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Healthy Tip: Probiotics are Full of Life

By Alana Sugar, May 25, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar

YogurtSeems like we've hit a tipping point - lots of people (especially Jamie Lee Curtis) are talking about getting "regular" and everybody's jumping on the probiotic bandwagon these days. So, what are these probiotics and what do they do for us? When you get sick, you may take an antibiotic. Probiotics, on the other hand, may help you stay well. "Biotic" means "relating to life" so probiotic basically means "supportive of life." There are hundreds of different species of these friendly organisms colonizing our digestive track and competing with potentially harmful pathogens. Here at Whole Foods Market, we've known about this good stuff for a very long time, and we continue to offer foods and supplements that contain these ever-popular bacteria. But wait! Did I say bacteria? Isn't that bad? Well, some bacteria are bad - they are pathogenic in the human body, meaning they can cause illness. But, there are plenty other bacteria that are really, really good! You've probably heard of Lactobacillus acidophilus that you find in yogurt, but there are myriad of other helpful bacteria strains -- trillions of live bacteria make their home right inside of you! (And that's usually a good thing!)

Why all of the attention now? As a nation, we have a lot of people with a lot of digestive problems. A healthy digestive tract is a huge defense because the majority of your immune system is located in your digestive system. If your digestive health isn't up to par, chances are your immune system isn't either. And, having a healthy digestive system means having plenty of healthy bacteria, and that's where probiotics come in. They are critical for the health of our immune system. They synthesize vitamins, eliminate toxins and help us digest our food and absorb nutrients. In the old days, people often ate fermented foods. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, kimchee, home-made pickles, and cheese are all examples of foods our ancestors prepared that contained live cultures. Nowadays, with so much of our food being pasteurized, we've eliminated most every source of these foods that we used to eat on a regular basis. So, it's a good idea to make sure your diet contains live foods and/or probiotic supplements. Next time you're shopping with us, look for one or more of the following items, many of which are kept refrigerated:

  • Live cultured pickles
  • Live cultured sauerkraut
  • Live cultured kimchee
  • Live pickled veggies
  • Live cultured salsa
  • Unpasteurized miso
  • cheese
  • Assorted beverages such as Synergy drinks and kombucha tea
  • Yogurt with live cultures (not all commercially sold yogurt or frozen yogurt have live cultures)
  • Kefir - a popular cultured dairy drink
  • Probiotic supplements - we have a large selection in our Whole Body Department

Remember to look for "live" food (it will say so on the package) and try to eat a variety of such foods in order to get different strains. Fermented foods are loaded with beneficial bacteria. If you have digestive concerns, they are helpful in competing with unfriendly bacteria, but it is possible to over-do it initially. Starting slowly is a good idea. I usually recommend just a teaspoon with a meal. Then, work your way up gradually to 1/4 to 1/2 cup daily. If you have digestive concerns, be sure to check with your health care practitioner. For a quick lunch filled with fermented foods, make a sandwich with raw milk cheese slices, ripe tomatoes, fresh live sauerkraut, German-style mustard or your favorite mayonnaise on dark rye or pumpernickel bread. Have you ever experimented with making your own yogurt, kefir or cultured veggies? If so, I would love to hear about it. Or if you have a favorite way to get your probiotics, let me know that too!

