With all the focus on the health benefits of yogurt, sauerkraut and other fermented foods, how do you choose the products with the best health punch? Learn the best probiotic choices here.
While you may not hear a lot of buzz about fermented foods and drinks, you have probably heard all the buzz about probiotics.
In fact, Dannon has gone a long way to talk about probiotics with their Dannon Activa™ yogurt. Dannon Activa™ is a lowfat yogurt that claims to decrease intestinal transit time. But does it deliver the health benefits that will build your inner ecosystem?
In this article, I will cover the popular probiotic foods and drinks on the market, along with the best probiotic products for a healthy inner ecosystem that promotes inner energy and outer beauty.
Probiotic Product Problems
Probiotic means "for life" and they do indeed have some important life giving qualities. Probiotics are the healthy microflora (beneficial bacteria and yeast) that keep you healthy and strong. With enough of them in your intestines, they can boost your immunity, keep you looking beautiful and help you digest foods.
But not all probiotics are created equal. In fact, some studies have found that only half of all probiotic products actually have the healthy bacteria listed on their labels.1
Here are 3 key problems with many probiotic products on the market:
- Not potent - 50% of products do not contain the healthy bacteria that they claim. Even those that do may not have the right mix of healthy microflora to repopulate your inner ecosystem.
- Not effective - Many probiotic products (including supplements) are not prepared in a way that allows the most beneficial bacteria and yeast to thrive in your digestive system. Harsh stomach acids can kill probiotics, and if they do survive stomach acid they may not be the kind of probiotics that recolonize your inner ecosystem.
- Not natural - Too many probiotic products are processed, removing much of the benefits of whole food. Additionally, they may contain ingredients that are harmful to your health, like sugar. While microflora use up sugar for fuel, too much sugar in any product has harmful affects to your health.
However, there are many GREAT choices for probiotic foods and beverages on the market! At Body Ecology, we have long promoted the benefits of all natural fermented foods and drinks. There are several very good options on the market, but unfortunately some very poor choices as well.
Choose Wisely: An Overview of Popular Fermented Foods and Drinks
Whenever I look at a probiotic product, I want to know whether it will build a healthy inner ecosystem thriving with friendly microflora without feeding pathogenic bacteria and yeast.
Here are some of the popularly known fermented foods and drinks, along with our Body Ecology comments:
Yogurt -The most popular fermented food in the US is best when it is made with "live active cultures." Some yogurts on the market are "heat treated after culturing," and this causes them to lose two major health benefits:
(1) The heat treated or pasteurization process kills the lactase, which would have made the diary more digestible
(2) Heat treating also kills the live active cultures.
Additionally, if the label shows less protein and more sugar or stabilizers, the yogurt is lower in nutritional value. Many brands of yogurt on the market today are more like processed desserts than beneficial yogurt.
Body Ecology Says: We are not big yogurt fans and really prefer that people drink kefir (see below for the reasons). The better-quality plain yogurt - the one with the fewer ingredients (e.g., just milk and live active cultures) has the most nutritional benefits (protein, calcium, live cultures, easier to digest than milk). Since most yogurts are pasteurized, we recommend making your own yogurt at home with organic raw milk from grass-fed, hormone-free cows. Add Stevia for a sweet taste that does not feed candida.
Dannon Activa, while containing live cultures, also has some pretty awful sugars including fructose, corn starch, and modified corn starch. There are other questionable ingredients added for flavor and consistency. Like most other yogurts sold in your store, it also is pasteurized. All of these things lower Dannon Activa's nutritional value and all that sugar will definitely feed pathogenic microorganisms, like candida.
Kefir - Kefir is still the leader in nutrition when compared to yogurt. While traditional recipes for yogurt contained live active cultures, the bacteria were transient beneficial bacteria (e.g., Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus). These do not colonize your colon. The bacteria and beneficial yeast in kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, and this makes all the difference in the world since it's one key reason you are eating this deliciously-sour fermented food.
- Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt (e.g., Lactobacillus kefyr, Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp. cremoris, and Lactococcus lactis subsp. diacetylactis).
- Kefir also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir, which can dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in your body. They do so by protecting the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside, forming a virtual SWAT team that cleans up and strengthens your intestines. Therefore, your body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.
