For the first time in history, experts tell us the next generation of U.S. children will not live longer than their parents, in part because of the nationwide prevalence of obesity. Two-thirds of American adults and a third of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese, contributing to a rise in heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes—but recently more than a dozen major food companies took a step in the right direction.
As part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, 16 food and beverage manufacturers including Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Nestlé USA, Coca-Cola and Pepsi pledged to remove 1.5 trillion calories from the market by 2015, and in fact they’ve already cut 6.4 trillion calories (mainly from sugary beverages, cereals and snacks).
The reduction in calories works out to about 80 fewer calories per person every day, according to Shu Wen Ng, an assistant professor of nutrition with the University of North Carolina and one of the researchers involved with analyzing the companies’ efforts. But, she and other experts point out that healthy weight management goes beyond just counting calories, and that more focus should be placed on evaluating the quality of those calories.
Because studies have shown a balanced gut (meaning the right amount of good bacteria vs. harmful bacteria) supports weight loss and long-term weight management, it is important to eat foods that promote that balance. Here are three simple ways to get started!
- Eat more healthy fats, especially those high in Omega-3
- Eat “living foods” every day to help increase your good gut bacteria (fermented foods, non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits)
- Eat plenty of protein at every meal and snack
Many studies point to the health benefits of probiotic supplements, the “friendly” bacteria in the gut that promote a balanced digestive environment and in turn support healthy digestion, regularity and immune function. To find them in our daily diets, we often look to fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and kombucha, but a new study shows the same beneficial microbes can be found in your wine glass.
Researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain recently looked at nearly a dozen strains of bacteria commonly found in wine, including some strains of Lactobacillus (found in yogurt). They discovered that not only could those strains survive exposure to gastric juices and enzymes in our saliva—which can damage bacterial cell walls—but that they did it even better than many commonly used strains.
In addition, the strains of bacteria isolated from wine were shown to be especially good at sticking to the intestinal walls, which means they could help harmful bacteria from entering the gut and potentially damaging our health. One strain in particular (P. pentosaceus CIAL-86) was even able to help protect against harmful E. coli bacteria, the study showed.
However, before you decide that a glass or two of your favorite vintage is all you need to support a healthy, balanced gut, keep in mind that it may not be enough. Much of the good bacteria used in the wine-making process are eliminated during another process called sulfating—during which sulfites are added to help preserve the wine and prevent oxidation. Still, says study author study author Dolores González de Llano, probiotics “could be isolated from wine in order to be commercialized as probiotics, or added to functional foods.”