Category: Healthy Eating




lynda says ...
I make my own Greek yogurt with a yogurt maker I purchased at Amazon.com. I use organic milk and started it with Oikos greek yogurt. I strain it and store in in the refrigerator. I mix fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries with the yogurt. I think it is so fabulous. I made enough for a group of 40 ladies recently and they couldn't believe how wonderful it was. I also made homemade granola and creme fraiche. Using the granola, creme fraiche and berries, I made yogurt parfaits for the group breakfast.
05/25/2009 11:23:50 AM CDT
Zucchini Breath says ...
http://bigrawblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/make-your-own-natural-raw-sauerkraut-no.html You will need: 1 large (4 cup) wide mouth jar with lid Large bowl Good knife or Grater or Food processor 1 med head of cabbage 1 tbs salt Peel off any outside leaves that are wilted and throw them away. Then peel the first good leaf of the cabbage and set it aside. This leaf will top the cabbage while it ferments. Slice fine, grate or chop with slicing blade in food processor, 1 head of green cabbage. Put cabbage in a large bowl, add 1 tbs salt, stir well and pound for 10 minutes, until it's very juicy. Transfer the salted, pounded, juicy cabbage and the juice into large jar, packing it down tight as you go. Don't leave any air inside. Air bubbles will mess up the fermentation. Leave at least one inch of space at the top of the jar. Cut the leaf you set aside to size that fits inside the jar. You want to cover the top of the cabbage so no air, dust or bacteria can get in. Set the lid on but don't tighten it. The kraut will swell and juice will drip down the sides. I put it in a cool, dark place, a cupboard. I set it on a towel to catch the drips and don't touch it for 3 days. In three days (less if its warm, longer if it's cool) your sauerkraut will be ready. It should smell sour and taste salty and sour and it should be crispy and crunch when you bite it. There is another post of me making sauerkraut with more photos HERE Safety information from Wikipedia: "Once made, sauerkraut is a very safe food because its high acidity prevents spoilage. USDA also recommends pasteurizing sauerkraut for storage. This is not necessary if the raw sauerkraut has been properly made and stored, and will needlessly diminish the nutritional value. A slimy or excessively soft texture, discoloration, or off-flavor may indicate spoilage." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sauerkraut
05/25/2009 6:47:15 PM CDT
Amy says ...
Thanks for this informative post! I've been hearing a lot about probiotics lately, and I'm skeptical of trendy yogurts just hopping on the bandwagon. I'll have to take a look around Whole Foods for some of the items mentioned here.
05/26/2009 7:32:51 PM CDT
Ashley says ...
I regularly make my own raw milk yogurt, using fresh raw milk from a local farm, and mm, is it good! Very thick and creamy. Very sour, of course, so you have to add some sweetener, but a little honey does the trick (and if you add a little vanilla extract... wow!). I make my own yogurt so that I can have it raw, but it's a really good deal - a gallon of raw milk goes for $7, so each quart of yogurt is only $1.75. It's also pretty easy - I don't even use a yogurt maker. I just set up a little makeshift double broiler, a Corningware pot inside another pot with a few inches of water (using a glass lid on the bottom to keep it level), then use a little thermometer I got at Kroger to bring it up to 110, then add around three tablespoons of yogurt from my last batch, pour it into a mason jar, and leave it overnight in a cooler with about an inch of hot water in it (to keep the yogurt warm and help it ferment). Very simple, and I just love having a little army of yogurt-filled mason jars in my fridge that keep for months!
05/27/2009 5:39:11 AM CDT
George Stephenson says ...
I have to watch sodium content so I'm looking for information re pickling, sourkraut and smoking salmon, i.e., ways to reduce the residual sodium content.
05/28/2009 7:24:07 AM CDT
James M. says ...
Mutaflor, a prescription probiotic is gaining popularity among doctors who practice Functional Medicine. It is a German prescription drug that contains the beneficial (Nissle 1917) strain of E. Coli. It was discovered by a German bacteriologist and the drug is widely prescribed and covered by insurance companies in German speaking countries. Unfortunately, the US FDA has failed to approve the drug for use in this country.
05/28/2009 12:15:27 PM CDT
jane brennan says ...
what are cultured veggies? am vegan. please advise.
05/29/2009 11:13:44 AM CDT
renostervoeelboggomtieties says ...
