A friend was recently telling me about the super-loaded probiotic supplement her husband was on. As we all know from the marketing deluge we stand under daily, probiotics are supposed to increase gut microbiome diversity and robustness, which will hopefully fix everything from inflammation to mental health to our corner of the universe.
As you know from past posts, I'm all in favor of a healthy gut and find the evidence convincing that a healthy gut is underrated. But, for the money, I'm going with prebiotics, rather than probiotics.
Author and doctor James Hamblin, who writes for The Atlantic, says consuming probiotic supplements "is like reaching into a bag labeled 'Assorted Seedlings' and taking a handful and throwing them into a forest...If some of them do grow, will they be good for the forest?" More helpful, he deems, is the consumption of "prebiotics," that is, things that promote a "diverse, robust microbiome." You might know them better as fruits and vegetables. Hamblin also notes that a Harvard study has shown that "diets high in meat and cheese rapidly and dramatically change microbiomes, limiting diversity and otherwise boding ill."
Now, I know holiday feasts are exempt from health concerns, and I fully plan on eating plenty of ham, deviled eggs, rolls, and pie, but in that microbiotic wasteland, a few fruits and vegetables could be a welcome addition. How about some of each?
(serves 8 easily, especially if some present are kids)
4 c broccoli florets, in bite-size pieces
2 c green grapes, halved
1 c celery, sliced
1 c raisins
1/4 c roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/4 c yogurt or sour cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Combine all and toss! Super easy.
Deborah Madison's Provencal Winter Squash Gratin
2-2.5 lb butternut squash
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c chopped parsley
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp flour
Extra virgin olive oil
(optional: feel free to sprinkle a LITTLE brown sugar over the top)
Preheat the oven to 325F and butter a casserole dish. Peel the squash and cut it into little cubes, maybe 1/3" across. Toss cubes with the garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the flour and toss to coat. Spread the squash out in the dish and drizzle olive oil generously over the top. Bake, uncovered, until the squash is browned and tender, 1.5-2 hours. (You can completely make this a couple hours ahead and then give it a quick reheat before serving.)
When I served this up last night (and forgot to take pictures), it was eaten by 80% of the family. That is, by everyone but the 17-year-old. Even the boy had a second tiny helping, and that was just with 1 Tbsp of brown sugar sprinkled over the whole thing.