Powering up on probiotics: With the media spotlight on the microbiome, and “friendly bacteria”, as discussed in my post from October 30th, probiotics are quickly emerging as the new buzz word in health related conversations everywhere. So what exactly are probiotics? The most commonly accepted definition of probiotics comes from a joint FAO/WHO panel: “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”.
Move over, yogurt!: As many of you might know, yogurt is a popular source of probiotics, but a more recent entry into the probiotic market place is another fermented product called kefir. Kefir is made by adding kefir “grains” to milk, triggering a form of fermentation that is characteristic of this drink. Many experts believe that kefir is more potent than yogurt as it has several different strains of bacteria as well as yeasts that may not be found in yogurt. Emerging research indicates that diverse varieties of friendly bacteria in our digestive tract are associated with improved gut health.
Kefir may be well tolerated by those with lactose intolerance as the bacteria in kefir predigest the sugar lactose found in milk, allowing improved tolerance. Tarter than yogurt, kefir has a bubbly, effervescent texture and typically ferments in less than 12-24 hours in the warmer months, but may take up to 36 hours during cooler months.
The recipe featured below is very simple to make, but packs a hefty probiotic punch given the diverse variety of “good bacteria” that go to work for you. Literally!
Yield: approximately 2, 1.25 cup servings
- 2 cups kefir*
- 1 small apple, peeled and diced, approximately 1/2 cup
- 1 tsp freshly ground flaxseed (You can use a spice or coffee mill to grind the flaxseed as shown in figure 1)
- pinch of cinnamon powder or pumpkin spice
- Blend all the above ingredients in the jar of an electric blender until combined.
- Serve cold.
*Kefir is now available at grocery stores. I used a “home-grown” kefir culture that was offered to me by a friend, but you may substitute low-fat, plain yogurt with live and active cultures instead, if kefir itself is not readily available.
A Registered Dietitian’s tip:
Flaxseeds are a great source of alpha linolenic acid, a precursor of the all-important omega-3 fatty acids, and is associated with reduced risk of clots forming in the arteries. Flaxseeds also contain phytochemicals called lignans that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There are some studies that show that lignans may lower the risk of breast cancer as well. 2 tablespoons of flaxseed provides about 4 grams of fiber which may help lower cholesterol by binding it in the gut and subsequently excreting it from the body.
Why grind flaxseed: It is recommended that you grind flaxseed rather than consume it whole. This is because the seeds are somewhat hard and hence your body has a hard time digesting them, which is why they are likely to come out whole. Grinding the seeds converts them into a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body, thus providing you with all the associated health benefits. You can grind flaxseed and sprinkle it on dry cereals, salads, stir into hot cereals or incorporate into baked goods.
So is Kefir the new super food or drink?? : Find out in my next post on this very crucial topic…
I would also like to suggest that you might want to read my previous post that gives an introduction and quick overview of how our diet and environment influence the bacteria in our gut. In turn, this invisible microbial community can profoundly influence our health. In the next post, we will review the correct criteria for picking probiotic foods, (read as “not get deceived by hype and selling gimmicks”), which species of bacteria are the most beneficial to health, what are prebiotics, and why are they such an integral part of a healthy diet. And much, much more…so stay tuned..
In the meantime if you have any thoughts or comments, I would love to hear them! Have a great week!