is it possible to get the recipe for making your own yoghurt at home? we used to do it in africa and i have yet to remember the "how-to" of it!! thank you!!
05/29/2009 3:56:51 PM CDT
renostervoeelboggomtieties says ...
to add: on the yoghurt recipe, i need "monkey-see-monkey-do" instructions please!!
05/29/2009 4:00:10 PM CDT
Gabriela says ...
I get my daily dose through Goodbelly. I got it at first because I had a coupon but now I'm hooked. Like my husband says, it makes me feel like a superhero! I drink Kefir, too, but didn't realize this was actually good for you. I just love the taste!
06/03/2009 9:18:45 AM CDT
Attune Foods says ...
Great Post! Generally probiotic helps to improve digestive health. Market offers probiotic in different form like chocolate bars, drinks, etc... Choose the best you need.
06/16/2009 8:01:16 AM CDT
Ken Weston says ...
Where can I buy or get kefir grains in Maine?
07/21/2009 1:15:15 PM CDT
robin acker says ...
A friend of mine says that probiotics will help with reducing a pot belly. She says it releases yeast in your body. They had to put her daughter on probiotic pills and it helped to reduce her large belly. Is this true?
11/27/2009 12:28:33 PM CST
Chris B says ...
Is there any Kombucha that tastes good ? Are there reliable studies about the health benefits ? Thanks !
11/30/2009 5:43:24 PM CST
Kraig says ...
Kraig Kanoekole: Funny thing is I just switch from unhealthy to healthy foods. Quickly, I realized that there were lots of people who always go straight-up to the drive-through thinggie and grab bunch of fatty and oily sandwiches. Huhmmmm...lately, I learn how to cook and make my own food(s). Yogurt, well? I make my own healthy yogurt, healthy dinner, breakfast, etc. Yogurt, I always use ORGANIC, ORGANIC, and ORGANIC mixtures. Yogurt is always there. From smoothies, mix-fruits, and even fruit salads I MIX YOUGURT to complete my meals. Aloha Mai Kakou to all!!!
12/03/2009 3:40:57 PM CST
Debra Miglionico says ...
I have been taking a triple strain probiotic blend from Whole Foods for approx. 6 months now. I am fairly certain that it has helped and "cured" my twice yearly cold sores, colds/flu, digestive issues (IBS), and belly bloating. I ran out 7 days ago and have had horrible digestive problems for the last few days. I am running out after work, stocking up, and never doing that again!
12/09/2009 5:39:26 PM CST
James Dowdy says ...
do you carry Unpasteurized sauerkraut
01/19/2010 2:22:56 PM CST
veronica says ...
i take young coconut water and put it in a jar for a few days and it ferments =)
02/18/2010 12:49:31 PM CST
guitarlizard says ...
In response to: "# Chris B: Is there any Kombucha that tastes good ? Are there reliable studies about the health benefits ? Thanks ! November 30th, 2009 at 5:43 pm" I have found that the flavours of High Country Kombucha are quite agreeable to me, my favourite being Goji Berry. They are also packaged in amber coloured glass. I'm not sure if they are available at all Whole Foods, but I get mine at my local Whole Food Market. See ya'
02/25/2010 4:24:25 PM CST
Pratibha says ...
Hi, I live in India and generally here with every meal a bowl of plain yoghurt is consumed. Most mothers here tend to make yoghurt at home. Its very easy and becomes part of your daily routine. Use fresh milk preferably. Just warm it up to lukewarm/not boiling point or wait until the milk has cooled down to lukewarm and jus add one tsp, yes one TEASPOON of plain yoghurt(even from a packaged one will do). Stir it to mix thoroughly and cover and keep to one side. We usually tend to prepare this at night before going to bed and wake up in the morning to find the yoghurt has SET. My mothers insists that one tsp is sufficient and as soon as the yoghurt has "SET", which means it has solidified....you can stick the bowl in the fridge and voila you have fresh yoghurt ready for consumption. The one thing to remember here is that the warm weather contributes to the live bacteria multiplying at a faster pace and your yoghurt is set in a few hours. In colder countries, you would require to warm to the milk just above lukewarm temperature and put one TBS(tablespoon) of yoghurt in it. place the bowl of yoghurt(to be set) in a deeper plate filled with hot water and cover and leave to set. This is to ensure the milk doesnt cool down quickly and the yoghurt does not take longer to set. Also once the bowl has been set aside to make the yoghurt, resist moving that bowl about or opening and stirring or checking on it. Only do it a few hours later, wen you simply lift the lid and you will see whether the yoghurt has set or yuo need to leave it for a couple o hours more. That is why the most convenient time to set the fresh yoghurt is last thing