- The curd size of kefir is smaller than yogurt, making it easier to digest, which makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, invalids and the elderly, as well as a remedy for digestive disorders.
Body Ecology Says - Making your own kefir at home with a fermented food and drink starter is the best way to get the most health benefits from kefir. We recommend adding kefir from cow or goat milk (raw is best) to your diet in stage 2 of Body Ecology.
Sauerkraut - Last year, BBC News reported that sauerkraut could cure the avian flu (bird flu) and other studies show it reduces the risk of breast cancer. Unfortunately, most commercially prepared sauerkrauts found on grocery shelves today are pasteurized (which destroys precious enzymes), contain vinegar and have added refined salt (mineral-depleted), which eliminates any health benefits.
Body Ecology Says: To obtain really potent amounts of beneficial bacteria from sauerkruat, we have always recommended cultured vegetables, which you can make at home using a fermented food and drink starter.
A crucial, general rule of thumb to remember is that the mass-process sauerkrauts, pickles and other foods that try to mimic traditionally fermented foods do not provide the benefits that live, enzyme and microflora-rich REAL fermented foods provide.
Cultured Butter - Butter is best when made from raw milk from cows who are grass fed. Butter can also be cultured (fermented) and it is an excellent and delicious way to get more probiotics into your diet. If you can, avoid butter that is pasteurized for the same reasons we mentioned above in our discussion on yogurt.
You may be able to purchase raw, cultured butter in some health food stores, but most likely you are going to have to make it at home by using Body Ecology's Culture Starter. If you have young children at home, they love helping and seeing the raw cream change into butter.
Body Ecology Says: Organic, raw unpasturized cultured butter is an excellent way to obtain some of the probiotics you need and it's also a great source for conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a powerful anti-carcinogen and essential fatty acid.
Miso - This fermented soy product from Japan is made of soy beans and koji, a culture starter made of beneficial molds, yeasts and lactic acid bacteria. Miso, unless it has been pasteurized, contains live beneficial microflora.
Body Ecology Says: Miso is an excellent fermented food for stage two of Body Ecology. Many people also do well on it in stage one. It is an excellent antiviral.
Kombucha - Increasingly available in Whole Foods Market and other health food stores, kombucha is a fermented tea. Whether thought of as a mushroom, plant or Chinese tea, kombucha has long been valued in many cultures of the world for its healing properties. It is fermented with a starter of yeast and other microorganisms.
Body Ecology Says: We are still doing testing on Kombucha. Some people have trouble with kombucha because they are sensitive to its airborneyeast, which is different from beneficial strains of yeast used in other probiotic drinks. Additionally, some kombucha teas can have too much sugar and will make your blood more acidic, and elevate yeast and fungal infection.
Convenient Probiotic Drinks: With today's busy lifestyles, more people are starting to demand on-the-go convenient probiotic drinks. Many new ones are coming on the market. Look for products with a natural source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes, along with beneficial bacteria (likeLactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus delbreukii) and beneficial yeast (like Sacharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
We've researched the best probiotics to build your healthy inner ecosystem and enhance your outer beauty. TryDong Quai and CocoBiotic, your best bets for probiotic drinks that fit your on-the-go lifestyle.
Body Ecology Says: Our dissatisfaction with the quality of healthy, effective probiotic products on the market AND requests for convenient options from our customers led us to creating our own line of probiotic liquids: Dong Quai and CocoBiotic. We also highly recommend and offer BE Wholegrain Liquidand Liquid Spirulina.
You can learn more about the health, weight loss and beauty benefits of all of these probiotic liquids by reading: The Many Healthy Uses of Probiotic Drinks You Likely Never Heard of -- and Recommended Serving Sizes
Whether do-it-yourself or convenience-oriented, there are many ways to add fermented foods to your diet. The best of these healthy foods and drinks are so critical to your vitality, energy and longevity that they are worth seeking out.
In fact, they may be your number one ally in your quest to age youthfully and healthfully.
- Hall, Sarah. Half of probiotic liquids fail bacteria health test. Guardian Unlimited. August 2006. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1839268,00.html