Lifes Abundance content relating to 'supplements'

A Probing Look at Probiotics

Girl doing yoga

After years of hearing about the benefits of probiotics, you probably think you know everything you need to. Chances are they were your friend to help you through the winter ambush of colds. To most minds, there’s probably no mystery left.

Given the nature of the good news plus more good news, you’re either in favor of probiotics or you’re like me, a totally pro-probiotic fanatic.

But regular doses of probiotics? Hmmmm. 

Even in the media, probiotics are discussed generically, rather than mentioning the individual helpful strains of friendly bacteria. Such overgeneralizations leave us unsure if you should be taking them, which ones to take, how often to take them, and (when you just get down to it) what exactly is it that probiotics do?

Well, I’m gonna break it all down for you, demonstrating, once and for always, just how awesome probiotics can be.

First, let’s see what “the authorities” say. Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “live microorganisms, which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics are often referred to as “good” or “friendly” bacteria, and YOU are the host the WHO is referring to in this instance.

But what exactly are probiotics, you ask? Well, stay with me here.

A complex ecosystem of bacteria, known as the “intestinal microbiota,” develops after birth, taking up residence in the intestinal tract. Yep, we have a whole ecosystem of bacteria shacking up in our gut. The intestinal microbiota contains both “good” and “bad” bacteria. When the “bad” starts to outweigh the “good,” which can be due to lack of sleep, excess stress, or a bunch of other causes, it may affect your digestive system and your overall well-being.

To level off any imbalances, taking a probiotic supplement can help this whole gut situation. Maintaining a consistent level of “good” bacteria in your intestinal tract may actually improve how well it functions. Take that, “bad” bacteria!

Having adequate “good” bacteria has been shown to help support a healthy digestive system, a healthy immune system and help maintain oral health.

But all probiotics are NOT created equally. This is where it gets tricky.

There are many strains of cultures that have probiotic potential. But, each strain does different things, and each has its own little suitcase of benefits. We figure all this out in controlled studies, and we also figure out if you need a little bit or loads of a certain strain to reap its benefits.

You may have seen something on a food label (think yogurt or sauerkraut) about live and active cultures. Live cultures are microbes used to ferment foods, but not all live and active cultures are probiotics (meaning they don’t all have studies supporting specific benefits.) The “Live Active Cultures” seal was established by the National Yogurt Association to help consumers distinguish between yogurts that contain a minimum level of live and active cultures versus those that don’t.

So, bottom line, should you take a probiotic supplement?

I recommend that most people include a serving of fermented food each day (for example, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut) and take a premium probiotic supplement as insurance for good gut health and overall wellness. When you do this and your best to adhere to a healthy lifestyle, including managing stress and getting the proper amount of Zzz’s, you may just become a pro-probiotic fanatic, too!

Keri Keri Glassman MS.RD.CDN

How to Drink Your Greens

Girl Drinking Greens Blend

Many people assume a green juice is for other people. They claim they don’t like veggies. They fear the poison-colored concoction will taste even worse than it looks. They think die-hard green juicers seem nutritionally elitist and willing to compromise their taste buds in the name of super fuel.

While there is definitely a spectrum of green -- from beginner to advanced -- there is a place for you somewhere along the line. I promise. And I’m encouraging you to join the party, because nothing bad happens when people add more whole green foods to their diet. Nothing. Zilch.

There are a few ways to go about getting more greens into your diet, and I promise they’re way easier than you think. Best part? You don’t even need a fork. You only need a straw.

Here are three ways to drink your greens …

1) Hop on the green juice train. If you want to make your own juice, you’ll need a juicer but not necessarily the fanciest one on the market. Juicing is a process that extracts the liquid from whatever you put in it, and it leaves all the pulp out of your cup. The pulp is full of beneficial fiber, but if pulp isn’t your thing, you still get plenty of vitamins and minerals from drinking just the juice. Not into cooked broccoli, kale, collards or spinach? You may like them better in a raw juice. Sometimes the flavors are milder when raw and combined with other ingredients.

