Archive | November, 2011

Why you should drink a cup full of bacteria

30 Nov


What is Water Kefir?

Water kefir is a refreshing beverage full of healthy probiotics.  It has a low glycemic index and no caffeine.  It is typically a tart beverage, but the sweetness of the water kefir can be adjusted  based on how long you allow fermentation to occur.  As it is a fermented beverage, it takes about 1-2 days to make.

Why Should I Consume Probiotics?

Our guts are full of bacteria….with over 10^14microbial cells of  1,000 types of bacteria.  These bacteria have been linked to:

  • immunostimulation
  • improved digestion and absorption
  • vitamin synthesis
  • inhibition of potential pathogens
  • cholesterol reduction
  • lowering of gas distension (Source)

Over 700 human studies  lend support that gut bacteria may ” aid in preventing or treating various GI tract disorders, promoting GI health and preventing metabolic syndrome” (Source)

Current research is now investigating how probiotics can help:

“chronic intestinal inflammation, diarrhea, constipation, vaginitis, irritable bowel syndrome, atopic dermatitis, sepsis, food allergies, and liver disease. Substantial evidence has shown that probiotics can modulate systemic and mucosal immune function, improve intestinal barrier function, alter gut micro-ecology, and exert metabolic effects on the host” (Source)

Sometimes, our healthy bacteria are killed.  For example, antibiotics that we take can kill the healthy bacteria and let pathogenic bacteria grow.   To help replenish the healthy bacteria, you can take a probiotic or eat a supplemented food, such as yogurt, that contains live cultures.   One food product that contains healthy probiotics is water kefir.


Why Should I Drink it?

Along with offering probiotics, fermented foods, such as keifr, contain enzymes, digested nutrients, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.   For example, water kefir contains folic acid and B Vitamins.  This can be especially beneficial to vegetarians who often do not consume adequate amount of Vitamin B12.

The following healthy bacteria and yeast are in water kefir:



Species Lactobacillus
L. acidophilus
L. alactosus
L. brevis
L. bulgaricus
L. casei subsp. casei
L. casei subsp. pseudoplantarum
L. casei subsp. rhamnosus
L. casei subsp. tolerans
L. coryneformis subsp. torquens
L. fructosus
L. hilgardii
L. homohiochi
L. plantarum
L. psuedoplantarum
L. reuterietc
L. yamanashiensis

Species Streptococcus
S. agalactiae
Sr. bovis
S. cremeris
S. faecalis
S. lactis
S. mutans
S. pneumoniae
S. pyogenes
S. salivarius
S. sanguinis
S. suis
S. viridans

Species Pediococcus
P. damnosus

Species Leuconostoc
L. mesenteroides

Species Bacillus
B. subtilis
B. graveolus



Species Saccharomyces
S. bayanus
S. boullardii
S. cerevisiae
S. florentinus
S. pretoriensis
S. uvarum

Species Kloeckera
K. apiculata

Species Hansenula
H. yalbensis

Species Candida
C. gueretana
C. lamica
C. valida
*does not contain C. albicans – the yeast associated with human yeast infections and ‘candida’ in

Species Torulopsis
T. insconspicna
*does not contain T. glabrata, also associated with yeast infections and ‘candida’

Water Kefir Grains


Can I Make it Myself?

Most definitely!  I bought my water kefir grains from Cultures for Health.  They will come with an instruction book which is very easy to follow.  Also, there are recipes online that you can follow to customize your drink.

How Do I Make it?

Water kefir grains can be purchased online from multiple sources.  These come dried and take a few cycles of sugar water to reconstitute and become active grains.   These active grains are added to water (I boil tap water but you can also use bottled, just not tap), dried fruit (I use a dried plum) and natural sugar (I use agave nectar….don’t use honey as it is antibacterial and will kill your kefir grains).  This sits in a mason jar with a lid at room temperature for about one day.  The time it takes will depend upon how happy your grains are and the temperature of the room.  You will know the water kefir is done because the plum or dried fruit will float due to the produced carbonation.  Be careful when opening the jar as there can be significant built-up pressure.  Also, if possible, check the pressure every several hours and release some pressure if there is too much build-up.  Once the fruit floats, the water kefir is ready to drink.   The longer you let this beverage sit at room temperature, the more tart it will become and the more nutrients it will have.   You can drink this beverage as is or, alternatively, you can do a second fermentation with other fruit.  I use frozen mango or blueberries.  Make sure if you use fresh or frozen fruit for the second fermentation that you keep this in the fridge or the fruit will rot.

Water Kefir with Floating Fruit…ready to drink!


Where Can I Learn More?

This is the website where I got the majority of my information

Drink up!!!



Antioxidant Tuesdays-Pinto Beans!

29 Nov

Every Tuesday I plan on highlighting a food or supplement that is a great natural source of antioxidants.

In this post, I listed the top 10 sources of antioxidants amongst 100 common foods.  We have already covered kidney beans and blueberries.  Today, we will focus on pinto beans.


