Monday, January 3, 2011

There Are Pigs in My Yogurt - What?!

Yup, you heard it correctly - there may be swine bacteria in that yogurt you're enjoying! But, don't get me wrong, yogurt can be incredibly healthy. Knowing what is healthy and what isn't is the question.

Yogurt can be very confusing! This is mostly because the mass marketing of yogurt products have made it confusing. All yogurt is made with good bacteria (probiotics) and the good quality yogurts still have the probiotics in them when they're on the grocery store shelves. The problem is with the over processed yogurts.

Highly processed yogurts (low-fat, high in sugar) kill off the probiotics in their high heat processing. But, good bacteria is important so they needed to fix that. What they did was they found a probiotic that can withstand the high heat of processing...and they found it in pigs. This was a few years ago... remember how the media was suddenly all over probiotics and their health benefits? They've always been healthy and an important part of a healthy digestive system, but I find it interesting that it didn't hit the media until the big food manufacturers were able to patent specific strains.

Now things get interesting..."Bifidus Regularis", the bacteria promoted in a certain popular yogurt that promotes regularity, used to be called "Bifidus Animalis" - and it's swine bacteria. Does it help with regularity in the short-term? Possibly, I've heard some good things. Does that help our digestive system in the longterm? We don't know, we've never had swine bacteria in our yogurt before. As well, Danone was just sued for incorrect marketing, specifically for promoting their patented probiotic strains as being more beneficial than they've been proven to be.

And to top it all off, they remove all of the blood sugar balancing fat and piled in tons of high-fructose corn syrup. Exactly what studies have found to raise cholesterol and increase arterial damage. Not exactly the health food they promote it to be.

It's not all bad news, there are still very healthy yogurts on the market. The problem is they don't have the best shelf space (that costs a pretty penny). When you're at the yogurt section of your favourite grocery store, look up or down. They'll be on the very top row, or in a corner at the bottom. They'll be unsweetened (sweeten it yourself with honey and/or berries) and have at least 5% fat. The best yogurts are made with unhomogenized whole milk, although these yogurts have become very hard to find. 

Most importantly, the best yogurts have "active bacteria cultures" in the ingredients but don't scream "I have probiotics!" on the label. If a yogurt just says "bacteria culture" in the ingredients then it had it, but it was killed off in the high-heat of processing. The ones who advertise they contain specific probiotic strains usually contain some form of patented swine bacteria (yummy!). 

We have 4 - 10 times more cells of bacteria in our gut than cells in our body! This organism is very important to our overall health and an imbalanced gut bacteria (too few good guys, too many bad guys) can lead to digestive issues (including IBS, Crohn's, and colitis) and immune system irregularities (allergies, etc). Take care of your gut bacteria by removing refined sugars and refined grains from your diet, supplementing with probiotic supplements (necessary to rebalance an imbalance), and eating fermented foods daily like healthy yogurts, sauerkraut, and miso.

Don't stop eating yogurt just because it's been invaded by swine, simply choose differently and read the labels! Remember to look for: Active bacteria cultures in the ingredients, at least 5% fat (fat won't make you fat ), and no added sugar.