Archive for September, 2010

Probiotics: The Single Most Important Supplement to Add to Your Diet!

I have always been a big proponent of probiotics for improving digestion and the assimilation of nutrients and one of the first recommendations that I give to clients is to add them to their diets for optimal health and weight-loss!

But, in my personal life, since we are all fairly healthy, I have to admit that I fell short of always taking them myself or giving them to my kids!

So, when my son and daughter got Staph infections at camp this summer and had to be put on a heavy dose of antibiotics, their importance was make so much clearer to me! I had thought we did not need them but when I put the whole family on probiotics- myself included- we all saw an immediate difference in how we felt and how our bodies looked and I will never go back!

So, what are probiotics?

The word probiotic, literally meaning “for life,” are the healthy bacteria that naturally grows in your intestines that keep your stomach and intestines free of disease-causing bacteria and boost bacteria beneficial to digestion. Probiotics also boost your immune system, improve your digestion, fight infection, help prevent food allergies and yeast overgrowth, prevent constipation, and even help treat inflammatory bowel disease!

Why is it so important that we take them?

In a simpler, more ideal world we would have enough in our bodies through the wholesome food that we ate and the clean environment we lived in! But, with our busy, stressful lives, unhealthy diets full of processed foods and sugar, alcohol and coffee consumption, toxins in the environment and by taking antibiotics, we rob our bodies of these beneficial bacteria!

And, when our bodies do not have the healthy bacteria in our gut, we are unable to digest and assimilate the nutrients in the food that we eat. It certainly is important that we eat the right foods. But, eating all the right food certainly does not do very much good if we are unable to assimilate those nutrients! When we have a healthy digestion, not only will we have optimal health and look and feel our best but we will also be able to process food more efficiently, which results in weight-loss.

What is the best way  to get probiotics into our diets?

Probiotic supplements hands-down are the best way to integrate probiotics in your diet!!! While I am an absolute proponent of doing things the natural way, you just are unable to eat the quantity of probiotic-containing foods to equal what you would get in a good quality supplement!

My favorite brand is called Innate, which can be ordered online, but I also like Udo’s brand. Probiotic supplements can be purchased at your local health store of pharmacy. If you cannot find these brands, go to the refrigerated vitamin section and ask which supplement they recommend. There are brands of probiotic supplements that do not have to be refrigerated but I am always skeptical of their shelf-life so I always recommend the refrigerated variety!

How should I take probiotic supplements?

For maximum benefit, probiotic supplements should be taken first thing in the morning upon waking on an empty stomach. I go to bed with a glass of water and probiotic pills on my bedside table and take them in the morning before I get out of bed. Make sure you read the labels and take the dosage recommended on the bottle. I usually suggest taking more when you are on or after just getting off of antibiotics but the dosages recommended on the bottle are great for daily maintenance.

For younger children, they make probiotic straw by Bio Gaia. While my daughter is 7 years old, she cannot swallow pills yet so I just open a probiotic capsule and stir it in her orange juice in the morning.

What are some other sources of probiotics?

The most well-known probiotic is yogurt, which contains the live-active culture called acidophilus. Not all yogurts are created equal, though, and many commercial brands are just glorified gelatin with lots of sugar so make sure you read labels! Look for a brand that contains live-active cultures and one with natural sweeteners such as honey.

Stoneyfield, Brown Cow and the Greek yogurt Fage are my favorite yogurts, and contain Lactobacillus reuteri, a specific bacterium that appears to stimulate white blood cells according to a Swedish study. There is also a brand from Iceland called Skyris, which is delicious.

For the vegans out there or those trying to eliminate or minimize dairy, there is a delicious yogurt called So Delicious made from coconut milk. This is the yogurt that we now eat at home and I actually prefer it to the regular yogurt! Additionally, it is easy to find and Whole Foods and most health shops now carry it!

Another choice if you are not opposed to dairy is Kefir, which can be made from cow or goat milk and is similar to a drinkable yogurt. Kefir has more bacteria that yogurt and has a laxative effect that keeps your intestines free of parasites. It is a natural antibiotic and has a high level of protein, many of the B vitamins including B-12 and all the essential fatty acids. It is easy to make at home or you can buy it in your local health store or Whole Foods. Although my son is now on a dairy-free diet and takes supplements, when he was little he suffered from terrible excema and used to drink this every morning and it went away.

