2016 Holiday Gift Guide!


The holidays are here, and healthy gift giving can be HARD! Here is a list of our favorite 2016 Healthy Holiday Gifts! The best part about these gifts? The majority of them can be purchased on Amazon Prime and shipped to your front step in less than 48 hours! This makes holiday shopping 100% STRESS free! And to make it even easier, just click on the gift below and it will take you directly to their site!

1) Santorini Themed S’well Water Bottle: I may be a little biased since I got engaged in Greece this summer, but this water bottle is gorgeous! Hydration is key for reaching all of your health and wellness goals. What better way to stay hydrated than a trendy water bottle? For all of you other Floridians out there, you can understand us when we say how important it is to keep your water ice cold. Ever leave your plastic water bottle in the car only to come back to boiling hot water? S’well bottles stay ice cold and offer hundreds of bright beautiful patterns.

2) In-Home Workout Equipment TRX: We all love a good sweat session! As a personal trainer and registered dietitian, I have heard many client say, “I don’t have time to get to the gym.” Although that eliminates a fitness class, that does NOT mean an in-home workout is out of the question. My favorite full body piece of equipment is the TRX band. You can perform hundreds of different bodyweight exercises with only one piece of equipment!

3) Veggetti Pro: Because who doesn’t love a vegetable spiralizer? This amazing kitchen gadget is only $19.99 on Amazon and can spiralize tons of different fruits and veggies. Sweet potato curly fries, apple chips, zucchini pasta, beet chips, onion straws, carrot chips, coleslaw, OH MY! It is all possible with the Veggetti! I have taught multiple cooking classes with this gadget and my participants always leave wanting one of their own!

4) Succulent Garden: These plants are amazing for multiple reasons! They are extremely affordable and need very little water to survive. Succulents fit perfectly on a window sill, desk, or any decorative shelf. Succulents create a trendy, beautiful, simplistic décor. Low maintenance plants are the perfect gift for anyone!

5) Health Magazines // Books: Cost: $10-20. Yes, the world has gone digital, but there is something about flipping through a health magazine while on a treadmill or soaking in an Epson salt bath. A yearly subscription to Men’s Health, Cooking Light, Shape, Food & Wine, Eating Well, or Fitness Magazine won’t break the bank, but will be a great gift that gives year round.

***CLICK HERE to sign up for our FREE Fresh Start 2017 Webinar and receive a gift directly to your inbox! Webinar will air on Wednesday, December 28th at 8PM!***

6)NutriBullet & Vitamix : Cost: $120 (Nutribullet) or $400-700 (Vitamix). Both of these are the gold standard when it comes to blending/mixing. You can make smoothies, juices, soups, dressings, etc. The Vitamix has a bit more power and ease of use, but for the cost, Nutribullet may be best for gift giving option for you. You can also consider getting a refurbished Vitamix to lessen the cost.

7) Oil Mister: Cost: $15-30. Keep oil handy for different cooking applications, enhance your grilling, or add a hint of flavor to foods with this gadget. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories and 14 grams of fat. Although there are nutritional benefits from the heart healthy fats, the key to success is watching the portion size. The oil mister can help reduce overusing oil and save you hundreds of calories!

8) Meal Prep Service: Cost: $8-14/meal. There is nothing better than coming home from work and knowing dinner is already prepared! Fortunately for us in Jacksonville, there are many great companies that offer healthy meals to be delivered to your door weekly! Your loved one can choose from calorie limits, gluten free, vegan, paleo, etc. My personal favorites are Kathy’s Table,  J.William Culinary, and SuperFit Foods.

9) FabFitFun Box: Scarves, to-go mugs, essential oils, hair mask, face mask, the list goes on and on. This box charges a seasonal membership for $49.99 per month. The box contains about 10 items related to health, beauty, and fitness! Some products are worth three times the amount of the box itself. This is a great way to get expose friends and family to top notch health and beauty products!

