There are a lot of food labels that have been used by companies over the decades. Some informative, some deceptive. Some terms are regulated, while some are not. Other companies use trending labels for a product that has little to do with nutrition. For example, candy that says ‘non-fat’ or a sugary cereal that says ‘whole grain’.
Learning what food labels mean is important, but it is equally important knowing how they apply to the specific ingredients in the product. For example, there are many companies that have hopped on the organic bandwagon. However, being organic doesn’t make the product healthy. Organic sugar is still sugar, thus unhealthy ingredients are still unhealthy regardless if they are organic or not.
TRICKING YOU WITH ‘IT CONTAINS’
One very well known trick is the whole grain scam. A product can be unhealthy even if it says ‘contains whole grain’. It can be 5% ‘whole grain’ and 95% processed flour, sugar, and preservatives. 100% Whole Wheat or 100% Whole grain is the only way to really be sure that the entire product is made with whole grains, not just a small percentage so they can use it on a label.
PROBIOTICS – WHAT ARE THEY?
Probiotics are microbes, a beneficial microflora found in your digestive system. From nutrient absorption to immune system functions, many chronic conditions can be traced to an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut. Probiotics can be naturally found in “live” foods – such as Yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha and Sauerkraut.
[press time flash : a recent study links the epidemic of food allergies to possible gut imbalances]
PROBIOTIC LABELS – BE CAUTIOUS
Even if the product contains probiotics, beware if they go out of their way to say ‘live and active cultures’ as this may be similar to the ‘whole grain’ trick. But worse, many products that claim to be probiotic are not healthy. Why? They are heavily sweetened. This is particularly the case with yogurt and kefir. If you are looking for foods with active cultures, make sure you understand the label and look for added sugars. The total recommended added sugars for a woman is 25 grams, and 36 grams for a man per day. High sugar intake also promotes unhealthy bacteria.
Another option is probiotic supplements. There are different types, and a good supplement will always have an expiration date and list all the bacteria types. Often the dosing in a quality supplement, as well as the variety of bacteria, is higher than typical yogurt and you skip the sugar.
ADDRESSING HEALTH ISSUES
There are many imbalances that can be corrected by bringing your gut biome back into balance. Asthma, Acne, Immune system problems, mood, lack of energy, brain function – there are a lot of symptoms which can be traced to an unbalanced gut. A balanced gut may not be the ultimate source of a particular issue – but you’ll still be better off by having one, and you can rule it out if conditions persist.
Overprescribing antibiotics has become a problem which is leading to the creation of super bugs which are resistant to these drugs. But from time to time, we may need to use antibiotics to overcome a bad case of sickness. Many experts recommend getting the gut back into balance afterwards as soon as possible, and usually a more intense probiotic dosing is required.
Probiotics are also helpful if you need to fast track your gut to health, as these are foods that probiotic bacteria like. Onions, garlic and not-too-ripe bananas are good examples.
STERILITY CAN BE BAD FOR YOU
People who spend a majority of their time indoors and avoid ‘getting dirty’ also have lower good bacteria counts. Children who don’t play outside as much have been shown to have higher incidents of allergies. Children who are born via C-Sections are also at higher risk.
IS PU-ERH TEA PROBIOTIC?
Technically? No. While Pu-erh undergoes fermentation during its aging or ripening phase, and there are beneficial bacteria present, the heat of the boiling water would destroy any active microbes. Pu-erh tea has unique properties as a result of fermentation, which includes aiding digestion and lowering cholesterol, but it is not something that will seed your gut with probiotics.
SO WITH THAT, IS THERE A PROBIOTIC TEA?
We would consider Kombucha a form of probiotic tea. You can purchase this in bottled form or you can brew it at home. There are many articles that show you how to make it. We like it when a little fruit juice is added to balance the sour flavors. In many ways it reminds us of a sour style beer.
But, you might be asking, is there a probiotic tea in a dry form (loose leaf or bagged)? Up until recently the answer would have been no. However, there is a product called BC30, which is a new product manufacturers can add to food to make them probiotic. This can be added to anything – baking mixes, pizza dough, and yes – tea. Bigelow is one such company with a line of probiotic tea containing BC30. BC30 adds strains of bacteria, and claims that their unique process allows the bacteria to survive baking and boiling, though we remain skeptical. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal mentions there are few studies on the spore forming varieties found in many foods with BC30.
But one thing is for certain – food makers are embracing it because it is driving sales. One beverage company is using flavored water with a special cap that allows drinkers to push in powdered probiotics. On a per serving basis, this will cost a lot more than taking a quality supplement and drinking filtered tap water.
SKIP THE BAGGED PROBIOTIC TEA AND PROCESSED FOOD
Honestly, there are so many better and cheaper ways to get probiotics than pay extra for a limited variety of tea that contains BC30. And it makes no sense to get a probiotic muffin mix when it has lots of sugar and refined flour.
SUGAR, THE ANTI-NUTRIENT AND BAD BACTERIA FERTILIZER
Sugar is fuel for bad bacteria. Think of your gut like a lawn. If you fertilize the lawn properly, the grass will grow green and thick. If you do not, weeds will compete with the grass and start taking over. Probiotics and low sugar foods are considered ideal fertilizer for probiotic bacteria. Reducing added sugars and even natural sugars if you are trying to get your gut into balance will deny bad bacteria of food.
IMPROVE DIGESTION WITH TEA
Often people who have a gut imbalance will have poor digestion. Pu-erh tea is one such tea which has a reputation to help digestion. There are also Cleanse type teas, which incorporate herbs like Senna that help with elimination. It is important though, that if you take any tea that promotes weight loss, to understand that Senna is not supposed to be used indefinitely. Herbal teas for cleansing and detox, if purchased from a reputable vendor (NEVER EVER buy from Instagram or Facebook marketing companies) and dosed properly can help with getting things moving. Combined with probiotics, this will offer a great way to lose weight.
STAY NATURAL AND DEVELOP A PLAN
Most health problems are lifestyle problems. Giving your diet a checkup and making adjustments on a regular basis is recommended. There is “no one size fits all” solution. Learning and not relying purely on labels is the better way to go. If you want to increase your intake of probiotics, we recommend avoiding it in the form of additives in foods, instead focusing on naturally occurring probiotics or a quality supplement. Do your research and buy from reputable sources!
Well said, I agree that going as close to natural as possible is always the best road ahead. You brought up important points about probiotics and sugar (which we need to see as poison for our bodies). Most people don’t realize that just like antibiotics, one can take a good thing and over use it. There are also problems associated with over growth of good bacteria. It’s all about a balance. This is true in most matters in life. Now go have a delicious cup of tea and sip of that!
Very informative post. I didn’t know about BC30 before, but it doesn’t really sound like something I would like to try. I will stick to the natural way of getting my probiotics. Thank you for sharing!