Throughout the world, various civilizations have also used fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, pickles, salted fish and cured meats, which all contain lactic acid, which helps us digest our food and fight off unhealthy bacteria.

Kombucha, which is a fermented tea, has also become hugely popular but, again, like yogurt, make sure that it is not loaded with sugar and just Kombucha flavored juice!

Whatever you choose, my recommendation would still be to take the probiotic supplements while adding fermented foods to your diet! Your digestion will thank you!!!

Kale: The Green Popeye Just Didn’t Know About!

So, what green is more power packed than even spinach?

Kale! This leafy green is four times higher in vitamin C, one and a half times higher in vitamin A and K, and three times higher in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin than spinach!!!

For those who know me, you know that kale is one of my favorite vegetables! Not only is kale one of the most nutritious vegetables around but it is also incredibly delicious if prepared properly. When I prepare my kale chips, I literally have to fight my family off or the dish literally will be eaten before it gets to the table!

So, what is kale?

Kale is a hearty green that is actually a member of the cabbage family. Kale is high in iron, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, magnesium, beta-carotene, phosphorus, vitamins A, E and K, folic acid, chlorophyll,  fiber, phytochemicals and live-enzymes.

Kale helps prevent anemia, strengthen the eyes, bones and teeth, purify the blood, strengthen the immune system, increase energy, improve skin quality, improve digestion and even replenishes lost electrolytes after a workout!

Where do I buy it, and what do I look for?

There are many different varieties but the ones you will come upon most in the grocery store are the green kale, the variegated kale and, my favorite, the Locinato kale, which is a heirloom kale from Tuscany.

Kale is readily available and can pretty much be found in any health food or gourmet store. The Locinato kale is a bit harder to find but it is well worth the search for its smooth taste. When you are shopping, look for kale with bright green leaves. A yellow color tells you that the kale might be a bit old and has lost some of its nutritional value.

Kale is a hearty green that can be found year-round and is one of the few vegetables that actually sweetens and gets better tasting after a frost!

How do I eat it?

Most people tend to think of kale as a vegetable you just cook. While kale is delicious grilled or sautéed, it can also be incredibly delicious in salads and smoothies if prepared properly! Below are some of my favorite recipes. The grilled kale, in particular, is a family favorite and we prepare green smoothies with kale every morning to send the kids off to school!

Crunchy Kale

1 head of kale (can be red or green)
Olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut kale into small pieces and wash and let fully dry so it does not wilt. Coat a casserole dish with olive oil and place the kale in the dish. Slather with olive oil and place in oven for approximately 15-20 minutes until it looks a bit “crispy”. Slice a lemon and squeeze over and add a sprinkle of sea salt.

These literally taste like crispy, yummy salty chips and my family devour them often before they even make it to the table!

Kale Avocado Salad

4-6 leaves of Locinato kale (green is fine if you cannot find Locinato)
1 avocado
Olive oil
Sea salt
Optional: handful of walnuts

Slice the Locinato kale and place into a bowl. Slice half of your avocado on top and liberally douse with olive oil and then lemon and then add a little sea salt. With your hands mix and knead the ingredients to break up the fibers of the kale. Slice remaining ½ of avocado and place the slices on top. This is one of my favorite salads and is beyond healthy and cleansing!

Kat’s “Power Me Up”  Kale Smoothie

4-6 stalks kale (again use Locinato if you can find it)
1 cup vanilla almond milk (or soy or rice milk)
Juice from a Thai coconut (you can cheat &use the small “One” containers)
1 sliced frozen banana
1tbsp Chia, flax or hemp seeds (Omega 3’s)
Maca (for energy, jet lag, high-intensity workouts)
Optional: handful of frozen berries (great if you are making it for kids who might be anti-green!)

Rip the greens into pieces and place into blender filling it up ¾ of the way. Add your vanilla almond milk, frozen fruit and other ingredients into a blender and blend! There is no exact science to this. Experiment and see which combinations you like!

This is my favorite, favorite, favorite morning smoothie and I usually make it the night before and then send it in a bottle for my hubby to take to work in the morning!