Health Benefits of Pinto Beans

Pinto beans, like other beans, are a great source of fiber.  We discussed in this post why fiber is so important to have in our diets.

However, eaten on their own, pinto beans do not have all the necessary amino acids to make a protein.  They must be combined with a complex carbohydrate like brown rice.  This ensures when we break down the food we eat in order to make our own proteins, we will have all the necessary building blocks.

Pinto beans are also an excellent source of folate, manganese, vitamin B1,  phosphorus, iron, magnesium, potassium, and copper.

What are each of these nutrients good for?

  • Folate-necessary for DNA synthesis
  • Manganese-helps our body’s enzymes work well
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)-necessary in many pathways in our bodies; deficiency common in alcoholics and can result in brain disease
  • Phosphorous and Magnesium-necessary for DNA synthesis
  • Potassium-essential for nerve transmission and normal heart function
  • Copper-helps iron uptake which is necessary for healthy red blood cells

Ways to Eat Pinto Beans

Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers from My Recipes

Pinto Bean and Andouille Sausage Stew from Delish

Kale, Zucchini and Pinto Bean Enchiladas from Daily Unadventures in Cooking


Have you eaten pinto beans?  What is your favorite way to cook them?

Understanding Oats and Oatmeal

27 Nov
Oats are a superfood with tons of great health benefits!

Health Benefits of Oats

Oats are so healthy because they are a whole grain that is high in soluble fiber and antioxidants.  Just a few of their health benefits include:

  • Eating unprocessed forms of oats does not result in the blood sugar spikes seen after eating refined flours (Source)
  • Oats can help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (Source)
  • Foods high in soluble fiber, such as oats, can help lower cholesterol (Source)
  • Oats are high in selenium, an antioxidant (Source)
  •  A 2008 study found that if women ever used hormone replacement therapy, they had a 50% reduction in their subsequent risk of breast cancer if they consumed high doses of fiber (Source)
  • A review found that oats could reduce the risk of heart disease by 15% due to its ability to help maintain healthy levels of cholesterol (Source)
  • Soluble fiber in oats (beta-glucan) help maintain healthy cholesterol levels (Source) and healthy cholesterol levels help  liver function (Source)
  • The soluble fiber in oats helps maintain healthy insulin levels (Source) which is desirable for diabetics

There are many oat products available these days, from unhealthy granola bars to oat groats.  Although oats are healthy, different parts of the oat kernel have different health benefits.

Processing of Oats

When oats are picked, they undergo multiple steps of processing before reaching the often consumed quick oats.  You can purchase oats from each of the different stages of processing.  Below, each stage of the processing is explained, as well as how to use each form of oats.

Oat Groats

Oat groats are the unflattened kernels of oat.  They are produced by removing the inedible outer husk of the oat.  The remnaint is high in fiber and contains the germ, the grain and the endosperm.  They are not processed much so they retain much nutritional value.  However, because they have undergone minimal processing, oat groats take a long time to cook.  Oat groats are chewy and are great for making porridges or stuffing.

Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats are also called Scottish oats and are made by cutting oat groats  into two or three pieces.  This step allows steel cut oats to cook faster than oat groats.  They still take a long time to cook and can be easily made overnight in a crock pot.

Oh She Glows has some of my favorite oatmeal recipes.  Below is a link to some of her most gorgeous steel cut oat recipes.

Old Fashioned Oats

Old fashioned oats are oat groats that have been steamed and then rolled.

As they have been slightly processed, they have a slightly higher glycemic index than steel cut oats.  The glycemic index will be addressed in a later post.  A higher glycemic index means that old fashioned oats break down into sugar in our bodies faster than steel cut oats.  This results in a greater spike in blood sugar seen after eating old fashioned oats than after eating steel cut oats.

Instant oatmeal, such as those in packets from Quaker, have been precooked and dried before sugar and flavoring is added.  It is best to stay away from these highly processed oats.

There are so many recipes for old fashioned oats.  Below is a great collection of recipes and ideas.

This one is her pumpkin pie oatmeal…yum!

Oat Bran

Oat bran is the outer layer of grain.  The bran is found in rolled oats and steel cut oats, but it can be purchased separately.  It has the consistency of flour and can be used in muffins or baked goods.

Other uses for Oatmeal

Oatmeal makes great face masks and soaps!

Follow this recipe for an easy and refreshing face mask with oatmeal.


What is your favorite way to eat oatmeal?  Have you had all the different forms of oat?

Health Fact of the Day

25 Nov

Can Chewing Gum Help You Lose Weight?


A study published in the online Nov. 4, 2011 edition of the the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry suggests that someday chewing gum could aid in weight loss.

These researchers are trying to use gum to help deliver a hormone, PYY, into the human body which could aid in weight loss.

What is PYY?

PYY is a hormone that helps regulate our appetite.  It is realesed into our blood after we eat or exercise.  If it is realeaed after eating, it is proportional to the amount of calories consumed.  Obese people often have low PYY in their blood after fasting and after eating when compared to people of a normal weight.  PYY injected into obese and non-obese volunteers’ veins decreases the number of calories consumed at the next meal.

