My New Favorite Probiotic for a Strong Immune System

How many of these probiotic foods have you had in the past few days?

Buttermilk    Yogurt    Cottage Cheese   Kefir   Sauerkraut    Pickled beets

I usually try to eat yogurt at least twice a week to get the good bacteria,  but recently I have discovered Kefir. It’s like a yogurt smoothie that taste’s a little sweet but still tart and has twice the live active cultures as my favorite yogurt!


What are probiotics? Probiotics are fermented foods that resupply the good bacteria in your digestive tract.  Prebiotics are the foods that feed the good bacteria.

Think of probiotics as your army of soldiers defending against attackers that want to make your body sick. The army has to have a supply of energy to stay strong and keep defending, right?  That fuel comes from the prebiotic foods.

Why do we need probiotics?

About 60 to 70% of our immune system is in our gut. The average adult gut has about 5 lbs of bacteria. I know that doesn’t sound so pleasant but just go back to the picture in your mind of an army of good soldiers protecting you!

When you are healthy, most of the bacteria is in your large intestine – your colon. If they move into your small intestine it causes health problems.

The bad bacteria like to feed on the sugar, alcohol, and processed foods that our common American diet is loaded with. If we eat that way for too long we end up with more bad bacteria than good bacteria and we leave ourselves easy target for colds, flu and other illness and infection. Then we might need the antibiotic to kill off the bad bacteria. Just remember that antibiotic medications kill the good guys too so after a round of antibiotics  you need to resupply with good probiotic foods or supplements.

What can I do to build up my good bacteria for a stronger immune system?

In as little as 24 hours you can improve the health of your gut bacteria situation. The general guideline is to eat less sugar and processed foods and more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

My more specific take action steps would be:

  1. Take a look at the foods you have at home and check labels when you are grocery shopping. Look at the ingredients and notice how many foods have sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial sweeteners.
  2. Each day try to replace one processed or high sugar food or drink with a prebiotic food (such as almonds, banana, kiwifruit) or a probiotic food (such as yogurt or kefir).

“But I hate yogurt”.

You have another option. Take a probiotic supplement. The challenging part, as with all supplements, is to find a good quality probiotic, which often is kept refrigerated in the pharmacy.

And don’t forget the other important habits for a strong immune system . . .

Practice stress management. Find ways to relax, laugh and smile. It’s good medicine.

Exercise. Besides all the obvious benefits to weight and diabetes regular physical activity also helps your immune system. Try to do something you enjoy that’s comfortable. Starting exercise that’s too intense may backfire and lower your immune strength.

Sleep 7-8 hours to allow your body to rest and repair.

Please comment and share your favorite prebiotic and probiotic foods or recipes!

“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies.”             - Friedrich Nietzsche: German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer.

3 of My Favorite Fall Foods

Do you find it challenging to eat healthy this time of year?

As the weather turns cool I seem to crave heavier foods and more carbs like fresh baked warm cookies! But if you are like me you can’t make those too often and still fit into your favorite jeans. So I thought I would share 3 of my favorite fall foods that are a little more waistline friendly.

All 3 of these foods are great for helping lower cholesterol, slow blood sugar rise and control hunger! iStock_000012570640Medium

#1 Apples: There is a lot of truth to the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Apparently there are several ways that the phytonutrients in apples help control blood sugar.

My favorite apple is SweeTango. Just like the name it’s a crunchy, juicy apple with a sweetness and tang all in the same mouthful. Take advantage of apple season and take a trip to an orchard where you can sample and find your favorite.

#2 Bean Soups. Chili is one of my favorites. I almost always make it in the crock pot and here’s a little tip . . . when you are browning ground beef make and extra pound, throw in freezer and when you want to make chili you just have to pull it out and dump everything in the crockpot.

Chili is packed full of body healing nutrients for your immune system, diabetes, digestion and cancer prevention.. Plus, if you are low in iron, the beef, cumin, and beans are all great sources of iron. The cumin is also a good source of manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin B1. Did you know that magnesium is a natural blood pressure medicine that helps relax blood vessels?

Here’s my favorite Chili Recipe  (with helpful hints)

1 lb lean ground beef browned  (keep a pound or two in freezer for meals like this)

1 cup chopped onion (I usually add the onion and garlic at the end of browning the meat or saute them for a short time in a little olive oil before adding to the chili – but it’s not absolutely necessary)

1 clove garlic minced (or 1/8 tsp garlic powder if you don’t have garlic cloves on hand)

28 oz canned tomatoes (chopped or pureed, or better yet home canned stewed tomatoes)

2 cans kidney beans (or whatever beans you like- I have used black beans and pinto beans also)

1 15-oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbsp chili powder (can use more or less depending on your taste preference)

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste (I use a small amount of sea salt but you may prefer not to add salt)

Put all ingredients in the crockpot, stir and let it cook according to your crockpot instructions, usually 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

#3 Oatmeal: If you like oatmeal there is nothing better on a cold morning than a warm bowl of oatmeal with a little brown sugar and plenty of cinnamon. That’s my favorite but maybe not yours. You can add honey or fruit or any other natural sweetener but my point is to find the combination YOU like. Try to avoid the instant and find your own combination of flavors. For some great ideas check this blog post at FoodHappy.