10) Fabletics VIP Membership: This is probably my latest obsession—quality workout clothes (entire outfits) sent straight to my front door each month for only $49.00! Each month you can choose to bypass the monthly fee and skip the outfit all together. If you don’t skip the monthly fee, then you are sent a super trendy outfit designed by Kate Hudson! The perfect gift for any workout girl.

11) Dinner in a Box. Cost: $10-30 per person. Do you have someone on your list who loves to cook, but doesn’t have the time or know how to shop? Several companies will now deliver a recipe and all of the fresh ingredients to your door, many times being locally sourced. My favorite companies are Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and Plated. Meals typically take only 30 minutes to cook!

12) Sign up for a fitness event for 2: Groupon and Living Social offer various fitness classes at discounted rates. Another option is to call ahead to see which studios offer FREE classes to their first-time clients. Orange Theory Fitness, Title Boxing, and UFC Boxing are just three out of MANY nationwide studios that honor a free class for your first time! Take advantage of FREE fitness!

There you have it; our favorite healthy holiday gifts! Whether you want to spend $0 or $500, there is something for everyone on our list! Have questions about the gifts or our nutritional services? Contact us at info@dietitiansofpalmvalley.com and 904-250-0075!

I’m Ready for 2017


Is it safe to salt your food?


My initial gut reaction is yes, everything in moderation. With that being said, the American Heart Association recommends that we limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams a day. One teaspoon of salt contains about 2,300 milligrams of sodium! If we ignore salt all together, Americans are getting more than enough sodium through processed foods and convenience items. But how much? The chart below shows how much sodium can be snuck into common products found in our freezers and pantries.

Product Serving Size Sodium
Chicken Nuggets 4 nuggets 430-500 mg
14” Pizza 1 slice 640-700 mg
Chicken Noodle Soup ½ cup 890 mg
Tomato Sauce ½ cup 480-600 mg
Broccoli with cheese sauce 2/3 cup 430-600 mg

If a child or adult was to consume all of the above items in a given day, his sodium intake would clock in at 3,870 mg of sodium, way beyond what is recommended! Another point to keep in mind, these foods found above are convenience items.  These products come in a jar, package, or in the frozen department. Therefore, we don’t realize how much sodium is being consumed because we aren’t adding it to the food ourselves. The salt shaker also contributes to our overall sodium intake.

A recent NY Times article, “Should You Salt a Child’s Food”, discusses the pro’s and con’s to salting your child’s food. Julie Mennella, a bio-psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, is quoted in the article saying that adding a pinch of salt to foods can also be a useful tool to condition children to like nutritious — yet bitter — foods, like broccoli or cauliflower. Although salt can alter the flavor of food, “just a pinch” can add a large amount of sodium that may have you thinking twice. One teaspoon of table salt accounts for 2,300 mg of sodium! That means if you use one teaspoon of table salt, that accounts for your entire recommended daily intake.

Okay, so now you are probably thinking “I don’t want my food to taste bland and boring.” I TOTALLY agree with you. As a registered dietitian who has hosted countless cooking classes, my number one goal is to teach other how to prepare food that is good for you but ACTUALLY tastes good to. Nobody likes to eat food that doesn’t taste good, doesn’t matter if you are an adult or a child!

So, what do I recommend? Crack open your spice cabinet and dust off the bottles. Don’t feel confident seasoning your food? There are tons of spices on the market do the work for you. Mrs. Dash seasoning are ALL sodium free, YES 100% sodium free. You can use large quantities of her spice blends without adding any additional sodium into your dishes. McCormick also has a few sodium-free spice blends on the market. In addition to their products, their online recipe portal has hundreds of healthy recipes created by their in-house dietitian.

So, is it safe to salt our food? In summary, we need everything in moderation, including sodium. The foods that our children are consuming contain a sufficient amount of sodium. Using the salt shaker can cause the sodium levels to add up quickly. Does that mean we have to throw out the salt shaker? Absolutely not, but it is smart to be conscience of how much sodium we are consuming. The supermarkets carry a large variety of salt-free alternatives that use natural herbs and spices that contribute nutritional benefits versus sodium.

Click Here for a Healthy Stocking Stuffer Guide!

