The Superfood You Must Eat Daily

Photo by Katherine Tallmadge
The Superfood You Must Eat Daily?
The Superfood You Must Eat Daily?

Over the years I've noticed that clients who added a certain item to their diet seemed more likely to have superior health, fight illness more successfully, more easily lose body fat while maintaining - even gaining - muscle, and feel more alive, energetic, and happy. Without it, I believe your health could be in danger. What is this superfood? It's nothing weird, it's not a supplement, it's cheap and found everywhere - and it's a product that may go back to Neolithic times: Yogurt.

For years, I've wondered why this versatile food worked so well (and even if those benefits were just a figment of my imagination). Thankfully, scientific research is now backing my observations of 25+ years.

It seems the health of the 100 million cells in your intestinal tract (the microbiome) may be one of the most significant contributors to your health, and every organ in your body - from your brain to your toes - in ways that are shocking.

This has been a remarkable nutrition discovery. In fact, I would say it's causing a health care revolution. We always knew the microbiome was important, but the new studies show the effects of a healthy or unhealthy microbiome are vast, more than we ever could have imagined. The tired, old saying, "You are what you eat," Is truer than we ever realized!

Problem is, most Americans (and that could be you) have an unhealthy microbiome and suffer many negative medical consequences. I believe that eating yogurt is one of the only methods, and certainly the easiest one, we can use to make up for the healthy gut we abused and lost while growing up and now as adults.

The health of your microbiome starts in utero, continues at birth, and in infancy. If you were breastfed, you have many health advantages. For instance, you are less likely to be obese or have diabetes later in life. That's because breast milk is filled with healthy microbes, called probiotics (and prebiotics, which I'll discuss later), which boost your immune system. A healthy microbiome also decreases insulin resistance, thus lowering your blood sugar and insulin levels. Insulin is a "growth factor" which, when too high, is correlated with heart attack, colon cancer, and other cancers, and is a precurser to diabetes. It is also associated with increased inflammation, a risk factor for diseases from colds and flu, to arthritis, even mental health and risk for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's.

One cause leading to an unhealthy microbiome in developed countries, is a diet composed of low fiber, refined foods, and a dearth of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. You need these high fiber foods (called prebiotics) to nourish the probiotics, and together in the GI tract they form the critical prebiotic-probiotic duo creating a microbiome teeming with healthy microbes that fight off chronic and acute diseases.

One study found when children are given a high level of antibiotics, they experience more obesity, diabetes and infections later in life when compared with children who received less antibiotic therapy. Of course, antibiotics save lives! But they not only destroy bad, disease-causing bacteria, they also destroy the healthy microbes/bacteria. Scientists are working on finding a balance that would make antibiotics kinder to the good microbes which kill off disease naturally.

It seems the healthiest microbiomes start in infancy, and once that window is closed, it may be very hard, if not impossible, to make up for it as adults. As you age, healthy gut microbes decrease, but when you're elderly particularly, you are more prone to disease-causing microbes such as Salmonella and E-Coli, making the need for a healthy microbiome more important than ever.

As of yet, there is no test to measure your gut microbes, or the health of your microbiome. We don't even know everything we need to be looking for! The gastrointestinal tract is still quite mysterious and idiosyncratic. I work with many clients with GI issues, and their solutions vary widely.

That's why I believe foods such as yogurt, which contain natural probiotics, are critical to your health. I push all my clients to eat yogurt daily, and I do as well. When someone tells me they don't like it, I insist they try every flavor or type imaginable until they find one they enjoy. There are even yogurts that are more like desserts, so I encourage people to enjoy those if those are the only yogurts they find delicious (Yes. deliciousness is important!). Plain Greek yogurt can be used in place of sour cream in recipes. I used it on my Swedish waffles (picture above), along with fruit, and it's a delight!

More about probiotics and your health...

1 Comment For This Article

Anonymous

Hi Katherine,

What do you suggest for people wha are dairy free by necessity or choice? I can't tolerate probiotic supplements either.

Thanks for any suggestions!

Leslie

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