Some manufacturers add "live" healthy bacteria cultures to their dairy or soy products during processing to enhance the health-promoting potential. These cultures may include Lactobacillus Acidophilus. The probiotic bacteria pass through the stomach to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where they help maintain a good balance between the many kinds of bacteria that live there, while promoting overall GI health. There is some scientific evidence that fermented foods containing probiotics may help to prevent some forms of cancer, too.
Go for a probiotic boost. Health experts are putting a lot of focus on the use of probiotics to prevent and treat a variety of diseases. According to Sandra McFarlane, PhD, of the University of Dundee in Scotland, by the age of 60 the number of "friendly" bacteria populating the GI tract can be reduced by up to a thousandfold. Many scientists believe that this in turn can lead to an upset in the balance of the immune system, less resistance to infection, less tolerance to a variety of antigens, and an increase of allergic responses.
A poor diet that’s high in fat, sugar, and white flour doesn’t help you maintain an optimal GI environment and a strong immune system. Probiotics are live bacteria that offer health benefits when you consume them.
Deliberately eating bacteria might seem odd, but many types of yogurt contain bacteria—referred to as "live cultures" on the label—and you probably don’t give these invisible ingredients a second thought.
Some strains of probiotics are well known to enhance people's immune systems. Research has found that people who drank milk containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains for 3 weeks had increased activity of phagocytes (immune cells that respond to threats by eating them). Supplemental probiotics in the diet may help address the decreased phagocyte activity that occurs with age. There isn't an established RDA for probiotics, but excellent sources include yogurt, kefir, and miso.
Do dairy. Whether it's milk on your cereal, yogurt for snacks, or cottage cheese with a salad, go for two servings of organic low-fat or fat-free dairy each day. They're great sources of lean protein, calcium, and (in the case of yogurt) probiotics for a healthy GI tract.
Kefir is a thick, creamy, tangy beverage that's similar to drinking yogurt, except it also contains beneficial yeast and friendly probiotic bacteria (similar to those found in yogurt). Together, the bacteria and yeast in kefir combine to provide a variety of health benefits when consumed regularly.
Kefir can be made from any type of milk -- coconut, cow's, goat's, rice, sheep's, or soy. Kefir is made from gelatinous particles called 'grains' that contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with complex sugars and milk proteins (casein). The grains ferment the milk to create the cultured product. The grains are then strained out to leave the residual kefir.
You can actually buy cultured grains to make your own kefir, but most of us find it's easier to buy our own quarts of kefir in the dairy case, near the milk and yogurt products.
I love using kefir in smoothies because it allows me to replace two of my typical smoothie ingredients (yogurt and milk) with one. I love peach smoothies and this month there are so many different varieties of stone fruit available. You can substitute any kind of fruit in this smoothie during the winter months when fruit varieties are more limited.
Peachy Kefir Smoothie
If fresh peaches aren't available, frozen are fine – just eliminate the added ice.
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 cup plain lowfat kefir
- 1 large peach, diced (about 3/4 cup diced peaches)
- 2 teaspoons agave syrup (optional - depending on sweetness of fruit)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch nutmeg
- 3 ice cubes
Combine all ingredients in jar of a blender and puree until smooth. Serve immediately.
Calories 90, Total Fat g 1.5, Saturated Fat g 1, Cholesterol mg 5, Sodium mg 70, Total Carb g 14, Dietary Fiber g 1, Sugar g 12%, Protein g 5%, Calcium 15%, Iron 2%, Vitamin A 6%, Vitamin C 8%