With the holidays in full effect, it is even more crucial to watch our sodium intake. Casseroles and traditional holiday dishes are usually packed with sodium. Control what YOU can control! If you monitor your sodium levels 80-90% of the time, then it is okay to indulge every once and a while at a holiday party! Nutrition is a sum of all parts. Every small health conscience decision adds up to a big positive change!

Author: Samantha Pappas, RD, LDN, CPT


Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/08/12/should-you-salt-a-childs-food/?_r=0

The Healthiest Parts of Thanksgiving!


Thanksgiving is 3 days away! WOW, where has 2016 gone?! Now that the holidays are here, we want to make sure that you are armed with everything you need to prevent the dreaded holiday weight gain. Excessive calorie intake, over-eating, and being surrounded by food: these are the main fears I hear from clients when it comes to the holidays. What if I told you that Thanksgiving can be a healthy, delicious meal that won’t leave you feeling stuffed?

There are 3 major pieces of advice to keep in mind when it comes to prepping for a healthy Thanksgiving. Although there are endless healthy habits to implement, these 3 tricks are the most important! So here you go, the secrets to beating the bulge for Turkey Day 2016…


Vegetables are key to preventing holiday weight gain. Eating a large portion of veggies will give you a large volume of food for a small calorie expense. This is crucial when it comes to holiday meals. Typically, holidays are centered around food and family. The last thing I want you to feel is deprived or restricted. Making some delicious vegetable side dishes will be your saving grace this Thanksgiving. Instead of munching on boring celery sticks, utilize fresh fall produce that you will actually enjoy!

Here are some of my favorite greens to incorporate at Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Brussels sprouts are low in calories and have 6g of fiber per serving, which aids in digestion. They’re also high in glucosinolates, which have been shown to fight cancer, protect against DNA damage, detoxify the body, and decrease inflammation. Serving size: 1 cup Nutrition facts: 54 calories, 12g carbs, 6g fiber, 2g protein, 0g fat.
    • Recipes Ideas—don’t be afraid to try something new:
      • Roasting brussels sprouts for a crunchy, warm side dish.
      • Shaving raw brussels sprouts, mix with chopped almonds, dried cranberries, and a pomegranate vinaigrette!
    • Collard greens are a Southern favorite! These greens are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, and K, folate, iron, manganese, and fiber. Serving size: 1 cup Nutrition facts: 30 calories, 6g carbs, 3g fiber, 3g protein, 0g fat.
    • Green beans are high in free radical fighting antioxidants and Vitamin A and C. Research has shown that green beans have more antioxidants than other beans and peas. With 4g of fiber per serving, green beans are also good for digestion and controlling cholesterol & hunger. Serving size: 1 cup Nutrition facts:38 calories, 9g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g protein, 0g fat.


We’ve all done it…loaded up on mashed potatoes, stuffing, fresh baked buttery bread, corn, baked sweet potatoes, the list goes on and on. These foods all have something in common; they are primarily made of carbohydrates. We absolutely need carbs as part of a balanced holiday meal, but carbs don’t need to take up the entire plate. When carbs are consumed in excess they send our blood sugar through the roof because we digest them very easily. Next thing we know, we crash and feel fatigued. When we consume protein rich foods with carbohydrates, it slows the digestion of the food and keeps our blood sugar regulated, keeping us energized.

The staple protein choice of Thanksgiving dinner is of course…turkey! Turkey is a very lean choice  of protein. 6 oz. of turkey contains 270 calories, 0g carbs, 0g fiber, 60g protein, and 2g fat. What if you don’t like turkey? No, that doesn’t mean you get to skip the protein all together! Any meat or meat alternative can be substituted for the traditional holiday bird. Ham, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, and tofu are just a few examples of other protein sources.

Ham clocks in as the second most popular thanksgiving protein! Baked ham is an excellent source of lean protein. It’s also rich in B vitamins, such as thiamin, niacin, and B12, which help convert food to energy, boost mood, enhance the nervous system, and improve digestive and muscle function. 6 oz. of ham contains 244 calories, 0g carbs, 0g fiber, 40g protein, 8g fat.


