The New Miracle Foods
For Your Tummy continued...
Nonetheless, there's definite promise. Several studies have shown that
Dannon's Activia speeds intestinal transit time — the hours it takes food to
pass through your digestive system — which may help if you have a problem with
Companies also claim that probiotics boost immunity. In one study, people
who ate DanActive had shorter-lasting colds. Other research, in Sweden, showed
that a certain strain of bacteria cut the number of sick days that employees
took. But that study, like most others with probiotics, was conducted with
supplements, not with commercially available foods, which don't contain enough
of the strain in question.
There is also strong evidence supporting claims that three strains of
probiotics — Bifidobacterium lactis, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Lactobacillus
rhamnosus GG — relieve or prevent diarrhea. But again, you won't find enough of
these microbes in any supermarket foods; you'd need to buy probiotic
supplements such as Florastor (which contains Saccharomyces boulardii ) or
Culturelle (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) in a health food store.
Shopping advice: If your goal is to just get some potentially
beneficial bacteria into your diet, use products that contain Bifidobacteria
and Lactobacilli. But you can hedge your bets still further by choosing items
that would be good for you even if they didn't tout probiotics. Kashi's Vive
Probiotic cereal is high in fiber. The yogurt, smoothies, and kefir drinks from
Dannon, Stonyfield Farm, and Lifeway all deliver calcium and protein.
Stonyfield and Lifeway also include inulin, a naturally occurring fiber that
boosts your body's absorption of calcium, report several studies.
Watch out for: Promises of weight loss, improved liver function,
healthy skin, or cancer-fighting properties — there's no substantial research
to back up these claims.
For Your Heart
First there was oat bran, added to everything from cereal to potato chips.
Now there are tons of enhanced foods promising to promote cardiovascular health
(even such unlikely candidates as eggs and mayonnaise). With thousands of baby
boomers turning 50 every day, food companies are seeing, well, a boom market
Products containing plant sterols or stanols
On the shelves: These natural plant substances are added to Benecol
and Take Control spreads; Minute Maid Premium Heartwise Orange Juice; Nature
Valley Healthy Heart Chewy Granola bars; Corazonas tortilla chips; Right
Direction cookies (which also contain four grams of heart-healthy soluble
Claims: Foods that contain plant sterols (and follow government
guidelines for sodium, fat, and other ingredients) can boast an FDA-approved
claim, such as "lowers cholesterol" or "may reduce the risk of
Evidence: Extensive research shows that both plant sterols and
stanols, as well as soluble fiber (such as oat bran), can lower elevated LDL
cholesterol by about 10 percent.
Shopping advice: Choose products that are also low in saturated fat,
sodium, and cholesterol. Keep in mind that these foods, which can be pricier
than their non-enhanced counterparts, help only if you already have high
cholesterol. Also, plant sterols must be eaten twice a day and at separate
meals — you can't just slather your morning toast with Benecol and be done with
it if you want to reap the heart benefit.
Watch out for: Calories! One chocolate chip cookie fortified with
plant sterols has the same 150 or so calories as an ordinary chocolate chip
cookie. It makes sense to use these products only if they are substitutes for
less healthy versions.