in the night before going to bed and its ready when you wake up. My mum insists that the yoghurt which is placed at the fridge right at the setting point will be the sweetest of all yoghurts. Its at the point before it starts to sour slowly. Its a matter of trial and error before you start to recognise wen that milk has fully set and you can stick it in the fridge. Save a spoonful of this yoghurt to set your next one. If you want to make a low fat version, then you boil your fresh milk completely. Allow it cool down and you will see a layer of cream on top. Remove this layer and you can reheat the milk again to boil again and repeat the process and take the cream off to create a low fat milk. This then can be used to set low fat yoghurt. But try setting yoghurt from a packaged low fat milk and it just does not have the desirable effect. Of course here in India, everything has its purpose, so the cream that you take off the milk is usually collected in a large jar and kept in the fridge until the jar fills up. This then is used to prepare clarified butter aka "ghee". My mother in law tend to set her yoghurt in sweetened milk...where she adds a tsp/tbs of sugar to the warmed milk so the yoghurt is set sweet as she desires. I recommend against it cos if you wanna sweeten it you can usually add some honey on top when you are having it. But once you start to set natural yoghurt on your own, you will begin to appreciate the taste of just plain yoghurt and simply adding some chopped fruits in it will be dessert enough. For people who find it difficult or too heavy to consume a bowl of yogurt everyday, yet want to reap the benefits of it, simply add a glass of water to it and shake it. Season with either salt or sugar and make yourself a soothing drink. You can season with whatever you like....sweet or spicy spices. I hope this has helped some of your queries on how to make natural yoghurt at home. It really is the simplest recipe and the most beneficial....packaged yoghurts are not entirely beneficial since they do have preservatives in them to keep sustain them from longer.
03/22/2010 1:56:44 AM CDT
Dawn says ...
I'm a big fan of the EasiYo yogurt maker. Here in New Zealand the sachets to make the yogurt are very cheap - they seem to be substantially more in the US. The sachets only contain milk powder and the yogurt making bacteria as well as some probiotic bacteria as well (Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM.) Makes a delicious yogurt and you know you're getting a daily dose of good bacteria as well. I'm convinced that many of our health complaints have increased as we have moved away from these naturally fermented foods.
03/26/2010 10:09:20 PM CDT
Cindy says ...
I do make my own yogurt and kefir milk! It's so good! I love the yogurt, it's so rich and creamy, better than any you buy in a store. I double strain a portion of the yogurt and make yougurt cheese which is so good! I add spices to the yougurt cheese and have a wonderful dip/salad dressing that is so good for you! The kefir milk I'm still trying to get used to. I usuall mix the kefir milk in with the yogurt, as kefir milk is a lot tangier than I'm used to. I use all organic or fresh milk for the yogurt and kefir milk.
03/30/2010 8:00:06 AM CDT
kristina says ...
My favorite food has got to be kimchi! I love it! I make my own all the time. I put in there cabbage, carrots, tons and tons of fresh garlic (I eat it raw- pop cloves like others eat candy!), lots of fresh ginger, green onion or any onion I have, hot peppers, sea salt (just to taste, mine is low sodium), and fresh cracked black pepper. I make all different fermented veggies. Just the experimenting with anything is the funnest part- and then when you have to wait is the hardest part. But when you take the very first bite- WOW, it is sooo worth it! Kimchi has color, crunch, and spice, and everything nice! :)
05/19/2010 11:20:46 PM CDT
Matilda says ...
Do you recommend taking a pro-biotic supplement or the live cultured pickles or milk and cheese? I'm just not sure what to start off with.
06/07/2010 11:38:37 PM CDT
Bill says ...
Our daughter started making her own Kefir a few weeks ago, by letting kefir culture(?) feed/grow in milk for about 24 hours. She strains out the live globs(I don't know the correct termonology) of kefir and adds them to another glass of milk for the next day, starting the process all over again. We use the kefirized milk over cereal instead of yogurt - it is amazing! We like to mix kefir milk with fruit juice for a quick smoothie that is very good. So far, kefir has been very soothing to our digestive system - it gives me an internal feeling of well-being in the mid section.
02/11/2011 11:16:07 AM CST