Thanksgiving with my family usually consists of food and relaxing with family. I look forward to sitting on a cozy couch, with a warm sweater, and a nice plate of food. Earlier in the day, I make it a point to get some form of physical activity. Some years it’s a Turkey Trot (5k race) held in my local town, a jog around the neighborhood, walking the dog, and other years it has been an in home body weight workout video. The Thanksgiving day workout is done to make me sweat, get my heart rate up, and get my Thanksgiving day started on the right-foot.

Starting my morning with a workout makes Thanksgiving day more like my usual regimen. The workout keeps me motivated to maintain healthy habits throughout the rest of the day. You don’t have to run a race to get physical activity in! Challenge yourself to do an effective short circuit as soon as you wake up: 20 pushups, 20 jumping jacks, 20 sit ups, 20 lunges, and 20 squats (try to perform 2-3 sets of each exercise). After your morning workout, do you best to maintain a normal eating schedule up until the big meal. Start your day with a balanced breakfast, implement a mid-morning snack, and lunch before Thanksgiving dinner. A scheduled meal plan with help prevent overeating at your Thanksgiving meal.

So there you have it! Veggies, protein, and physical activity: three of the most crucial tips to implement throughout Thanksgiving day. Are these the only tips that will keep you healthy this holiday season? Of course not! I have plenty more strategies to keep you fitting into your jeans this holiday season! Wishing you the healthiest, happiest Thanksgiving yet!

Make sure to CLICK HERE and watch our FREE healthy holiday webinar to get more tips and tricks to prevent that unwanted holiday weight gain!

FODMAP Friday!


Being a dietitian, many of my friends and family members confide in me with their gastrointestinal (GI) problems. The more and more I hear about their GI problems, it has lead me to research what could be the root to all of this discomfort. One of the most popular elimination diets to help combat GI problems is called the FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Therefore, a FODMAP diet avoids these short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that can cause some not-so-fun GI symptoms

Foods that are high in FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and pass into the large intestine. In the large intestine, they are fermented by bacteria found in the gut, causing gas productions and water attraction. These internal reactions cause bloating, diarrhea, gas, stomach distention, and overall discomfort.

If you feel like these FODMAPs are causing you discomfort, it is time to take action. Think of the FODMAP diet as an elimination diet. To assess your tolerance for these different compounds, you must eliminate all foods high in FODMAPs for 6-8 weeks. I like to think of it as cleansing your GI palate.

Below are all of the compounds that you want to avoid for the first 6-8 weeks.

  • Lactose: Lactose is the carbohydrate found in cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk. Lactose intolerance is caused by partial or complete lack of the enzyme lactase which digests lactose. When lactose is not completely digested, it contributes to abdominal bloating, pain, gas, and diarrhea, often occurring 30 minutes to two hours following the consumption of milk and milk products. Limit foods high in lactose (yogurt, ice cream, milk, ricotta, and cottage cheese).
  • Fructose: Fructose is a carbohydrate found in fruit, honey, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and agave syrup, but not all fructose containing foods need to be limited on a low FODMAPs diet.
  • Fructans: Fructans are carbohydrates that are completely malabsorbed because the intestine lacks an enzyme to break their fructose- fructose bond. For this reason, fructans can contribute to bloating, gas, and pain. Wheat accounts for the majority of people’s fructan intake. Limit wheat, onions and garlic along with other vegetables high in fructans.
  • Galactans: Galactans are carbohydrates are malabsorbed for the same reason as fructans; the intestine does not have the enzyme needed to break down galactans. Consequently, galactans can contribute to gas and GI distress. Limit beans and lentils.
  • Polyols: Polyols are also known as sugar alcohols. They are found naturally in some fruits and vegetables and added as sweeteners to sugar-free gums, mints, cough drops, and medications. Sugar alcohols have varying effects on the bowel. Limit sugar alcohols, sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and maltitol.

Click here for a full list of low and high FODMAP foods.

