Another Round of Probiotics: Three Surprising Health Benefits

Ok, I’ve already talked about the amazing benefits of probiotics on digestive health and immunity. The difference between someone who gets sick from a contaminated buffet and someone who doesn’t is probiotics, people. This is reason enough to add them in to your day.

But, recently in the health world, I’ve heard some naysayers who squelch the benefits of probiotics. They claim a lack of evidence as to the real benefit. I would like to clarify this: what they are likely talking about is the lack of probiotics to form long-term colonies in the large and small intestine.

This is, however, our faults. We drink chlorinated water. We get prescribed antibiotics if our eyelash aches. And we are killing off our gut flora as fast as we take them in. Kapeesh?

On the contrary, I recently discovered some evidence-based benefits of probiotics, and I’ll share some of the most surprising:

    • Lactose intolerance – the lactic acid bacteria used in probiotics actually convert lactose into lactic acid, so people can tolerate dairy much more effectively.
    •  Cholesterol – Probiotics inhibit the reabsorption of cholesterol, making blood levels more healthy
    • Cancer – Strains of probiotics have anti-cancer effects because they bind to heterocyclic amines that form on things like cooked meats; they prevent the body from having contact with this chemical. Probiotics also decrease the activity of e. coli-related enzymes that have been known to be carcinogenic

Pretty impressive, eh? I’ll give it a rest now 🙂

Silver Dollar Pancakes

This morning, my husband said he wanted an “extravagant breakfast.” Since he had really never said this before, I decided to entertain his idea, despite the fact that it’s the middle of the work week and I wouldn’t be able to partake in the extravagance.

You see, my husband is Primal. He eats meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a bit of fruit. That means no grains and legumes–basically, a low carbohydrate lifestyle designed after the ways of pre-agricultural, pre-industrial, paleolithic, or “primal” man. About a year after marriage, he wasn’t liking the rounder guy in the mirror, and decided to make a change. Being the nutrition-obsessed person I am, we found this diet together after much research. We started out going Primal together; he lost 40 lbs and got all kinds of things sorted out with his health. He has never felt better. The incredible results empower him to stick to it: a real display of ideal diet success.

I wish I could say the same of my Primal experience. Immediately after the switch, I gained weight, could not get rid of digestive woes, and just felt sluggish overall. I gave it a good, 6-month shot. And I eventually came full circle, back to being vegan. My husband and I are truly living proof that no one diet works for everyone.

So, this morning, I made him some Primal pancakes, recipe courtesy of Elana’s Pantry, a great blog for grain-free eats.

 

Silver Dollar Pancakes
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 ½ cups blanched almond flour
¼ teaspoon celtic sea salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
grapeseed oil, for cooking

  1. In a large bowl whisk together eggs, water, vanilla and agave
  2. Add almond flour, salt and baking soda and mix until thoroughly combined
  3. Heat grapeseed oil on skillet over medium low to medium heat
  4. Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of batter at a time onto the skillet
  5. Pancakes will form little bubbles, when bubbles open, flip pancakes over and cook other side
  6. Remove from heat to a plate
  7. Repeat process with remaining batter, add more oil to skillet as needed

My Top 5 Juice & Smoothie Recipe Ideas

Get Juiced for Health!

The best fuels you can put in your body are non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits. They contain vitamins, minerals, and over 300+ phytochemicals—many of which science has yet to discover! Smoothies and juices are so great because they are a concentrated version of all this goodness. They will leave you feeling energetic, vibrant, and resistant to common ailments.

Remember: A good, healthful juice is all about the base. Use cucumber or celery as your base, then add greens to get the most power-packed drink possible. If you are new to juicing and have not adjusted your palate to the greens, add one apple or pear to the juice for sweetness.

Caution: Juicing extracts the vitamins and minerals from the fruits and vegetables, but leaves out the fiber. This is a good thing because all of those vitamins and minerals get absorbed right away into your bloodstream, but a not-so-good thing when you consider the concentrated sugars that are formed. A fruits-only (or carrots-only) juice is not a health drink. These should be used sparingly, in small amounts, as a treat. By no means does this make juicing less fun and flavorful. Au contraire! You will be amazed by the taste and energy you get from recipes like these. Enjoy!

