Probiotics: for Health, Well-Being, and Even Losing Weight

Probiotics – whether taken as supplements or from foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, and raw milk – are a hot topic this year and one of particular interest to those on a personal weight loss journey.

Probiotics

Of course, beneficial additions to a diet like probiotics need a positive diet to begin with for lasting results! Here, we favor the tried-and-true Weight Watchers program and community. If you’re on board and want to begin a journey toward weight loss and lifelong health, save yourself $10 with my special Ebates link here.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are naturally occurring good bacteria in our digestive tract that aid in digestion and absorption of our nutrients. They’re the “good bugs.” And because they are crucially important to consume, and should be included regularly in a well-rounded diet.

Why Do I Need Probiotics?

As mysterious as probiotics may seem, they are powerful, natural additions to a good diet and contribute to overall health in numerous ways. According to Dr. Axe, their wide-ranging benefits include:

  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved digestion
  • Increased energy from production of vitamin B12
  • Better breath because probiotics destroy candida
  • Healthier skin, since probiotics improve eczema and psoriasis
  • Reduced cold and flu
  • Healing from leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Weight loss

Do Probiotics Aid in Weight Loss?

Encouragingly, in one study reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, overweight participants lost a significant amount of weight with probiotics. Those who consumed a cup of a fermented milk product for 12 weeks experienced a 4.6 per cent reduction in abdominal fat and a 3.3 per cent reduction in subcutaneous fat. There were no significant changes measured in the control group.

Does his mean that probiotics help process, burn, or flush away fat? So far, the research is inconclusive as to why probiotics and maintaining a healthy weight are related. However, it is interesting to note that those struggling with weight have been found to have strong imbalances of bad vs. good bacteria, while those of a healthy weight were far more balanced in their gut flora.

Probiotics in cultured foods kimchi

Probiotics occur in cultured foods like kimchi

Food and Drink Sources of Probiotics

Traditional cultures around the world have long prepared special fermented foods to aid in digestion, increase immunity, and promote balance. There are many and varied rich sources of probiotics occuring in fermented foods to choose from! They include:

Probiotic Rich Drinks

  • Kombucha: made from fermenting black tea and a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Kombucha can be made in different ways, including continuous-brew and bottled for more fizz. Comes in a rainbow of flavors with the addition of juices.
  • Kefir: originally from the Caucasus Mountains, this popular drink is made from fermenting milk and kefir grains, which are a bacterial/yeast fermentation starter.
  • Coconut kefir: made from fermenting the juice of young coconuts with kefir grains. Does not contain as many probiotics as milk kefir, but is a dairy-free option that is great-tasting, too.
  • Kvass: popular in its homeland of Russia and Ukraine, kvass is made from either beets, sourdough bread, and/or fruits. A slightly sour, refreshing red beverage that tastes like beer but is non-alcoholic.
  • Apple cider vinegar: add a spoonful in a glass of water or incorporate into virtually any homemade salad dressing.

Drink rich with Probiotics

Raw Milk

  • Raw milk products such as raw cheese, raw sour cream, etc.
  • Yogurt: look for organic, grass-fed, and unpasteurized yogurt in the store or make your own!

Cultured & Fermented Vegetables

  • Sauerkraut: the German staple alongside bratwurst, made with cabbage and salt. An easy introduction into the world of homemade fermented foods.
  • Kimchi: the Korean version of sauerkraut made typically with napa cabbage, daikon radishes, and a variety of seasonings.
  • Gherkin pickles, also called by their French name, cornichons. Cute, nubby, and tasty.

Sauerkraut sandwich

Traditionally Fermented Soy Products

Soy products, when traditionally fermented and in moderation, are a wonderful compliment to a healthy, traditional, iodine-rich diet. They include:

  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Soy sauce: an accompaniment to so many tasty Asian foods, look for products made with truly health-promoting ingredients and methods like this one.

Supplements with Probiotics

If you’d like to begin incorporating probiotics into your diet right away, the easiest way may be through high-quality supplements. An excellent, comprehensive article about how to select probiotics through supplements is here, at The Healthy Home Economist.

