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.

These are a few of my favorite things…from Trader Joe’s

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

The perfect time to think about our favorite things is during the
holidays. Here are a few of my favorite things from one of my favorite
places, Trader Joe’s. These items make it easier and quicker to do the right thing—eat healthy and tasty foods!

Organic Kale

photo-5I worte a whole post on kale, but the bottom line is that it’s a top-rated veggie that it is full of nutrients. It’s great in salads, smoothies, or as a side dish. And you have no excuses because it is easy to use since it’s already washed and cut. Since it’s organic, it does not have any of the neurotoxic organophosphate  pesticides!

Roasted Mashed Sweet Potatoes

photo-4I love sweet potatoes. They are high in vitamin A and fiber and they taste good!The one disadvantage is the time to prepare and cook them. Trader Joe’s makes them easy to eat with their already mashed potatoes. They come in small frozen pellets that you just heat up with a dash of water in a pan. Yum!

Balsamic Vinegar of Modenabalsamic

This mild-tasting vinegar is great on a salad all by itself. It can also be used to enhance the flavor of everything from chili to a raspberry reduction.

Aartichoke heartsrtichoke Hearts

They are low in calories and a good source of vitamin C, K, and folic acid. Try adding them to a salad or even by themselves with a little balsamic vinegar.


This sauce is so tasty, that I have been known to eat it right out of the jar! I primarily use it on pasta and on top of grilled tofu

Organic Sprouted Tofutofu

Organic, no GMOs, a good source of calcium, inexpensive, and a great source of protein. What more can I say? Try it with the Bruschetta sauce on top for a yummy quick meal.

Canned Organic Beans

TJ BeansBeans are loaded with fiber, and they are a great source of phytochemicals and protein. I love kidney beans and garbanzo beans in salads and black, pinto, and kidney beans for chili. Their newest option, great northern white beans, is one of my favs to use in soup with carrots and sage. And Trader Joe’s organic beans are in cans without BPA (Bisphenol A),  a compound that can mimic estrogen and may be associated with health problems. If you have high blood pressure, rinse the beans with water to remove a lot of the sodium.

FBrown riceully Cooked Brown Rice
Healthy eating can’t get any easier than already cooked brown rice. I like to use it in soups instead of noodles and as a side dish with a meal.

Organic White Quinoa

quinoaQuinoa is such a super food. It acts like a grain, but it is actually a seed, which is why is has all the essential amino acids. It has a low glycemic load (which means it doesn’t raiser your blood sugar) and is a good source of fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Best of all, it cooks in about 10 minutes and can be used as a side dish or even a breakfast cereal.

HummusOrganic Hummus
Move over McDonalds, hello hummus, the perfect healthy fast food. You can have it with carrots, broccoli, sugar snap peas or any veggie. It’s a great tasting and healthy meal on the run.

Orgtomatoesanic Sugar Plum Tomatoes
These tomatoes are the perfect snack. Everyone loves them, even kids. The trick is to make sure they are a rich red, especially the area close to the stem.

From the moment I first visited a Trader Joe’s store, I was hooked. They always have interesting, trendy, and tasty offerings for a good price. So now you know my favorites. What are yours??

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Five Superfoods Worth Adding to Your Diet

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

Acai berries, coconut water, pomegranates, kale, noni juice, there is always some food that is in the spotlight. Sometimes they are worthy of the attention and sometimes not. There are many “super” foods that should be trendy but aren’t. Here are five that are worth adding to your diet.

Bok Choy

Bok choy is one of my favorite vegetables. For a leafy green and a cruciferous vegetable, it has a surprisingly mild flavor. It’s low in calories; 1 cup has only 9 calories. It contains thiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane and isothiocyanates; all of which help to decrease your risk of cancer. And it is a good source of vitamin C and beta carotene. As I mentioned in my post about calcium supplements, it’s a great source of calcium that’s easy for your body to absorb.  Just 1¼ cups is equivalent to one glass of milk. It’s tasty, versatile, and healthy. Why isn’t everyone talking about it?


Parsnips are a great substitute for the potato. They are high in fiber, and have a low glycemic index (which means they don’t make your blood sugar go up quickly). They are also a good source of vitamins C, K, and folic acid. And they are really delicious. Try roasting them with rosemary, garlic, and a little olive oil at 395° until tender, about 20 minutes. You can also add them to soups and stews.


Barley contains eight of the essential amino acids, lots of fiber, and a host of vitamins and mineral including niacin, B vitamins, vitamin E, and selenium.  A recent study found that eating whole-grain barley can help keep blood sugar low after a meal compared to white rice or even whole-grain products. Barley also helps lower cholesterol. You can use it in soups, stews, in place of rice with a meal, or even as a breakfast cereal. Make sure to buy hulled or dehulled barley which is the whole-grain version and avoid pearl barley which has most of the fiber and nutrients removed.


I think beans are fantastic. They are high in both water-soluble and water-insoluble fiber. They help to lower cholesterol, cheaply and healthfully get rid of constipation, and make you feel full and therefore eat less. And their vibrant color means they are packed with health-promoting antioxidants and other phytochemicals. They are a great protein source and a good source of folic acid and iron.  Try pinto, black, garbanzo, kidney, navy, or great northern white beans. If you get canned beans, look for “low sodium” on the package or rinse the beans to get rid of some salt. Also check out the canned beans at Trader Joe’s where you get a good price on organic beans and their cans don’t have BPA (Bisphenol A), a compound that can mimic estrogen and may be associated with health problems.


Onions contain flavonoids and allyl sulfides, both of which may help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease for people who eat a lot of them. Thankfully, that is easy to do since onions can add flavor and interest to an otherwise boring meal. Try adding a small amount of fresh red onion to salads and sandwiches. You can also caramelize onions by cooking them slowly on the stove using medium heat with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Caramelized onions are sweeter and can be added to foods such as vegetables or beans.  You can also chop an onion, bake it, and add an oil-free version to your foods.

Why isn’t everyone talking about these foods? How about trying one or more today? And don’t forget to buy organic!

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Got Kale?

It rarely happens that a vegetable goes from almost total obscurity to practically rock star status in a matter of a few years, but that’s exactly what happened to kale. When I was a waitress back in college, it was kale that covered the ice in salad bars to make it look pretty. Now it’s in the blenders and refrigerators of health conscious people everywhere.

So what’s all the excitement about? Is kale really that great? Well actually, yes, it is.

Kale is high in a variety of nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants), and sulforaphane (lowers your risk of cancer).  This explains why Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who created the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), gave it a score of 1,000—his top rating. It is also the top veggie and a “super star” according to the Nutrition Action Healthletter, with a score of 1,389. In addition, it’s a good source of bioavailable calcium. Only 1¾ of a cup of kale is equivalent to one glass of milk in terms of absorbable calcium. That’s good news for people like me who can’t drink milk but want to avoid calcium supplements because of current research that links them to an increased risk of a heart attack (more on that in a future post).

So eat more kale! Try kale chips, roast or sauté it, or put it in soups or smoothies. However, there is one stipulation, buy organic. Why? Because kale as well as collard greens and green beans are commonly contaminated with organophosphate insecticides, according to the latest version of the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Their “Dirty Dozen” list identifies the fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides. Their “Clean Fifteen” list identifies those with the least. This year they have added a “Plus” category due to the use of organophosphate insecticides, which are toxic to the nervous system.

You can see the full list here and at There are also phone apps to make shopping easier. When you can, buy organic versions of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables and the Plus category vegetables.

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.