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ASK THE NUTRITIONIST: Are you consuming these superfoods?

Superfoods can be salty, sweet, fizzy, sour, or have a complex umami flavour and they span across traditional cultures

Dear Readers,

This week’s question comes from Simone in Edmundston. Simone asks if there’s one food she can include this year to make a big difference in the health of her family, including weight. The answer is yes, there is! And it’s a food group, not just one food. Let’s do a short quiz to test your nutrition knowledge and see if you can guess the food group I’m talking about.

Superfood for weight and overall health

  1. What have researchers found to reverse weight gain in mice?
  2. What have researchers found to be able to reverse Autism-like behaviours in mice?
  3. What have researchers found that can prevent a mouse version of Multiple Sclerosis?
  4. What do researchers at Caltech say our immune system needs more of?
  5. Where do 80% of the body’s immune cells reside?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you can find them here in this short TedX talk by Elaine Hsiao of Caltech. It’s an incredible little summary of some big, game-changing ideas in healthcare. So what’s the takeaway? We know of a therapeutic that science shows can manipulate these and other important health metrics in humans. We now also know how they do it and how they have come to work against us in good part because of our chronic overuse of antibiotics. 70% of probiotics are today used in livestock feed.

If you guessed I was talking about the gut and probiotics, you would be right! It turns out the human body is made up of more bacteria than it is human cells and that the bacteria in our guts (and on our skin, in our noses, mouths, and other orifices), are possibly more important to our health than our genes, because they have been shown to help turn our genes on and off! This means that while we may have the gene for susceptibility to diabetes or cancer, these bacteria can effectively signal those genes to play a role or stay dormant!

In one historical case, researchers have studied why one group of people did not get sick with cancers although very close to the second nuclear blast site in Nagasaki. It’s actually been linked to probiotics in a food they consumed!

What can they help?

Probiotics have historically been endorsed in treating gastrointestinal disorders. But now they have also been shown to play an important regulatory role in: 

  • Immunity
  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Neurotransmitter function
  • Weight loss
  • Neurological development
  • Mood
  • Inflammation
  • Memory and focus
  • Psoriasis
  • Bad breath

And research has only just begun!

Many reports focus on taking probiotics supplements, but these are not all created equal. There aren’t strict standards for the manufacture and storage of probiotics and thus supplement ccontents vary widely. As such, clinicians have to experiment and do a lot of reading to understand the variables and determine which probiotics containing which strains work for specific conditions. Without professional guidance it can be really tricky to determine which are the best to take. But there is another way!

Probiotic foods

Probiotic foods have been around forever and can be easy to make and store. If you don’t know what these are, let’s review a few:

  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Beet kvass
  • Kefirs
  • Yogurts
  • Tempeh
  • Raw cheese
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented vegetables and fruit
  • Natto
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Brine cured olives
  • Homemade buttermilk
  • Raw milk
  • Kimchi
  • Traditional sourdough bread

They can be salty, sweet, fizzy, sour, or have a complex umami flavour and they span across traditional cultures. Each seemed to know intuitively that these foods were important for health.

DIY Probiotics at Home!

If you want to explore the benefits for your family, my suggestion is to Cultures for Health, which has long been my go-to for clear, easy directions and safe, reliable starters.

Thank you for your question, Simone. For further learning, I suggest the following:

Gaps diet

How our microbes make us who we are

Meet your microbes

How the microbiome shapes the world

I want to thank all my readers and clients for their support as I moved across Canada to embark on a new life this year. I am especially grateful to Bradford Today, who gave me the platform to start this column and to further my vision of making uncensored nutrition information accessible to everyday people across Canadian communities. If you know of any other publication that would like to host my column, please reach out. My commitment is to keep it free of charge to reach as many people as possible. If you have a nutrition question or story of your own, please write to me at [email protected].


Nonie Nutritonista