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  • Writer's pictureKristina Smith

Good bacteria and the microbiome (Ode to the sweet potato)

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

Good bacteria and the microbiome (Ode to the sweet potato)

‘Microbiome’, ‘good bacteria’, ‘gut bacteria’: these are the buzzwords of the health conscious today. They have far-reaching impacts on our health, the more diverse our microbiota the better our wellbeing.

We are what we eat, food is medicine... these are ancient beliefs. How far removed our modern lives are from the origins of food growing and the preparing of meals from scratch! Most of us live in cities and densely populated areas; even those who live in the country have neither the time nor the skills to produce their food or even to forage. (I would highly recommend the latter. It’s amazing what you can find in small patches of nature, in or around the outskirts of villages.)

We can choose where our food comes from, supporting local farmers or even buying from the supermarket’s organic range; you can read where your produce comes from too – grown locally or flown from elsewhere. Local is best: the truly healthy option that saves on costs and fuel from cross-country transport.

Where I grew up, home cooked meals were the staple and the tradition and I have newer diverted from this. I find cooking relaxing and creative, the instant gratification of a delicious, tasty meal on the table and a lingering smell… home sweet home. Saving on the ever mounting plastic packaging and serving up a freshly cooked, more nutritious meal without preservatives is the choice I opt for!

According to Rangan Chatterjee, a unique source of wisdom when it comes to family healthcare, we should eat a variety of 26 different vegetables per month to improve the diversity of our gut bacteria. Download your A-Z of vegetables chart here! Dr Chatterjee is a medical doctor who believes not just only in treating our symptoms but in addressing the root cause of any health issue, using food as medicine as well as looking at ways to improve lifestyle.

A simple solution to health is to eat a varied diet, adding more vegetables every day. One of my winter favourites is the humble sweet potato and this is why.

Historically this vegetable has been cultivated for 5,000 years. It originates in Central or South America. Sweet potatoes are high in fibre, rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, A and E, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and magnesium… the list goes on.

Their orange colour comes from beta-carotene, which is a pigment and antioxidant. Sweet potatoes also contain a modest but helpful amount of protein. When compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes offer more vitamins and antioxidants.

But the greatest sweet potato nutritional glory of all may be its rich supply of vitamin A. One single potato offers 120% of our daily requirement for vitamin A.

Enhancing the immune response, it may help the body to deal with viral infections and healing. It also boosts resistance to infections and helps us to maintain optimum energy levels.

Sweet Potato Soup with Rosemary and Thyme

Here is a simple heart-warming soup recipe I love

• 750 g sweet potatoes (peeled and diced)

• 2 small potatoes (peeled and diced)

• 1 onion

• 2 tbsp cooking oil

• 1 tsp rosemary 1 tsp thyme (I love woody, earthy flavours but you can choose your own favourite herbs or spices)

• I litre of stock or water

• 1 tsp of salt or more to taste

Heat the cooking oil in the saucepan and add the chopped onions, sweet potato and potato cubes. Add salt and herbs, fry for a few minutes and then add the stock or water. Simmer gently until the potatoes are reduced to a pulp. Blend and serve with a dollop of cream fresh or sour cream if you serve as it is with a piece of toast or two. Enjoy!


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