Immediately after the juice is made, it starts losing its nutritional powers, so you’ll want to grab a straw STAT. Green juice is sensitive to time (how long from when it was made until it is consumed), temperature (heat can diminish some of the vitamin potency) and storage (air and clear glass containers can also make the juice less potent). But even not-so-fresh juice is better than no juice at all, so don’t let this deter you. Just make sure to put in the fridge and drink within 24 hours if you’re not drinking as soon as you make it. Here’s a great beginner recipe if you’re just getting your feet wet:

Keri’s Beginner Greens Juice

● ½ head of romaine lettuce
● ½ cucumber
● ½ cup spinach leaves
● 1 green apple

Clean all produce well. Toss in the juicer in order and drink immediately.

2) Get your smoothie on. If you don’t have any more room on your kitchen counter for yet another appliance, then your handy blender is waiting for you to let it make a smoothie. A blender can’t separate the pulp from the juice, which is why by definition smoothies are thicker and well, smoother. The smoothie crowd is just as cool as the green juice crowd, and some would even argue smoothies are even healthier than juices because of that pulp stuff I mentioned.

My formula for the perfect smoothie is incredibly simple … 1 cup milk (cow’s, nut or seed-based milk), 1 fruit, a handful of greens, 1 healthy fat, an extra (call it a flavor wild-card) and protein powder.

One of my fave healthy fats is coconut because it’s loaded with health-promoting properties, flavor and, of course, healthy fats. The fat in coconut is mostly MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) and although they are a type of saturated fat, they are not the same saturated fat as you’ll get from say fatty meat.

3) Add a green supplement to your drink. Think green juices and smoothies too much work for you? I’ve got you covered. At Life’s Abundance, we’ve created a Greens Blend that is jam-packed to the brim with nutrients. All you have to do is mix with water. Yep, it’s that easy. Add a scoop to water and mix. The Greens Blend is made of organic greens (picked at peak nutrient density) and an organic mushroom blend for overall health. The best part? It doesn’t have that I-just-ate-dirt-from-the-yard taste. It has a yummy, berry flavor. You can add to water, your morning smoothie, baked goods like zucchini muffins or even to yogurt. Most important, just drink up. Greens are the master of the health universe. 

Salad Keri Glassman MS.RD.CDN

The 411 on Fat

Salad

Fat is not your enemy. I can’t stress this enough.

But, so many of my clients are still sailing past the avocado bin at the grocery store or grabbing powdered peanut butter instead of the real thing, all in an effort to avoid eating anything “fattening.” 

Well, here’s the deal with fat, and listen closely. Consuming too much of anything will make us fat. But when you eat the right amount of food overall, fat by itself does not pack on the pounds. Studies have even shown low-fat diets can actually make that number on the scale CLIMB AND CLIMB!

Why do I love fat so much? It tastes good (think, guacamole), helps you absorb vitamins (yes, the dressing on your salad ACTUALLY helps you to absorb nutrients), helps you burn fat (it’s true, fat indeed burns fat!) and helps you to feel satiated after eating (i.e., keeps you feeling full). But, truth be told, not all fats are created equal.

Saturated and trans fats are both solid at room temperature (think lard and butter), but there is a big difference between saturated fat and trans fat.

Saturated fat has been labeled as a dietary no-no for a long time, but there IS room in your diet for it if you’re getting it from real, healthy foods like dairy, coconut … even dark chocolate.

Trans fat on the other hand is a definite diet devil. You’ll find it in packaged, highly processed foods that you already know you should be avoiding. Just no.

Now let’s talk about the angels of the fat world: monounsaturated fats (like those found in avocado, nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fats (also in nuts and seeds, as well as fatty fish). These “good” fats have been shown to have many, many health benefits! For more than a decade, the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil have been studied by researchers all over the world.

You want to make sure you get enough of all these good fats - so stop avoiding the avocado bin already, and drop by the seafood counter for some salmon. In fact, salmon and walnuts in particular are two of the richest natural sources of omega-3s. If you’re not a flax, salmon or walnut junkie, a supplement could be just what you need to ensure you’re getting sufficient fat in your diet. I actually recommend an ultra-pure, ultra-concentrated Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement to all of my clients as insurance.

