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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Where Has The Good Bacteria Gone? Yogurt and Probiotics

I don't watch TV often but I have noticed that I can't turn it on without seeing an advertisement for yogurt. They are also in a lot of women's and health magazines too. I think of the Activia song and the belly wiggling with the yellow arrow when I think of yogurt. I personally do not eat yogurt because I choose not to eat dairy. But for people that do, it can be quite confusing looking at the MASSIVE selection of yogurt in the grocery store. Which one do you pick? And which yogurt is the healthiest?

We know from the commercials that probiotics are good bacteria that help with digestion. (Insert Activia song and belly wiggle here.) We have 1000 trillion cells in our body and a healthy digestive system has 100 trillion good bacteria. So I asked myself, what is killing all the good bacteria that I have to add it back into my body? Why do i feel the push to eat yogurt and consume probiotics? Even some naturopath doctor's recommend eating yogurt and they usually advise us to cut out dairy products. It could be because we are killing many of our good bacteria due to one or more of the following: 

Common killers of good bacteria:

Antibiotics - when taken kill both the good and the bad bacteria in our bodies
Chlorine - the chlorine in our tap water kills harmful bacteria in the water supply, but when we drink that water it kills the good bacteria in our digestive system as well. 
Meat and Dairy- antibiotics are found in most non-organic meat and dairy products, and these end up in our bodies. Also, meat and dairy can be really difficult for our bodies to digest, sitting for long periods of time in our intestines allowing bad bacteria to grow. 
Alcohol, drugs, smoking - these can all contribute to good bacteria loss as well as negative thinking and stress! 
Junk Food like soda doesn't help either. 

If you eat a whole food, plant-based diet and avoid certain things like chlorinated tap water, junk food, and antibiotics, your good bacteria might be just fine. But if you are ingesting at least one of the above, you may want to look at taking probiotics in some form. Some options are:

Regular & Greek Yogurt

Dairy-free Coconut Milk and Almond Milk Yogurt

Fermented Foods: like miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and kim chi

Probiotic supplements from the health food store. 

There seems to be a big push for Greek yogurt at the moment. Each major brand is coming out with their own brand of greek yogurt to keep up with the competition. But is Greek yogurt really any better for you? The main difference between it and regular yogurt is that is goes through a more extensive straining process to remove some of the liquid whey, sugar and lactose. They say that by doing this it makes it easier to digest for those that are lactose intolerant... I say for those that are lactose intolerant - try coconut milk yogurt! It's dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free and vegan. Both contain helpful probiotics. 

Greek yogurt might have more protein than coconut milk yogurt but this coconut brand has 8 grams of fibre compared to Greek's 1 gram! Greek is lower in sodium and calcium. (But I wouldn't let this influence your decision, if you are eating yogurt for calcium I would suggest trying a kale salad instead.) Both yogurts are high in fat but the coconut milk yogurt has less sugar, and when comparing sugar the Greek one used vanilla flavored syrup as a sweetener as opposed to coconut milk's organic cane sugar. The cane sugar is going to be a better choice in this situation. 

And I think we can all agree that the sugar-free yogurts with artificial sweeteners are not going to be good for our health. Be careful though, even though a package says aspartame-free doesn't mean that they haven't snuck another artificial sweetener in there like sucralose or sorbitol. If you want to eat the regular yogurt and are worried about the sugar, buy plain organic yogurt (regular or coconut) and add fruit like strawberries or stevia as a sweetener. 

I just want to make sure to mention that you can make your own coconut milk yogurt or sauerkraut at home! Making your own fermented foods has been gaining popularity, and some argue it's the best source of probiotics that you can get. If you would like to learn how to make coconut milk yogurt, check out my friend Whitney's website Grounded Nutrition for the recipe -->

And finally -Why not just take a pill for probiotics?
You can. They have pills, powders and pastes ranging from 5 billion cultures to 50 billion. When purchasing one online or from your health food store, look for a 5-strain enteric cased probiotic. Enteric means that it has been encapsulated to resist stomach acid so that the live cultures survive through to the intestines where they can work their magic. Take as directed on the bottle. **Always consult your health-care provider about whether or not probiotics or any supplement is right for you.

Thanks to Rustie Dean and the Regina Global Morning News Show for having me on the set this morning to talk about yogurt and probiotics.

Please leave any comments or questions you have below!

Thanks for reading, 

Lots of love and fresh squeezed hugs, 
Naturally Ashley


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