We hear a lot about probiotics. What exactly are they, what do they do, do I need them, and how much do I need to make a difference? We most often hear it in regard to yogurt. That’s a lot of questions. Let’s explore Dr. Internet.
Starting with Wikipedia, they are microorganisms believed to provide health benefits when consumed. (Notice the “believed to.”)
According to the National Institute of Health, some probiotics may help to prevent diarrhea or help with IBS. You can find probiotics in dietary supplements. Probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There is still a lot not known about which probiotics may help which conditions. They suggest you contact your primary care-giver before adding probiotics to your diet.
Probiotics are naturally occurring in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and some olives. Some products are adding them like pizza dough mix, brownie mix, some drinks despite the jury being out about whether they really do anything.
Here is a clip from Good Morning America that aired this week about them.
Let’s face it, we are addicted to convenience foods. But we are eating far too many processed foods with added sugar, fat, and preservatives. How to avoid this? Start reading labels and learn how to make some of the foods from scratch yourself. Here are some foods to avoid and learn to make yourself:
Salad Dressing. Look at the list of ingredients and it will shock you. Do you even know what half of them are? Here are some recipes to get you started: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/healthy_salad_dressing_recipes?slide=1#leaderboardad
Breakfast cereal. Try making some of your own granola and muesli. Better yet, just eat oatmeal. Here are some to get you started: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/healthy_granola_recipes_and_healthy_muesli_recipes?slide=1#leaderboardad
Canned soup. It’s so easy – just open a can and heat it up. But there is so much sodium and added preservatives. Make your own soup and freeze it up.
Pasta sauce. Again with the sodium. It doesn’t take much to make your own. Just saute some onions, garlic, peppers, and spices and add a can of (non-salted) tomato puree. Better yet, use chopped whole tomatoes.
Flavored yogurt. We make our own yogurt and then add fruit to it ourselves with just a little bit of honey. Try different combinations like crushed pineapple and coconut.
Granola bars. There is too much sugar and fat in the processed bars. Learn to make these yourself: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/recipe_slideshows/granola_bar_recipes_and_power_bar_recipes?slide=1#leaderboardad
Recently, the Victor crew found that Consumer Reports analyzed some brands of Greek style yogurt. They found that the Whole Foods brand 365 Everyday Value fat free plain Greek yogurt has 11 grams of sugar. That’s more than 5 times the 2 grams that the label says it has. Most of the 27 yogurts tested listed 5-10 grams of sugar. Now 11 grams of sugar might not sound like a lot of sugar but the recommendation for female women is only 25 grams a day, that is almost half the daily allowance. It becomes even more crucial if you are a diabetic and need to keep the amount of sugar within certain limits.
We are told to read labels carefully to know what we are consuming, but how can we trust that the labels are correct? Unfortunately, we cannot depend on them totally.
By the way, Fage Total 2% Fat Greek Yogurt was rated the top plain yogurt in flavor.
The Victor crew found an article about Dannon yogurt containing … bugs! Actually they have been using carmine, a “dye extracted from the dried, pulverized bodies of chochineal insects” in some of their fruit on the bottom and Oikos yogurts, as well as two flavors of Light and Fit and six flavors of Activia.
Why do they need this? It provides the “fruit” color of pink making you think there are more berries than there are. Some people have been developing allergic reactions to the insects.
Carmine can also be found in some ice cream, candy, beverages, drugs, and cosmetics. Just another reason to read your labels before purchasing something.
Jody, you can make your own yogurt at home and flavor it however you want without all the added chemicals you find in commercial products.
What you will need:
- A double boiler
- A thermometer
- 1/2 gallon milk
- 1/2 cup Dried powder milk and/or 1 pkg plain gelatin
- Yogurt starter or a small container of plain yogurt
- A way to keep the milk at a steady 110 degrees (suggest Yogourmet Electric Yogurt Maker)
Pour the milk into a double boiler. Add the dried milk powder and if you are using fat-free or low-fat milk, add the plain gelatin. Start heating the yogurt in the double boiler until it reaches about 180-185 degrees F. Remove from the heat and allow it cool down to about 110 degrees. Put the plain yogurt or starter in a small bowl and ladle in some of the milk mixture and mix really well. Incorporate it back into the milk. Put the yogurt in your water bath at a constant 110 degrees and leave it undisturbed. It will take at least 4-4 1/2 hours for your yogurt to develop. When it is done, refrigerate. You can add honey to sweeten it and mix with nuts and/or your favorite fresh or frozen fruits. Other add-ins could be coconut with crushed pineapple, apples with cinnamon … the choices are endless … and YOU control how much sweetener you get.
~ Steve Victor