Why Dannon Activia,® a probiotic yogurt for restoring gut health, may not be as healthy as you think
With all the buzz about the health benefits of yogurt, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods, how do you choose the best probiotic products? Browse Body Ecology’s collection.
While you may not hear as much about fermented foods and drinks, you’ve probably heard all about probiotics.
In fact, Dannon has gone a long way to talk about probiotics with their Dannon Activia yogurt. Dannon Activia is a low-fat yogurt that claims to decrease intestinal transit time. But does it deliver the health benefits that will build your inner ecosystem?
In this article, we’ll cover the popular probiotic foods and drinks on the market, along with the top probiotic products for a healthy inner ecosystem that promotes inner wellness and outer beauty.
3 big problems with probiotic products
Probiotic means “for life,” and they do indeed have some important life-giving qualities. Probiotics are the good microbes (beneficial bacteria and yeast) that keep you healthy and strong. With enough of them in your intestines, they can help support your digestion and immunity and even keep you looking youthful.1,2
But not all probiotics are equal. It’s been reported that well over half of probiotic supplements may have misleading claims and be incorrectly labeled.3 According to other findings, it seems rare that commercial probiotics are properly identified.4
Here are three key problems with many probiotic products on the market:
1. Not effective.
Numerous 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.
2. 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 microbes use up sugar for fuel, too much sugar in any product may have harmful effects on your health.
3. Not potent.
Remember, as many as 65 percent of products may not contain the healthy bacteria that they claim.3 Even those that do may not have the right mix of healthy microbes to repopulate your inner ecosystem; guidelines vary by country, but current regulation of commercial probiotics is “inadequate.”5
However, there are still many great choices for probiotic foods and beverages available. 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.
Try a potent probiotic power shot like CocoBiotic to fit your on-the-go lifestyle.
Choose wisely: An overview of popular fermented foods and drinks
Whenever you look at a probiotic product, you want to know whether it will help build a healthy inner ecosystem thriving with friendly microbes without feeding pathogenic bacteria and yeast.
Here are some common fermented foods and drinks, along with our Body Ecology comments:
The most popular fermented food in the U.S. 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:
- The heat-treated or pasteurization process kills the lactase, which would have made the diary more digestible.
- Heat-treating also kills the live active cultures.
Additionally, if the yogurt 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. (Even some organic yogurts are among the “worst” — or sugariest — offenders.6)
Body Ecology says: We’re 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, and 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 Activia, while containing live cultures, also has some pretty awful sugars, including fructose, cane sugar, and modified food starch. There are other questionable ingredients for flavor and consistency. Like most other yogurts sold in your store, it’s also pasteurized. All of these things lower Dannon Activia’s nutritional value, and all that sugar will definitely help feed pathogenic microorganisms like candida.
Kefir is still the leader in nutrition over 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. This makes all the difference in the world since it’s one key reason you are eating this deliciously-sour fermented food.
We know that:
- 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 so it’s easier to digest. This makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, the elderly, and those with disabilities, 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 optimal 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.
Years ago, sauerkraut was rumored to cure the avian flu (bird flu). Studies have also linked it to reduced rates of breast cancer.7 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 potential.
Body Ecology says: To obtain really potent amounts of beneficial bacteria from sauerkraut, we’ve always recommended cultured vegetables, which you can make at home using a fermented food starter.
A crucial, general rule of thumb to remember is that the mass-processed sauerkrauts, pickles, and other foods that try to mimic traditionally fermented foods do not provide the benefits that live, enzyme, and microbe-rich real fermented foods offer.
4. Cultured butter.
Butter is best from raw milk from cows that are grass-fed. Butter can also be cultured (fermented) — a 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’re going to have to make it at home by using Body Ecology’s Culture Starter. If you have young children, they’ll love helping and seeing the raw cream change into butter.
Body Ecology says: Organic, raw, unpasteurized cultured butter is an excellent option for obtaining some of the probiotics you need. It’s also a great source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a powerful anti-carcinogen and essential fatty acid.
