Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Kimchi and Roasted Cauliflower Rice For Lunch Every Day Science Experiment

So I'm on day three of my own personal science experiment to eat kimchi and roasted cauliflower "rice" for lunch every day.
Mmmm... lunch
Kimchi and roasted cauliflower "rice"

Before the science police come to my house and handcuff me, I realize it's not a valid study since I'm not measuring anything and there is no control group. But I'm cool with collecting anecdotal data and hope to achieve a perceptible change in my overall health, energy levels and appearance.

At this point you may be wondering why I'm eating this weird combination of foods for lunch every day and what I hope to gain. And for that we need to start with kimchi, a Korean food staple as intrinsic to that country's cultural identity as the hot dog is to America's.

Since starting this blog, I have become a nutritional research hobbyist and recently noticed an increasing amount of literature on the importance of our microbiota. I did not even know I had something called a microbiota until a few months ago, but it turns out I have several in different parts of my body, including my mouth and skin.

The microbiota I'm going to focus on here is my gut microbiota -- the cluster of bacteria in my colon. (Biologists used to call this bacterial soup gut flora, but maybe they thought it sounded too much like something you'd find at a goth florist shop.)

Anyway, the factoid about gut microbiota that really hijacked my attention is that many scientists now consider this collection of bacteria a body organ, just like the heart. To me this revelation was as mind blowing as finding out Pluto was not a planet (although I think it may be re-instated. Could you please make up your mind already astronomers?)

I was equally amazed to learn we have ten times more bacterial cells in our body than human cells. So in some ways we are walking bacteria nesting in a human host, which is kind of creepy when you think about it

The bottom line is the adult gut contains thousands of different species of known bacteria that collectively weigh as much as the brain. And that's a $#!+load of bacteria!

The health connection to all this is that only one third of these bacteria is common to most people -- the other two thirds is peculiar to the individual. And its composition -- big surprise here -- is impacted by what we eat.

The reason it's so important that we have a good combination of gut bacteria is that our gut microbiota affects our health and mood in a major way. Everything from getting cancer to being depressed to gaining weight is affected by the health of our gut. There may even be a link to autism.

This recent New York Times article explains the mood association way better than I ever could; so I suggest you read it at least three times, along with this intriguing piece on the obesity link from Scientific American last year from which I will share this intriguing excerpt:
"New evidence indicates that gut bacteria alter the way we store fat, how we balance levels of glucose in the blood, and how we respond to hormones that make us feel hungry or full. The wrong mix of microbes, it seems, can help set the stage for obesity and diabetes from the moment of birth...."
This pre-riced cauliflower
should be back in stock
at Trader Joe's in August
So, I figured if I had an opportunity to improve my gut microbiota, one of the best ways I could do this was to eat more foods associated with good gut health. And when I did the research on this, one of the most popular suggestions always turns out to be fermented foods like kimchi.

I purchased my kimchi from the neighborhood health food store, which stocks a brand local to Sacramento called The Cultured Kitchen. For the caulirice, I hoarded stocked up on the pre-riced frozen organic cauliflower when Trader Joe's still carried it and roast it in the oven with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. (You can also make your own caulirice from a real cauliflower using a Vitamix, box grater or most any food processor or blender.)

In addition, I am taking probiotics in tablet form and eat only yogurt that contains live cultures when I'm in the rare yogurt mood.

Whether my gut flora will now bloom -- or whether I will even notice -- is hard to predict. But as my dear departed Grandma might have said, "It can't hurt."

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