Probiotics for Lifelong Health

Which probiotic rich foods and drinks sound appealing to you? I know I will definitely be trying the cultured sodas soon, especially at the onset of warmer weather. Cheers!

Is Fasting Part of Healthy Weight Loss?

Losing and Maintaining Weight Naturally

As we’re now firmly into the season of Lent (Easter is April 1st this year), many people are taking time to reflect, slow down, and sacrificially give up something they enjoy. Coffee and chocolate are among perennial favorites. Maybe you’ve considered occasional fasting, and perhaps you are wondering if fasting is actually a help or a hindrance to losing and maintaining a healthy weight.

In this post, we’ll also explore whether occasional fasting is compatible with a healthy diet such as Weight Watchers. Personally, I love Weight Watchers’ method of gradual, healthy weight loss through proven means and great community. If you’re interested in joining, save yourself $10 with my Ebates link here.

Purposes and Traditions of Fasting

Fasting, or abstaining from food and often drink besides water, is a common tradition in Judaism, Catholicism, and Islam. The traditional purposes of fasting are many, but unsurprisingly, are not connected with weight loss. First world, modern day problem, am I right?

But we can still gain some perspective from looking back in history. In the Old Testament, we can see Jews observing a fast for several occasions and reasons. There were fasts on calendar-specific days of remembrance, in times of mourning, in times of seeking the Lord’s favor, for atonement, and for personal piety, to name the major ones. Did you know, some Medieval Jews even observed fasting after a bad dream, in order that it not come true?

Stages of Fasting for Your Body

Some health proponents of fasting discuss several stages of progress and change as fasting moves through days, and perhaps weeks in duration. The phases cited in a prolonged water fast include:

  • Hunger, lack of energy
  • “Battery save mode,” in which your body uses energy very efficiently
  • Increased heart health
  • Ketosis, in which your body burns primarily fat
  • Weight loss
  • Detoxifying
  • Clear-mindedness
  • Deeper healing and resolving of health issues

Types of Fasting

You may think, fasting is simply not eating, right? I thought so too, until I looked more into the wide world of fasting and various diets that employ it. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Dry fasts, as practiced during Ramadan
  • Water fasting
  • Cleansing fasts, such as for the colon, which employs only liquids with lemon juice, a bit of sugar, and cayenne.
  • Partial fasts, which requires abstaining from particular kinds of food. An example is The Daniel Fast.
  • Liquid protein fasts, often medically supervised for weight loss for obesity.
  • Diagnostic fasts, in preparation for a medical test or procedure.

Getting Back into Regular Eating After Fasting

After a period of fasting, it’s important for your body to ease back into regular, healthy eating with foods that are easy to digest. According to Sarah Pope of The Healthy Home Economist,

“The correct way to break a fast after eating no solid food whatsoever for 10 days is gently and slowly with foods that are very easy to digest like homemade soup or perhaps eggs and fruit and maybe a slice or two of bacon .  .  .”

Fasting: the Takeaway

Bottom line, your body and your health are your own. If something in the health world sparks your interest, it could certainly be worth taking a harder look into.

People have had success treating Lyme disease with a raw milk fast? The GAPS diet, which begins with a bone broth fast, is employed to heal a range of issues from digestive to neurological?

It is fascinating to me after looking into fasting what a break from “regular” foods can do for our bodies. I for one now see fasting less as a fad or extreme way to lose weight but as an age-old way to reset and heal. When done safely and properly, fasting can additionally be part of a health regimen for long-term weight maintenance.

Healthy Junk Food Replacements while on Weight Watchers

They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. And this maxim is so true, especially with lifelong journeys such as healthy eating. So what does it look like to take that “one step”?

Perhaps it’s keeping a water bottle in your purse, filled with lemon water to keep you hydrated and refreshed throughout your day.

Maybe it’s looking into the wildly popular Instant Pot and seeing if it could help streamline preparation of homemade meals for your busy week.

Perhaps you’ve wanted to try the accountability, community, and positive results of joining Weight Watchers. If that’s you, give yourself a $10 gift card when you sign up through my referral link.