Well then why isn’t there a PYY diet pill?

PYY, if taken orally, is destroyed in the stomach and also has a hard time reaching the blood.

How can we deliver PYY?

The research group is trying to combine PYY with Vitamin B-12 and then put it in gum or an tablet to allow for better absorption.  They have already successfully delivered insulin to the blood via combining insulin with Vitamin B-12 in a pill form.  If they could add PYY and Vitamin B-12 to gum, this would allow for people to chew the gum, have more PYY in their blood and have a decreased appetite as a result.

So, be on the lookout for “weight-loss” gum in the future.


Do you chew gum frequently?  Would you chew a weight-loss gum?


24 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time for enjoying the company of family and friends, and, let’s face it, eating.

It is reported that the average American Thanksgiving dinner, between the side dishes, delicious desserts and, of course, the turkey, has over 4000 calories in it!

I know a lot of websites urge moderation and restriction on Thanksgiving but that’s often hard to do when faced with a buffet of decisions.  But you shouldn’t let worrying about calories prevent you from enjoying your time with friends and family.


That being said, here are some easy ways to best enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner.

1.  Don’t go to dinner starving.  You are more likely to make poor decisions and overeat when you are ravenous.  Eat a healthy lunch with a whole grain, vegetable and protein.


2.  Before you start filling your plate up, look around and see what all your options are.  This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and your plate from getting too full!


3.  Get moving!  Try to get in a workout the day of Thanksgiving.  If this is unrealistic, go for a brisk walk after dinner.  This will keep you from feeling sluggish for the rest of they day.


4.  Drink plenty of water.  Overeating and salty foods require lots of water!  Aim for several large glasses….of water.


5.  Don’t deprive yourself.  If your favorite part of Thanksgiving is a piece of pecan pie, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty.


6.  And most importantly, remember to give thanks for everything God has blessed you with.









What are you thankful for?  How do you try to stay healthy on Thanksgiving?

Health Fact of the Day

23 Nov

Did you know that a 12 oz can of pop (I’m from the North, we call it pop!) has between 30 and 40 grams of sugar!


The American Heart Association recommends that women only consume 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar a day and that men only consume 9 teaspoons (37.5 grams) per day (source).    That means if you choose to drink your sugar allotment in a can of pop, you can have less than half the can!

So, choose your sugar wisely and try to get if from natural sources like fruits.  Then you will also get added nutrients like fiber and vitamins.


…..and definitely don’t try to get your sugar  from condensed milk!



23 Nov

Why eat blueberries?


No, not to turn out like Violet from Willy Wonka.

Blueberries are nutritional powerhouses!

Because blueberries are so high antioxidants, they have great disease preventing properties!


Blueberries have tons of fiber in them.  We discussed in this post why fiber is so important and why it should be a healthy part of our diet.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is often recommended when someone has a cold.  But is there any truth to the belief that Vitamin C can help cure the common cold?  In a 2007 study, researchers from Australia aimed to determine if a .2g (=200mg) daily dose of Vitamin C could reduce the incidence, severity or duration of the common cold.

To put 200mg in perspective, a large class of orange juice has 100mg of Vitamin C.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis study.  This means they looked at previously conducted studies and compiled all the data.  They looked at 29 studies which involved over 11,000 participants.  They  found that 200mg of Vitamin C daily did not affect the incidence, severity or duration of the common cold, except in individuals in extreme conditions such as marathon runners.

Even though Vitamin C may not help us get over a cold, it does have other health benefits. It helps the enzymes in our body work well, is an antioxidant and an antihistamine (source).

Although it is difficult to overdose on Vitamin C, extremely high doses (over 2000mg/day) can cause kidney stones, nausea, and diarrhea.

Other Nutrients

Blueberries have a high concentration of manganese, a trace element that helps our enzymes work effectively.

Do I Need to Buy Organic?

If you can, yes.  The EWG lists blueberries as one of the “dirty dozen.”  This means that blueberries have a high level of pesticides on them which cannot be simply washed off.  Beside the obvious risk of pesticides, evidence suggests that organically grown fruit has more phytochemicals, disease fighting chemicals, than non-organically grown fruit.  Although more research needs to be done, this is a interesting discovery.

How Can I Cook Them?

There are so many sweet and savory recipes on the internet for frozen or fresh blueberries. Here are some healthy and gorgeous ways to eat them….if you have any left after eating them right out of the the basket!

Blueberry-Peach Cobbler from Cooking Light

Pecan Oatmeal Blueberry Pancakes from Bodysite

Blueberry Tart with Walnut Crust from Eating Well

Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry BBQ Sauce from Delish

Mini Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins from Oh She Glows

Blueberry Basil Sauce and Poached Salmon from Natureripe


What is your favorite way to eat blueberries?  Do you like them raw or in dishes?  Sweet or savory?


A few of my citations come from Wikipedia.  However, I only believe Wikipedia if Wikipedia cites where it got the fact from and that source is reputable.