Salad Keri Glassman MS.RD.CDN

The Inside Scoop On Homemade Pet Food

Girl thinking about what to cook

If you’re reading this, chances are it’s not the first time you’ve given some degree of thought to the concept of a homemade pet diet. Whether you regard this topic with interest or with repulsion, a series of pet food recalls combined with the ‘foodie’ movement have resulted in growing discussion among pet parents about the costs and benefits of becoming a personal chef for one’s pet kids. 

So, what are some of the reasons pet parents turn to making their own pet food? While motivations can be deeply personal, they commonly fall into these categories:

1. Your veterinarian prescribed food that your pet kid won’t eat
2. You have made specific dietary choices and want to extend them to your animal family members
3. You only trust food which comes out of your kitchen
4. You are hoping to alleviate the symptoms or severity of a medical diagnosis
5. You are ambivalent about commercial pet food and curious to see if you could get better results
6. A belief that you could save some money

While these questions provide some food for thought, motivation alone is not an assurance of health and wellbeing for pet kids. When deciding what to feed their companion animals, pet parent’s choices must be backed up by expertise and solid knowledge. So, what actually does go into the decision to take the plunge into homemade pet food?

Pet Parent Education: Intensive

In the era of Pinterest, there are loads of DIY pet food recipes and enthusiastic testimonials. Some of these recipes give the appearance of being well-balanced and reasonably easy, and may even have a cute name.

But chances are that the vast majority of these will not provide pets with the nutrition they need. In an independent 2013 study of 200 homemade adult dog food recipes gathered from the internet, cookbooks and veterinarians, only five (2.5%) of them were nutritionally balanced. All five balanced recipes had come from veterinarians with advanced training in nutrition.

The takeaway here is that it is critical to involve a holistic or integrative veterinarian and/or a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the nutritional needs of your furry kid are being met.

Cost Analysis: Moderate - Intensive

If the financial bottom line is a priority, time should be spent doing an analysis of the daily cost to feed pet kids a balanced diet. With a quality recipe in hand, pet parents can take to the internet and local grocery stores to estimate the cost of the homemade meal before ever investing in buying the ingredients. The cost of any special equipment, like a meat grinder or food processor, and food storage containers, should also be factored in.

Ingredient Sourcing: Intensive

A balanced recipe from a qualified Veterinary Nutritionist is sure to include proteins, carbohydrates and a list of added vitamins and other nutritional supplements. As with any consumable product, there is great variation in the quality of all of these ingredients as well as variation in what is appropriate for different species. What many fail to realize is that improperly balanced nutrients can actually lead to a host of disease states, essentially creating toxicity within the body. To ensure maximum benefit, be certain that your nutritionist is explicit about cuts of meat and which supplements to purchase, and ensure that all of these questions are addressed:

1. What form should each supplement be in; liquid or powder?
2. What source is okay for each supplement; synthetic, natural, purified, etc.?
3. Are there certain varieties of supplements that should be avoided; Cod Liver Oil or Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil?
4. Are your personal dietary requirements being met; grain-free or vegetarian?
5. Which cuts of meat are optimal, acceptable and should be avoided; white meat, dark meat, lean or fat?

Food Preparation & Storage: Moderate – Intensive

If you’ve ever done batch cooking for your human family, you’ll have an idea what it’s like to make your own pet food. This exercise takes advance planning, time management, practice and possibly endurance depending on how large a batch is being made.

This time commitment will vary by recipe, quality of equipment being used, size of the batch being prepared, and with fine tuning over time.

Food Serving: Minimal

Home prepared foods are refrigerated or frozen and may require warming to room temperature to serve. At issue here is the commitment to the frequency of this task more so than the amount of time required.

Given the level of difficulty in preparing home meals, and the expertise to get the formulas right every time, this probably isn’t a viable option for most pet parents. If you’re seeking holistic nutrition plus convenience and value, I urge you to consider the premium nutrition offered by any of our Life’s Abundance pet foods.

Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks, DVM