After your 6-8 week FODMAP-free cleanse you gradually will reintroduce foods to identify which compounds are bothersome. Reintroduce one food every four days with a 2-week break between bothersome foods. The goal is to identify the threshold at which you are able to consume FODMAP containing foods without causing bothersome GI symptoms.

The following foods are used to test each category:

  • Lactose: ½-1 cup milk
  • Fructose: ½ mango or 1-2 teaspoons honey
  • Fructans: 2 slices wheat bread, 1 garlic clove or 1 cup pasta
  • Galactans: ½ cup lentils or chickpeas
  • Sugar alcohols (polyols): Sorbitol, 2-4 dried apricots; Mannitol, ½ cup mushrooms

High FODMAP food may irritate your GI tract, the food does not cause an allergic reaction or an autoimmune reaction in your body. Food high in FODMAPs that elicit GI symptoms are causing functional discomfort in your gut that result in gas, bloating, distention, and discomfort. Simply eliminating these foods will get rid of these negative symptoms that leave you feeling ill. The FODMAP diet is a very tricky and tedious elimination diet. Although the diet may be difficult to follow, it can be highly effective. Make sure to consult a registered dietitian to help you successfully execute a FODMAP diet.


Article written by: Sammy Pappas, RD, LDN, CPT

Mindy Black, Nutrition & Lifestyle Management

904-250-0075 & info@mindyblack.com

The Better Snack Bar

Perfect for Halloween goodie bags, stocking stuffers, and on-the-go snacks during holiday errands!

The grocery store aisles are packed with so many snack bars: nutrition bars, granola bars, energy bars, and fruit-and-nut bars. How are you supposed to know what is healthy and what to stay away from? With claims such as “all-natural” and “good for your heart” on the front of the package they must be healthy, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

The food industry is really good at making healthy-looking packaging. Once you flip the products over and read the nutrition facts label you will see processed sugar hidden throughout the ingredient list.

It’s rare these days to actually see the word “sugar” on a snack bar label. Companies know that most people won’t grab a bar when consumers see “sugar” as one of the first ingredients on the label. Nowadays, “healthy-sounding” ingredients are typically found on the label such as…evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, and barley malt syrup. Guess what? They’re all forms of sugar! When it comes to sweeteners, try to keep the sugar natural, such as raw honey or dates.

Some snack bars have more sugar than a candy bar! Make sure you don’t fall into the marketing trap. Choose a snack bar that has wholesome ingredients. Main ingredients (the first 3-5 ingredients) should be a combination of nuts, nut butters, seeds, dried fruit, or whole grains. Here are some of our favorite snack bars to try:

1.) KIND Bars: The KIND brand has many products ranging from granola to bite sized snacks.

  • Fruit & Nut Bars: This line of bars has a nice balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These bars keep your blood sugar regulated and keep you feeling full for hours. Look for the specific flavors that indicates < 5 g of sugar or less.
  • STRONG Bars: This line of bars is similar to the Fruit & Nut bars but contains a good 3-5 more grams of protein. KIND adds a vegan pea protein to give you the extra burst of protein.
  • Pressed: This line of bars is made up of only fruits and veggies. This is a great burst of carbs before a workout or could be used alongside a protein rich snack.

2.) RX Bars:

  • These bars are an awesome combination of egg whites, nuts, dates, and no BS! They have an extremely short ingredient list—as I dietitian, that is what I love to see on products!

3.) Go Macro:

  • Macrobar: This line of bars is quite “clean”—gluten free, soy-free, dairy0-free, non-GMO, certified vegan, and certified organic. This brand carries tons of different flavors to satisfy all consumers. With most of the protein coming from nuts and nut butters, it’s a very filling and delicious option!

4.) Avalanche (Nut-Free) Bars: For my clients allergic to nuts, I highly recommend this line of bars. The company was born as a labor of a mother’s love. The owner’s eldest son is severely allergic to nuts and many legumes. He is so sensitive that the smallest hint of nut oil creates hours and even days of misery and recovery. Her son was so active that she knew she needed to create a bar that he could take on the go and not have to worry about having an allergic reaction. The bars are loaded with natural ingredients such as rolled oats, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, honey, and real fruit.