Note: fresh is always best, but not always possible, as preparation takes a bit of time. Juices will last 48 hours in the fridge and smoothies, 72 hours. Or, freeze them.

Glowing Green Smoothie
adapted from Kim Snyder

11/2 cups water
1 small head organic romaine lettuce, chopped
½ head of large bunch organic spinach
2-4 stalks organic celery
1 organic apple, cored, chopped
1 organic pear, cored, chopped
1 organic banana
Juice of ½ organic lemon

Directions: Add the water and chopped romaine and spinach to the blender. Start at a low speed, and blend up the mixture. Add the celery, apple, and pear and pulse at higher speeds. Add the banana and lemon juice last.

Gorgeous Green Juice
adapted from Kim Snyder

1 bunch organic kale, or 1 bunch organic spinach
3-4 stalks celery
1 small apple, cut in quarters
Juice of ½ organic lemon

Directions: Run all ingredients through a juicer, putting in a small amount of produce at a time.

Passion Juice Recipe
adapted from Juli Novotny

1 bunch parsley
2 lemons {squeeze directly into cup}
1 large chunk fresh ginger root
2 apples
1 cucumber {I like to shave off some of the waxy skin}
1 large beet

Directions: In a juicer, combine the above ingredients, except the lemon, then squeeze those in your cup last.

Make Peace Green Drink
adapted from Kris Carr

2 large cucumbers (peeled if not organic)
Big fist full of kale or romaine
Big fist full of sweet pea sprouts (if easy to find)
4-5 stalks celery
1-2 big broccoli stems
1-2 pears or green apples (optional)
*Other optional greens I love: spinach

Directions: Run it through the juicer and drink up!

Nourishing Green Smoothie
adapted from Kris Carr

1 Avocado
1-2 pieces of low sugar fruit: I love green apple, pear, berries & cantaloupe
1 Cucumber
A fistful of kale or romaine or spinach
Coconut water (or purified water)
Stevia to taste
*You can also add a sprinkle of cinnamon and some cacao.
*You can also use coconut meat or almond butter or nut milk in place of avocado.

Directions: Get creative with this one! Once again, throw it all in your high-powered blender, and feel the glow!

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Bacteria in a new light

I rant about a lot of things. And then, when some research comes out to support my view, my soap box gets ever taller. In this case, we’re talking about microbes. I have always been trained that our bodies are actually filled with bacteria that, for the most part, help us, and thus recommend people take probiotics or eat probiotic-containing foods to keep the little guys live and active. Things like sauerkraut, Greek yogurt, miso, and my personal addiction, Kevita (and Kombucha). But I recently fell upon some great numbers: we are made of 3 trillion cells, plus 11 trillion bacterial organisms that we cannot see. That is amazing to me.

Basically, there are revolutionaries out there (read about them here) trying to change our idea of the human body to include these microorganisms. I think med students should absolutely consider the microbiome as another system, like the immune system, cardiovascular system, etc.

Why are they so important?
Probiotic bacteria in our gut guard against yeast infections, indigestion, IBS, diarrhea…need I say more? 70 percent of our immune system is found in our gut, thanks to these critters. We eat plant material all the time that we cannot break down. The bacteria does it for us. And, we do not take in sufficient vitamins to make our bodies work. Microbes that live in our gut produce those vitamins, such as B2, B12, folic acid, and K2.

Do we all really need to incorporate probiotics into our diet?
Well, one out of three people are predicted to have candida, an overgrowth of fungus that sufficient probiotics would keep at bay. Most of us in the U.S. have chlorinated tap water, which kills off a lot of our flora. And, of course, the over-prescribing of antibiotics has lead many to a gut full of the wrong kind of microbes, causing them fatigue, sugar cravings, and skin eruptions.

How should we go about getting our probiotics?
For sure success, take a three-fold approach of incorporating food containing live and active cultures, a probiotic supplement, and plenty of good, filtered water. There are a ton of great products out there nowadays, I’ve pictured a few, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Making your own sauerkraut is ridiculously easy and cheap. Also, look at your sugar consumption–and if you can’t stop consuming it, you need this good bacteria the very most of all.