Antibiotics, Fermented Foods, and Your Health

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Antibiotics were a miraculous discovery, saving lives because of their ability to kill bacteria. Thanks to antibiotics, diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and leprosy are treatable and not a problem for most people. However, there is a downside to antibiotics, and one that I experienced firsthand after taking them for 7 years at the advice of my physician. When you take antibiotics, they destroy both bad and good bacteria.

Collectively, the bacteria in our gut or gastrointestinal (GI) tract are called the microbiome or the microbiota. These good bacteria are necessary for our health. They help us fight infection by crowding out unhealthy bacteria. We also need bacteria to help us digest food. And they decrease our risk of allergies, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Without these healthy bacteria, we would not survive.

By the age of 18, the average person has taken 10 to 20 courses of antibiotics. And with each course of antibiotics, we lose more of the good bugs.

Taking antibiotics only when really necessary is an important step in preserving the good bacteria in your microbiome. Adding back healthy bacteria is another important step you can take. The best and most reliable sources are fermented foods. This includes high-quality yogurt with live cultures, kefir, and fermented veggies. Since I can’t eat dairy, I have been eating fermented veggies and have to say that I love them!

When looking for fermented vegetables, make sure they contain live cultures. You will find them in the refrigerated section of the market. Below are a few I have found.

Bubbies sauerkraut is easier to find and it does have live cultures.


Gold Mine sauerkraut is available at some Whole Foods Markets and independent health food stores.

Gold Mine

There are even salt free options!

Salt free

beetsI found the Pickled Planet brand at the Co-Op in Santa Monica. I tried their sauerkraut made with beets and caraway seeds and it was delicious. Check independent health food stores near you to see if they carry this or other brands.

I even found fermented pickles and salsa! And there is always kimchi, Korean-style fermented vegetables with a spicy kick. You can even make your own fermented veggies at home.

There are so many options to choose. All are a lot more interesting than a probiotic supplement. Do you have any favorite fermented veggies? I would love to know which brands you like or what you are willing to try.

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Six Health Promoting Dietary Changes for the New Year

by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

It’s a new year, and a great time to make some changes to your diet. Here are six dietary changes that are worth making.

  1. Red_chardEat more non-starchy veggies. Every diet that has been researched and linked with health (including the Mediterranean, DASH, and low fat vegan) has an abundance of these vegetables. Not only are they super low in calories, but they also offer a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Good examples are leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, radishes, summer squash, and sugar snap peas.
  2. Plant a vegetable garden. Having your own garden can lower stress, improve your health, and offer organic vegetables at your fingers tips for a great price. Swiss chard is particularly easy to grow, even in a pot. Tomatoes are easy to grow as well. And you can’t beat the taste of a homegrown tomato!
  3. Eat less sugar. We all know we should eat less sugar but how much should we have? The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar or 24 grams for women and about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams for men.
  4. red beans and rice 003 Large Web viewEat more meatless meals! Eating less meat is becoming more popular than ever. Even Bill Clinton went vegan. While avoiding meat entirely is not for everyone, eating more meatless meals is good for your health, your wallet, and the planet. A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests a link between red meat, disease, and death. Each daily three-ounce portion was associated with a 12 percent increase risk of dying overall, a 16 percent increase risk of dying from a heart attack, and a 10 percent greater risk of dying from cancer. There was an even higher risk from eating processed meats, such as bacon and sausage. No matter how you slice it, eating less meat is good for you.
  5. Add fermented vegetables to your diet. Did you know that with each course of antibiotics you take, loads of healthy bacteria are destroyed? Adding fermented veggies, such as unpasteurized sauerkraut, to your diet is one great way to add back healthy bacteria, improve your immune system, and help your digestion.
  6. beerDrink less alcohol. The average American drinks almost 100 calories worth of alcohol each day. Over a year that is 10 pounds of weight most of us could do without. Not only does alcohol contain calories, but it also stimulates appetite and lowers inhibitions making it easier to overeat. That’s a lose/lose for most of us who would benefit from consuming fewer calories.

Now is a fantastic time to start some healthier habits. Please let me know what you are willing to change this year!

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.