Hmmmmmmm not sure if any of you ever try to guess what our next challenge will be, but if you do I bet I would have stumped you this week. I am going to challenge you to eat some bugs. You’ll be relieved to know I’m not referring to the creepy crawly, and maybe even leggy and crunchy roaches, ants or crickets-- I’m talking about microscopic bugs—the beneficial bacteria that are naturally present in foods like yogurt or kefir.
According to one of my favorite nutrition bloggers Monica Reinagel M.S.,L.D./N. from NutritionDiva.com “Every traditional cuisine has developed some sort of naturally fermented or cultured food. There’s Japanese miso, Bulgarian yogurt, Polish sauerkraut, Indian lassi, and Korean kim-chee. And each of these plays a central role in that culture’s cuisine … and for good reason. All of these foods contain lactobacillus bacteria, which are extremely beneficial to your health. In the days before antibiotics and other drugs, cultured and fermented foods were critical to staying healthy.”
Monica goes on to explain that “The friendly bacteria found in these foods actually set up housekeeping in your gut, where they do all kinds of good things for you: They help digest your food and produce certain vitamins for you. They keep the lining of your intestines slick and shiny. Most of all, they make it harder for unfriendly bacteria to take hold and make you sick.”
In other words if we have a basic population of beneficial bacteria in our gut our digestive system will work better and our body will be healthier and better able to fight off disease.
Monica goes on to explain that “Unfortunately, the traditional methods of fermenting cabbage in stoneware crocks, or burying salted vegetables in pits in the back yard, or culturing warm goat’s milk on the hearth are just not as common as they used to be. Instead, we have ultra-pasteurized milk that keeps for six weeks. Let me assure you that no beneficial bacteria survive the ultra-pasteurization process.”
Personally I’d love to have a chance to try some kim-chee or lassi so if anyone knows where it can be found in Central Florida let me know but the easiest way to get our daily lactobacillus fix is to eat yogurt or drink kefir regularly (Note: Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains and is believed to have its origins in the Caucasus Mountains. It is available in health food stores and I think it tastes basically like a yogurt drink but almost like it has a bit of carbonation. My sons love it) Which brand of yogurt should you buy? Look for brands that advertise “living cultures” but it is not necessary to pay extra for fancy yogurts that promote digestive health. Regular yogurt contains all that you need.
It’s pretty easy to work some yogurt into your daily diet. Besides eating it as a breakfast or snack you can easily add it to smoothies or soups or use it in dips or spreads .
And I’m a step ahead of you ladies in your day dreaming. Does frozen yogurt (one of my all time favorite treats) contain live active yogurt bacteria and qualify as “eating yogurt’? Maybe and maybe not. It seems that while the freezing process does NOT kill the yogurt bacteria some frozen yogurts use heat-treated yogurt, which does kill the live and active cultures. The best way to find out is to ask at your local frozen yogurt shop or look for the NYA Live & Active Cultures seal. What you want is live active yogurt bacteria. And remember if you find a frozen yogurt which contains live culture but also has sugar it DOES count as a sugar day! You might enjoy plain or unsweetened yogurt with some fresh fruit or non-caloric sweetener added.
For every day that you eat at least ½ cup of a fermented food (sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kim-chee etc.) containing live and active cultures you earn the daily 5 bonus points. Happy yogurt eating ladies!