5.) The Perfect Bar: This bar claims to be the “freshest” bar on the market because it is found in the refrigeration section in the grocery store. They pride themselves on being non-GMO, sweetened with organic honey, containing whole food protein, containing 20 super foods, and being certified gluten-free. These bars are undeniably delicious with a super clean label.

These are just five out of our many favorite bars that we recommend to our clients. There are tons of snack bars that are loaded with sugar and can off-set your healthy lifestyle but thankfully, there are also wonderful snack bars that can offer you a variety of nutritional benefits!

Healthy snack bars are the perfect fix for the holidays! Instead of Halloween candy, handout Go Macro mini bars to all of your trick-or-treaters! During you black Friday shopping, make sure to have your purse and car stocked with healthy snack options so you aren’t tempted to go for a less healthy fast food meal. Lastly, don’t forget to pick up some of our favorite bars for some healthy stocking stuffers! Want more tricks to stay healthy this holiday season?

Click here and sign up for our FREE webinar on Monday, November 14th at 8PM!

We look forward to live chatting with you,

Mindy & Sammy

Start Your New Year’s Resolution Today!


Here is a picture of one of my most successful clients, Rich. He is the epitome of hard work, dedication, and making a true LIFESTYLE change. Not only did Rich WANT to change, but he knew that he NEEDED professional support to successfully make a change. I coached Rich through his entire 76-pound weight loss. His lifestyle change did not happen overnight. I shopped the grocery store with Rich, created individual meal plans, and supported him throughout the entire journey. YOU can be just like Rich. Don’t wait until January 1st to make the change. We are three months away from 2017, start now!

Halloween is right around the corner, and you know what that means…the holidays are here! The most wonderful time of the year…right? Of course we all love spending time with family and time off of work, but more and more of my clients tell me they dread the holidays for one reason…gaining weight. Unfortunately, studies show that my clients have a valid fear. The Los Angeles Times, released an article that proves people all over the world gain weight throughout the holidays…but how much?

Before we look at the study, let’s set the stage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38% of our country is obese and another 33% are overweight. So before the holiday season is upon us, we are already struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Now let’s look at the Americans who participated in the study. Americans saw their weight increase by 0.2% during Thanksgiving and an additional 0.4% over Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanza. Let’s translate these number into a real life example.

My client Scott is 5’7” inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. The studies say that on average, Scott would gain 4 pounds during Thanksgiving and an additional 8 pounds during the December holidays. Therefore, Scott gains a total of 12 pounds during the holidays. January rolls around and Scott wants to “lose weight and get healthy”. Not only was Scott overweight to begin with, but now he has an additional 12 pounds that he has packed on from the holidays. January rolls around and he starts working out excessively, cutting carbs, and under eating calories to try to lose weight and before he knows it he is burnt out. “I’m done with working out and eating healthy! IT DOESN’T WORK!” Scott is frustrated, upset, mad, and has lost all control of his goals.

 Click here for our FAVORITE FALL RECIPE!

Does this sound all too familiar to you? As a Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer I see many clients that can relate to Scott. Do me a favor and ask yourself this question: What is your occupation? Maybe you are an accountant, full time student, waitress, marketing coordinator, human resources director, dentist, pediatrician, music teacher, financial advisor…the list goes on and on. If you did not respond “dietitian and personal trainer” it makes sense for you to struggle with weight loss and successfully keeping weight off. Registered Dietitians are trained nutrition professionals. If you want to learn how to play the piano, you seek a piano teacher. If you want to learn how to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, get fit, and continue to live a healthy lifestyle you seek a dietitian.

If you are hesitant to reach out to a dietitian, worry no more! We are NOT the food police. I love food so much that I decided to make a career centered around food. When I work with clients my goal is to bring pleasure back to the plate and balance into the bowl. Food is our number one fuel source (along with water and sleep). It is crucial to learn how to fuel your body properly to optimize your everyday life!

We want you to know that we are here to support you on your journey of health and wellness. Call us for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation (904)-250-0075. We would love to start a life-changing conversation with you!

