Do you ever feel overwhelmed by dietary dogma? I know I do. Paleo, low-carb, vegan – if it has a name, you can be sure to find a whole lot of information on the internet about why it’s the one and only way to eat. It’s enough to make you want to throw your grain-free, pasture-raised, organic bone-broth out with the bathwater. Are we inadvertently taking the joy out of food in the name of good health?
How about just eating food? Real food. Like the unrefined, whole foods that people have been getting along quite well on for millennia. As it turns out, a whole new field of research is supporting the fact that traditional diets, in all their delicious diversity, are good for us because they nurture a hidden system within us that is truly vital to our health – our microbiota.
The human microbiota is a mass (about 2kg worth) of bacteria housed in our gut, which performs a range of functions so miraculous that it’s hard to believe at first glance. Our immune systems, how many calories we extract from food (yes, that paleo brownie will yield a different calorie count in my body to yours, thanks to our individual microbiota), and even our moods are intrinsically influenced by the little critters that live in within us.
The exact composition of bacterial strains within each of us is as unique as our fingerprints. Some of these bugs are beneficial to us, (think happy, healthy, lean) and others not so much (think excess body weight, frequent infections, low mood). So how do we encourage the good bugs and send the bad bugs packing? Luckily there are lots of simple things we can do to help, and one of these is to give the good bugs a reason to hang around.
The beneficial bacteria within our digestive systems have a favourite food, and that’s plant fibre. By including lots of plant fibre in your diet, you can give these helpful little critters the best fighting chance possible – no matter which diet you subscribe to.
This salad is a perfect example of microbiota friendly food. Packed with soluble and insoluble fibre this will give those good bugs a feast to gorge on, and it’s fresh, spicy flavours will keep you happy as can be too.
Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad
- ¼ cup olive oil
- juice 1 small lemon
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- generous grind of black pepper
- 1 head cauliflower (approx 1.2 kg), cut into florets
- 500 g cooked chickpeas (equivalent to 2 x 400 tins, rinsed and drained)
- 200 g green stringless beans, trimmed
- 2 spring onions, sliced to the tips
- 1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, in a very large bowl, make the dressing by combining the oil, lemon juice, spices and salt and pepper.
When the water has come to the boil, add the cauliflower and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the beans, cook for a further 2 minutes then tip out into a large colander to drain.
While still hot, add the vegetables to the dressing and stir well to coat them to a sunny yellow. Add the chickpeas and mix through, allowing the lot to cool slightly before adding the spring onions and coriander. Season to taste, then serve at room temperature.
For even more deliciousness, sometimes I like to add toasted cumin, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, sourdough rye croutons, or to make a meal of it, top with boiled eggs that have been peeled, halved and sprinkled with sumac.