Healthy Junk Food Replacements

Smart Junk Food Replacements

And perhaps another big step in your health journey is deciding to tackle one stumbling block of a food after another. It’s a win-win when we seek out replacements for poor quality, high calorie foods with high quality, high nutrient foods instead. One by one, when we upgrade our go-to foods in this way, our whole diet improves in an incremental yet powerful way.

Here are some ideas about how to make this happen and experience success on Weight Watchers or any diet!

Sugar

Sugar is the bane of all our good eating intentions, is it not? High in calories and disastrous to our dental health, immunity, and mental acuity, sugar is easily at the top of the list to replace. Some excellent sweet replacements to use in moderation:

  • Raw Honey, high in probiotics, helpful to digestion, and can help alleviate allergies if bought locally.
  • Maple syrup, high in calcium, potassium, and iron.
  • Blackstrap molasses, nutrient rich in iron, calcium, Vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Rapadura, or unrefined raw sugar cane, contains potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.
  • Stevia and Lo Han Guo, both plant extracts with no sugar content. 

Chocolate

Chocolate is just too good to give up completely, in my opinion! And really, it’s unnecessary to do this, as there are so many healthy options to enjoy the rich, irreplaceable taste of chocolate. New treats to try as healthy replacements:

  • Carob. A versatile chocolate replacement high in calcium and other vitamins and minerals, carob is a worthy addition to a healthy Weight Watchers diet.
  • Cacao. Nibs are fun and satisfying. Try nibs as a snack, sprinkled on oatmeal, or integrated into trail mix. Or grind with coffee beans before brewing! Cacao powder is a seamless substitute for the more processed cocoa powder.
  • Dark chocolate, a few squares here and there. In general, the less sugar and more cocoa in a product, the better.
  • Homemade hot chocolate. Here’s a recipe for a healthy, ready-to-go mix. And here is my favorite, made by mixing the following:
    • 1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder
    • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
    • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
    • pinch of ground nutmeg
    • pinch of sea salt
    • tiny pinch of cayenne
    • 12 oz hot water
    • 4 oz raw cream
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Coffee

You may already be cutting down your coffee intake, switching to decaf, or opting for cream but no sugar. These are all good steps, but did you know that there are a couple healthy replacements for your morning joe available as well?

  • Dandelion coffee, sold by Dandy Blend in an easy-to-use instant powder. Consisting of dandelion root, chicory, barley, rye, and sugar cane, this beverage is sugar-free, gluten-free, and beautifully silky and rich.
  • Red Rooibos tea, a caffeine free option that is richer like black tea and is terrific with honey and milk. Lots of benefits, too!

Soda

  • Club soda or seltzer water, with the addition of a splash of juice, can easily replace soda and other carbonated  beverages. You can also make your own carbonated water with a Soda Stream. Avoid tonic water, whether regular or diet, as it contains either high fructose corn syrup or harmful artificial sweeteners.
  • Kombucha, bubbly and refreshing, is also a fantastic substitute for soda. A wonderful addition to your repertoire of beverages. Kombucha provides probiotics and a satisfyingly crisp, carbonated taste that’s in our genes to crave.

Wine

  • Cense, Weight Watchers’ recently debuted light wine, is a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with a removable label if you’d like to be discreet while bringing it to a party.
  • Clean cocktails, utilizing fruit juice such as cranberry juice, seltzer water, etc.

Chips and French Fries

If reaching for a bag of salty, fatty potato chips or a sleeve of French fries is a vice you’d like to change, a fantastic replacement is homemade chips using virtually any veggie. 

Think about it – chips are simple. Usually consisting of thinly sliced potatoes, oil, and salt at its most basic, the chip can be easily transformed into a health food by changing up the veggies and using healthy fats rather than canola, soybean, or vegetable oils.

Tantalizing recipes gathered at SheKnows gives us over a dozen options, including beets, carrots, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and more. Time to maximize those Zero Point vegetables on the new Freestyle program!

What Healthy Replacement Foods are You Trying in the New Year?