Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's the Deal with Probiotics?

Tonight in the class I am teaching at the Boston Center for Adult Education, we talked about probiotics. Probiotics are generating a lot of buzz in the food industry lately; they're being added to products where they don't naturally occur, as they do in the most famous probiotic source: yogurt.

Well, let's start off with explaining what they are and why they're important. First of all, the term "probiotics" was coined to contrast "antibiotics". And it means "for life". Probiotics are a beneficial bacteria that are normally present in the digestive tract. They are vital for proper digestion, but they also serve other important functions such as synthesizing vitamins, supporting and fortifying a strong immune system, detoxifying the liver, alleviating inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn's Disease and for preventing the overgrowth of yeast. For people who've experienced chronic yeast infections, yogurt was seen as a panacea. Anyone who has attended one of my Sugar Solutions Workshops know my feelings on yogurt. I am talking about the commercial kind, which is full of unnecessary sugars - and lots of it. If people want to continue to have yogurt in their diet, the only kind I can recommend is plain. If you wish to sweeten it, do so by adding your own fruit or a gentle, natural sweetener, like agave nectar. Don't buy yogurt with sugar (most contain added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fructose and pectin). And remember, yogurt is not the only food with probiotics. There are various sources, all of which are cultured or fermented and they include:
  • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
  • kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage with spices)
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • soy sauce (choose low/no sodium variety)
  • umeboshi plum or other pickled fruit and vegetables
  • kombucha tea (raw, not hot)

Whenever I teach this class, I treat my students to a beverage that tastes great and has many benefits including probiotics and that is the final item on the list above; kombucha tea. The brand I recommend is GT Dave's, as it contains only raw, cultured kombucha and their Synergy version contains juice from whole fruits; no sugar or other ingredients are permitted! There are other cold kombucha teas available, but they are watered down and contain sugar and other ingredients that reduce the benefits of the kombucha itself. It's a fermented mushroom tea, made in small batches and can be purchased at health food stores, including Whole Foods, in their refrigerated beverages section. GT Dave's kombucha is all natural, organic, raw, vegan and kosher. It contains no caffeine, coloring, preservatives or additives. This tea has been used for hundreds of years and contains many healing benefits; some people call it miraculous. It's very unique taste will add a twist to your diet. It's the perfect way to add probiotics into your life. Try it today!


Caroline said...

I did the Master Cleanse in June and used the Pearls brand of probiotics when I came off of the cleanse. It was a great way to reintroduce the good bacteria to my system which had been all but devoid of food for about 10 days. I'd love to give the kombucha tea a try. I'm always on the hunt for a new beverage (water is my main drink, coffee in the a.m., and the occassionaly glass of red wine on the weekend), and the tea sounds great!

fatfighter said...

Interesting to see all the foods with probiotics - all you normally hear about is yogurt - thanks!!
So, what does the tea taste like?

Kathleen said...

The tea has a somewhat vinegar-like taste and due to the cultured process, it's kind of fizzy too. Because we don't find a lot of that flavor in our food, many people are delighted to experience it with the kombucha. And if you get the Synergy version, you can have kombucha mixed with mango, passionberry, raspberry and many other wonderful fruit flavors. YUM!