You've heard of the Activia® 14-Day Challenge
that claims it will regulate your digestive tract or refund your
money. The “miracle” in this product–Bifidobacterium
lactis–is one of more than 400 probiotics that is
naturally found in your digestive tract.
Probiotics (meaning “for life”) are often referred to as “good” or “friendly” bacteria. It is important to note that each type of the friendly bacteria has a specific health benefit to the body. With the vast number of different types of probiotics identified, researchers are just starting to uncover the health roles and benefits of each one.
Foods that contain probiotics are primarily dairy products and beverages, including yogurt (drinkable and squeezable), milk with added probiotics, and
fermented milk (such as sweet acidophilus milk).
Although additional research is needed, there’s encouraging evidence that probitoics may help:
• Protect against infection
• Enhance and boost your immune system
• Promote and improve digestive health
• Treat irritable bowel syndrome
• Alleviate diarrhea caused by antibiotic
• Prevent and treat yeast infections and urinary
• Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu
Raw (unpasteurized) yogurt is loaded with bacteria; however, most yogurts today are pasteurized, a process through which bacteria are killed. Some manufacturers are adding good bacteria back into yogurt after the pasteurization process.
“Consumers should realize that more products than those that are marketed as containing probiotics actually contain them,” says Katie Kruger, R.D., L.D., Mercy Weight Loss& Nutrition Center. “Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented dairy products or yogurt that state they have ‘live and active’ cultures.”
Bottom line is if you regularly consume yogurt, double-check your favorite brand to see if it contains live and active cultures. If it doesn’t, pick up a container that does and try it to see if you like the taste. Making the switch to yogurt with good bacteria may lead to improved health.
For a diet rich in whole grains and variety, try adding quinoa to your menu. Although quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is somewhat new to the palate of central Iowans, this South American grain has been around more than 5,000 years. This tiny seed can be found in a variety of colors, although white is the most commonly consumed.
This whole grain is a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. The protein in quinoa is called a “complete protein” because it contains all nine essential amino acids that are needed for building and maintaining muscle in humans.
“Since it has more protein than other grains, it is a great choice for vegetarians,” says Katie Kruger, R.D., L.D., Mercy Weight Loss & Nutrition Center dietitian. “It is also a flavorful alternative grain for those with gluten sensitivity, such as those people with celiac disease.”
The health benefits of quinoa include helping to lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes and helping to prevent cancer. The grain has a mild, nutty flavor and a fluffy texture similar to couscous. It can be used in place of rice, pasta, and other grains. One cup provides 5 grams of fiber and contains about 200 calories.
Although quinoa has been difficult to find in central Iowa, major grocery stores are now carrying the grain. Look for it in the health food section or with other whole grains.