir are also fermented foods that deliver those oh-so-important probiotics to feed the beneficial microbes in your gut. Rather than rely on store-bought products, which often contain sugar and other additives you wish to avoid, why not make your own at home? Being able to make your own butter, yogurt, and kefir gives you flexibility. It gives you power. Most importantly, it gives you agency: the ability to control what you feed yourself or your family.
Keeping on our theme this week of minimizing food waste, today we’re going to talk about seasonal eating and getting the most out of the winter vegetables you’ll find at your farmer’s market and grocery store this time of year.
The statistics on food waste are sobering, as discussed yesterday. Reducing food waste takes a multi-pronged approach. Some of the things you can do to waste less food and be more sustainable in the kitchen include:
Prioritize the produce that is seasonal in your region.
Don’t buy more than you need.
Learn how to store food correctly.
Learn how to preserve food if you won’t eat it in time.
Use the whole plant when possible. (Hint: All of the vegetables we’ll be mentioning today have edible leaves!)
Use food scraps in broth, soups, smoothies.
Compost what you don’t eat.
The way it’s reported, you’d think that susceptibility to COVID-19 severity is equally distributed across the world’s population. But when you compare case and mortality rates between countries, differences emerge. There are even differences within countries and states and cities. It’s clear that other variables besides simple exposure to the virus and infection are at play. Research continues to emerge regarding risk factors for severe COVID-19.
What are they?
And, more importantly, can you modify any of the variables?
When the ancient Greek father of medicine, Hippocrates, said “All disease begins in the gut,” he was probably right. Poor gut health has been linked to a broad range of diseases and health conditions, from depression to diabetes, cancer to obesity, and autism to autoimmune disease. Researchers are exploring connection between prevotella, a species of gut bacteria, and severity of COVID-19. Search the medical literature and you’ll probably find links between the gut and any illness you can imagine.
So—all the world’s health issues solved, right? Not exactly.
Gut health is one of those topics that gets more complicated the deeper you go. The more you read about gut bacteria, the less you realize you know and the less you realize anyone knows, even the researchers. It’s infinite onions, all the way down. The layers never stop, and exposing them eventually makes you want to cry. (Speaking of which, onions are actually a very good food for gut health).
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. First up, what can a person do to help their gut recover its barrier function after too many antibiotics? Are there any foods, supplements, or dietary strategies? Second, what can explain rapid fatigue during sprint sessions on a keto diet? Is this simply part of the deal, or are there modifications you can make? And finally, what do I do when I know I’m going to get a bad night’s sleep?