Pre & Probiotics: Necessary for Gut Health?!

70% of the immune system takes place in the gut.

  • Do you eat foods that contain nutrients to boost your immune system?
  • Do you ever think of the food you eat and how it affects your body?
  • Do you ever feel bloated or experience discomfort after you eat?

PROBIOTICS are currently one of the hottest topics in the health industry. Working with hundreds of different clients I often hear reoccurring questions such as:

  • Should I take a probiotic supplement?
  • What are the benefits of taking a probiotic?
  • Are probiotics in food?
  • What are prebiotics?
  • What should I look for on a probiotic label?

First and foremost, let’s get a solid understanding of what prebiotics and probiotics are.

Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that are linked to promoting the growth of helpful GOOD bacteria in your gut. That’s right, not all bacteria are bad! Prebiotics may improve gastrointestinal health as well as potentially enhance calcium absorption. Want to include more prebiotics in your diet? Prebiotics are commonly found in foods that contain a fiber called inulin: bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans and whole-wheat foods.

Prebiotics are naturally found in fruits and veggies, so one would think that Americans have no trouble getting these suckers into their diet, right? WRONG. Unfortunately, surveys have shown that most people don’t eat enough dietary fiber each day and therefore aren’t eating adequate amounts of prebiotics. The average American eats just 15 g of fiber per day, when the recommendation for adults is 25 to 38 g per day. There we have it folks, most of us can benefit from increasing their fiber intake, which will then in turn raise our prebiotic intake. But why do we need prebiotics…?

Prebiotics are food for probiotics…

Probiotics are actually the “good” bacteria —or live cultures— just like those naturally found in your gut. These active cultures help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. This functional component may boost immunity and overall health, especially GI health. Some strains of these live cultures may help prevent specific allergy symptoms, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance, decrease symptoms of irritable bowl syndrome, and regulate the overall digestive system. However, effects can vary from person to person. What to include more probiotics in your diet? Try sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, or kefir.

Never tried kimchi (or even heard of it)? No worries, we got your covered. Click the button below to get a FREE, simple, and delicious kimchi recipe right to your inbox!

Click for Kimchi Recipe!

“My doctor recommended I take a probiotic supplement, so what should I take?”

Science may suggest that probiotics support immune health but that doesn’t mean every product labeled “Probiotic” is created equal. Probiotics found in sparkling kombuchas are very different from the strains found in yogurt which are also different from the strains found in the pill (or capsule) form. If a product in the grocery store has the word “Probiotic” marketed on the front of the package, it does not necessarily mean that there is scientific evidence supporting that specific product.

Yes, there are tons of hot products “Containing Probiotics”. I’m talking granolas, cereals, juices, cookies, in addition to the typical dairy products such as yogurt and kefir. Keep in mind that these companies can use the word “probiotics” on their packaging, without any regulations or standards behind the word.  The food industry loves to confuse the day lights out of us…

Sharon Palmer, RD, a contributing editor at Today’s Dietitian and a freelance food and nutrition writer based in southern California, does a great job referencing probiotics…

“My strongest recommendation is to use probiotics with good-quality evidence behind them. But it can be hard to see benefits with immune health in consumers who are generally healthy anyway. Since there is a good history of safety with probiotics from genera such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, I don’t see anything wrong with people trying products out to see if they work for them,” advises Sanders. “If consumers choose probiotics in foods, they may see a reduction in being sick with GI or upper respiratory illnesses, and they can also benefit from the nutrients in the product, such as calcium and protein in yogurt. When it comes to specific applications in certain illnesses, such as immune-suppressed individuals, the science is emerging, so stay tuned. Be familiar with the research and look at the quality of the studies.”

So what’s the final say? Eat a balanced diet high in foods that naturally contain prebiotics and probiotics! Food is nature’s medicine. Allow your body to reap the nutritional benefits that food has to offer. If you are thinking of a taking a probiotic supplement, check with a registered dietitian (we’d be happy to help) to ensure that the product is safe and has been found effective! Remember, 70% of your immune health is found in the gut; take care of your digestive tract…you only get one!