NPR’s health blog, “Shots,” recently reported that a study published in Nature magazine indicates that diets rich in “fiber, fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry and fish” not only are great for general good health; they also may support healthy aging by promoting the diversity of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Researchers in Ireland analyzed the gut bacteria, or microbiota (great word!), of 178 older people. Some lived at home, consuming diets varied in the foods above, while others – primarily residents of long-term care facilities or nursing homes – had much more, well, boring fare (my word).
“Mashed potato and porridge were the only staples in this diet type that were consumed daily,” noted one of the researchers. (May I just say, in one utterly non-scientific word, “ick”?)
The people with the most diverse diets had more varied gut bacteria and scored better on clinical tests measuring frailty and cognitive function.
Both NPR and the researchers note that many factors are likely at play, and further studies are needed to explore the link between diet and microbiota. Scientists do know that beneficial bacteria aid digestion, boost the body’s vitamin-making ability and strengthen the immune system. I think we also can agree that a diet of mainly fruits, vegetables and high fiber is superior to one heavy on the mashed potatoes and porridge – not to mention far tastier.
Be good to your gut bacteria with today’s recipe from Catherine Walthers’ 2007 book, Raising the Salad Bar. It utilizes the melons that are plentiful in our local farmers’ markets in an addictive blend with peanuts and cilantro.
Thai melon salad
Makes 2 servings
- About 3 cups of 1-3 varieties of melon (honeydew and watermelon are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts, for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the diced melons. Add a small pinch of cayenne and lime juice to taste. Top with the chopped cilantro and peanuts and serve.