Hope you enjoyed these tips and please share your favorite fall foods in the comments!

“True health-care reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington” -Anonymous

You Get Two A’s for Adding Oregano to Your Diet

Well today was the last day of school for my teenagers so I guess my brain is thinking report cards and grades.

If you have oregano growing in your garden you get an A for antibacterial and an A for antioxidant. These are two health benefits of adding this herb to your favorite dishes.

Oregano is also an excellent source of vitamin K, and a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and omega-3.

If you have never grown oregano it is one of the easiest herbs to grow. In fact, most herbs do well in poor soil and do not require much attention to survive.

This picture is my oregano that I planted from seed last year. I was happy to see it survived the Minnesota winter and came back this year. Now I need to start adding it to my meals to get my antioxidants.

When cooking with fresh oregano add toward the end of cooking as it may lose flavor easily if cooked too long. If you are using dried oregano add that at beginning of cooking to allow flavor to blend with other ingredients. If a recipe calls for dried oregano you probably want to use twice that amount of fresh chopped oregano leaves. Of course the amount really depends on what taste you prefer.

Oregano tastes great added to pizza sauce, omelets, frittatas, garlic bread, or salad greens.

Here are some more ideas for recipes using fresh oregano.  Or try Food Network's Feta, Black Olive & Oregano Salad.

When the fresh tomatoes are ready I think I will try the original garlic bread, bruschetta!

Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Fresh Oregano    (from The Joy of Cooking)

Place on grill or under broiler 8 thick slices crusty firm Italian bread or other country-style bread.

Grill or broil, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side. Remove from the heat and rub the surface with 2 large cloves garlic, halved. Brush with 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

Top each slice with shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 oz total). Broil just until the cheese is bubbling. Top with diced fresh tomatoes (about 1 large tomato total) and chopped fresh oregano (about 2 tablespoons total).

Enjoy Eating Oregano!

Diabetes and Vitamin D: You Might Be Deficient if. . .

We can all probably relate to one of more of Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck . . ." jokes.

Although not nearly as much fun, we can also relate to low vitamin D if you look at the 25 reasons below associated with Vitamin D deficiency. A few months ago I did a post on the ABC's of diabetes . Now let's learn about D.

Continue reading

3 Ways to Add Immune Boosting Romaine to Your Diabetes Defense

Cold and flu season is definitely here. Along with hand washing, adequate sleep, and stress management, eating well is more important to keep your immune system strong.  Romaine lettuce beats all other lettuce varieties when it comes to immune-boosting nutrients. It's a great source of vitamin B1, B2, C and folic acid. All of these are important for keeping your immune system strong enough to fight off cold and flu viruses.

How does Romaine help fight diabetes? Well the low calorie content make it a great food for weight loss. Just remember to go easy on the salad dressing.

The most common way we tend to eat Romaine lettuce is in Ceasar salad. But you can make any other salad variety, add Romaine to your sandwich, or make a wrap!

Here's a couple recipes to get you started. Both are low calorie and contain other immune-boosting foods as well. I encourage you to share any other ways you enjoy meals with Romaine!

Walnut Romaine Salad

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chili is a recipe loaded with diabetes fighting ingredients!

Chili is one of my favorite cold weather foods. Besides tasting great and warming you up on a cold day, almost every ingredient in chili has health benefits. Here is my family's favorite recipe. It's easy and good for you too!

  • 1 lb lean ground beef, browned and drained
  • 2 cans kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans tomatoes
  • 1 medium to large onion chopped
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt to taste

My favorite way to cook chili is in the crock pot and often I do soups overnight because I cook the ground beef, onions and garlic and then throw everything in the crock pot while I am cooking another dinner. That way I cook two meals at once. When I get up in the morning I turn it off, let it cool and before I go out the door put it in the fridge. All that's left is to heat it up for supper in the evening!

The health benefits of chili for diabetes are numerous. Kidney beans are one of the best food sources of fiber providing almost half our daily requirement. Even though the beans are carbohydrate the fiber slows down the blood sugar rise after the meal. Kidney beans also have 57% of our daily need for folate, which lowers homocysteine levels and 20% of our need for magnesium, a natural blood pressure medicine.

Chili powder, ground from red chili peppers, contains capsaicin, which fights inflammation, reduces insulin needs and helps lower blood sugars.