This Japanese fermented soy product contains soybeans and koji, a culture starter of beneficial molds, yeasts, and lactic acid bacteria. Miso, unless it has been pasteurized, contains live beneficial microbes.
Body Ecology says: Miso is an excellent fermented food for Stage 2 of Body Ecology. Many people also do well with it in Stage 1. It’s a potent antiviral.8
Increasingly available in Whole Foods and other health stores, kombucha is a fermented drink:
- 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.
- Kombucha is fermented with a starter of yeast and other microorganisms.
Body Ecology says: The science on kombucha is still largely lacking.9 Some people have trouble with kombucha because they are sensitive to its airborne yeast, 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, potentially elevating yeast and fungal infection.
7. Convenient probiotic drinks.
With today’s busy lifestyles, more people are starting to demand ready-made probiotic drinks. Many new products are coming on the market. Look for beverages with a natural source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes, along with beneficial bacteria (like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus delbreukii) and beneficial yeast (like Sacharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
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 create our own line of tasty probiotic liquids. We highly recommend using our probiotic-packed drinks as power shots and mixers.
Whether do-it-yourself or convenience-oriented, there are many ways to add fermented foods to your diet. These healthy foods and drinks are so critical to your vitality, energy, and longevity that it’s worth seeking out the highest quality available.
- 1. Olivares M, Paz Díaz-Ropero M, Gómez N, Sierra S, Lara-Villoslada F, Martín R, Miguel Rodríguez J, Xaus J. Dietary deprivation of fermented foods causes a fall in innate immune response. Lactic acid bacteria can counteract the immunological effect of this deprivation. J Dairy Res. 2006 Nov;73(4):492-8. doi: 10.1017/S0022029906002068. Epub 2006 Sep 21. PMID: 16987435.
- 2. Lee DE, Huh CS, Ra J, Choi ID, Jeong JW, Kim SH, Ryu JH, Seo YK, Koh JS, Lee JH, Sim JH, Ahn YT. Clinical Evidence of Effects of Lactobacillus plantarum HY7714 on Skin Aging: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2015 Dec 28;25(12):2160-8. doi: 10.4014/jmb.1509.09021. PMID: 26428734.
- 3. Merenstein, D., Guzzi, J. & Sanders, M.E. More Information Needed on Probiotic Supplement Product Labels. J GEN INTERN MED 34, 2735–2737 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-019-05077-5.
- 4. Weese, J. (2004). Evaluation of defiencies in labeling of commercial probiotics. The Canadian veterinary journal. La revue vétérinaire canadienne. 44. 982-3.
- 5. de Simone C. The Unregulated Probiotic Market. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Apr;17(5):809-817. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.01.018. Epub 2018 Mar 14. PMID: 29378309.
- 6. J Bernadette Moore, Annabelle Horti, Barbara A Fielding. Evaluation of the nutrient content of yogurts: a comprehensive survey of yogurt products in the major UK supermarkets. BMJ Open, 2018; 8 (8): e021387 DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021387.
- 7. Szaefer H, Licznerska B, Krajka-Kuźniak V, Bartoszek A, Baer-Dubowska W. Modulation of CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP1B1 expression by cabbage juices and indoles in human breast cell lines. Nutr Cancer. 2012 Aug;64(6):879-88. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2012.690928. Epub 2012 Jun 20. PMID: 22716309.
- 8. Win, N.N.; Kanda, T.; Nakamoto, S.; Moriyama, M.; Jiang, X.; Suganami, A.; Tamura, Y.; Okamoto, H.; Shirasawa, H. Inhibitory effect of Japanese rice-koji miso extracts on hepatitis A virus replication in association with the elevation of glucose-regulated protein 78 expression. Int. J. Med. Sci. 2018, 15, 1153–1159.
- 9. Jayabalan R, Malbaša RV, Lončar ES, Vitas JV, Sathishkumar M. A review on kombucha tea — microbiology, composition, fermentation, beneficial effects, toxicity, and tea fungus. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2014;13(4):538-550.