If you go easy on the salt and choose lean ground beef, every other ingredient in chili will help you fight diabetes in one way or another.  If you are watching your weight, 1 small to medium bowl of chili will provide about 500 calories. My problem is that I love bread with my chili, which puts me well over my weight control portion.

The great thing about making chili and other soups is that you can add and subtract ingredients to your liking and create your own favorite recipe. If you have a favorite chili recipe please share!

Blueberries Make an Excellent Snack Choice for Fighting Diabetes

Here's my afternoon snack today: organic vanilla yogurt with blueberries and banana. All for just over 200 calories! Blueberries are in season so enjoy some soon with the tasty recipe ideas below and let the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories go to work helping you fight diabetes!

Take a look at the powerful health benefits you get . . .  

  • 38% more antioxidants than wine to protect your heart
  • low calorie and high fiber to help with weight loss
  • help protect the brain from dementia and Alzheimers
  • good source of soluble fiber pectin to help lower cholesterol
  • reducing inflammation in digestive system
  • same compound found in cranberries that helps prevent urinary tract infections


1 cup of blueberries is about 80 calories, 1 carb choice and 4 grams fiber. Also an excellent source of vitamin C and E.

So grab some blueberries at your local farmers market or grocer, whip up a smoothie or parfait, or try the recipes below!  . . . . and share your favorites with me too!!!

Fruit S'mores recipe

Blueberry Cheesecake for Calorie Counters 

Blueberry Tart with Walnut Crust

Enjoy Patriotic Strawberry Recipes While Getting Powerful Nutrients!

Strawberries are one of the top 20 antioxidant fruits and veggies -  great for keeping our brain healthy and preventing cancer.  Better yet, they taste great and are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C. If you're counting calories, one cup is only 50 calories! 

One of my favorite meals during strawberry season is grilled chicken breast cut up into a green salad with sliced almonds and a little drizzle of salad dressing.  

For a fun patriotic dessert make July 4th Flag Fruit Pizza!  (I use pre-made sugar cookie dough when I'm in a hurry.)

Or try this low calorie Strawberry Smoothie Recipe: 1 cup ripe strawberries, 1 banana, 1-2 tbsp honey, 1/2 cup yogurt vanilla or plain, 1/2 cup ice and 1/2 cup water. You can also add a tablespoon of ground flax seed for omega-3 if you like. I like to save my too-ripe bananas in freezer and use in place of ice for smoothies. Just remember the key to weight control with smoothies is keeping the portion to an 8 oz glass, unless this is your meal.

If you're looking for more information on buying, storing, or freezing strawberries check out this  Strawberry Hints & Tips Guide . You'll also find some great recipes such as Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate!

Beat Diabetes with a Color Filled Plate

Here's a short message to remind you of the power of fruits and vegetables in fighting disease  – especially diabetes.   (and be sure to check out the video link below)

How will more fruits and veggies help diabetes?

  • Low calorie to help you lose weight and prevent diabetes.
  • Lower carb to lower insulin needs.
  • Great source of potassium to help lower blood pressure.
  • Loaded with phytochemicals that fight heart disease, cancer and other health problems.
  • Great source of fiber.
  • Sodium free.
  • Most are naturally fat free and those that do have fat contain heart healthy fat.
  • Great source of vitamin C.
  • Eating more replaces high calorie starches and sweets that are unhealthy.

There is one catch. You have to make the effort to change your eating and food buying habits. This takes time and effort but is well worth the payoff of preventing diabetes, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and losing weight. This is probably the most powerful diet change you can make.

Start small by choosing one meal to add vegetables and one snack to add a fruit. Take advantage of fruits and veggies in season when they taste better and cost less. Check out the farmers markets or try growing something of your own!

To get you motivated check out this great 2 minute video and start to Color Yourself Healthy!

Boost Your Immune System with Sweet Potatoes

With all of the viral illness going around this time of year we could all use a boost to help us stay well. And what better way to get that than naturally in a great tasting food packed with power nutrients?

What is in sweet potatoes that help our immunity?    Beta-carotene

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that helps our body fight against heart disease and cancer also. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and fiber. With 3 grams fiber, no fat and only 100 calories, this vegetable is a great choice if you are trying to lose weight, lower cholesterol or control blood sugars!

Have you always wondered if sweet potatoes and yams were the same? Well they are not. True yams are tropical tubers often found in Africa or Caribbean. They have a crisp, bland, white to yellow flesh and are lower in beta-carotene.  

 Try these recipes to add sweet potatoes to your regular menu – not just for Thanksgiving dinner!

Baked Sweet Potato

Wash well. Pierce with fork in several places. Place on baking sheet. The sweet potato might ooze syrup while baking. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes, depending on size. If you are in a hurry you can microwave them instead for 4-6 minutes on high power.

For a sweeter taste try these Candied Sweet Potatoes.  

Or . . . try Oven Sweet Potato Fries for a healthier french fry.