I like to begin the day with half a cup of plain yogurt mixed with organic, whole berries—together with my couple cups of coffee.
This breakfast combo is quick, easy, and delicious, and packed with probiotics, protein, fiber, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are key for good health.
Plus, a new study shows that the yogurt I eat every day can help lower my risk of chronic disease—and even chronic stress.
Meaning it’s not only a tasty delight, but also a potential lifesaver…
What yogurt can do for you
Yogurt is well known for being a natural probiotic that supports a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome. Study after study shows it helps protect you from digestive disorders and diseases—and reduces the risk of colon cancer (as I’ll tell you more about next month).
But yogurt can do so much more than that. In fact, the study I just mentioned shows that fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi—along with fermented vegetables like sauerkraut—can help reduce arthritis, type II diabetes, and chronic stress.
Why? Because supporting the GI microbiome helps prevent inflammation—the No. 1 cause of disease and aging.
As I often report, science shows there are more immune cells in the GI tract than in any other part of the body. Meaning you really do need to trust your gut when it comes to immune support and good health.
So, let’s take a closer look at this study…and then I’ll discuss the only kind of yogurt you should eat. (Hint: All types of yogurt are definitely not created equal!)
I’ll also tell you which high-fiber “health foods” to avoid in order to keep your GI microbiome—and your body and brain—healthy.
The dietary way to increase probiotic diversity and decrease inflammation
Researchers at Stanford University set out to compare how diets rich in fermented or high-fiber foods affected the GI microbiome and the immune system.1
They randomly assigned 36 healthy adults to a 10-week diet that included either fermented or high-fiber foods. The researchers analyzed blood and stool samples collected from all participants during the study and compared them against blood and stool samples taken three weeks before the study, and four weeks after the study (when the participants ate their normal diets).
Results showed that the fermented food group had an increase in the number of different kinds of probiotics in their GI tract (the good bacteria). And the more fermented foods they ate, the larger the increase. (Microbial diversity is a key factor for good health and longevity).
In addition, the fermented food group had a decrease in levels of 19 different inflammatory proteins. And one of these proteins, interleukin 6 (IL-6), is strongly associated with health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and chronic stress.
Meanwhile, the “high-fiber” group didn’t show a drop in any of these inflammatory markers. And their microbiome diversity was basically the same before, during, and after the study.
One of the study authors said in a Stanford press release: “This is a stunning finding. It provides one of the first examples of how a simple change in diet can reproducibly remodel the microbiota across a cohort of healthy adults.”2
Really? One of the first examples?! What have they been reading? It doesn’t appear to be Insiders’ Cures. Or the myriad of studies I’ve reported on for years about how diet has been shown to positively affect the probiotics in the GI microbiome. Maybe they’re thinking of all of the studies on probiotic pills, which indeed are worthless.
Why I’m not surprised (even if the researchers are)
As I warned in the first issue of Insiders’ Cures nearly 10 years ago, the dietary fiber issue is complex—and the mainstream just doesn’t get it right. And that certainly proved to be the case again in this study.
The researchers said they focused on high-fiber foods because of previous research showing their health benefits. But while high-fiber diets are linked to lower mortality in many prior studies, it’s important to note that this study showed that none of the 19 inflammation biomarkers decreased among participants eating a high-fiber diet.
However, the results did show that greater intake of fiber led to more carbohydrates in the stool, pointing to incomplete digestion. This led the researchers to believe that people eating Western diets that contain highly processed foods lack fiber-degrading probiotics.
This creates a vicious circle…especially because some foods touted as “high fiber” are mainly just highly processed carbs—like the cereals and other refined grains the big food industry and their codependents in the academic-government complex endorse and would like to make us to eat.
That’s why if you see a processed food that’s labeled “high fiber,” you should always be suspicious. Most likely, it’s loaded with unhealthy additives like sugars, processed carbs, preservatives, and artificial flavors.
Whereas truly healthy foods that are naturally rich in fiber aren’t labeled with splashy health claims and endorsements from crony corporatists on their cardboard boxes. Because, well, they don’t come in cardboard boxes! (And for their so-called nutritional benefits, you might as well be eating the cardboard anyway!)
What type of fiber should you eat instead?
Rather than opting for “high fiber” foods in the center aisles of your grocery store, opt for healthy, whole foods that line the perimeter—as they contain plenty of the right fiber. In particular, the following foods are naturally high in fiber:
Fruits: Apples, avocados, bananas, berries, pears.
Vegetables: Artichokes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, leafy greens, potatoes.
Legumes: Black beans, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), edamame, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, split peas.
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds (called pepitas in Mexican cuisine, see page 5), sunflower seeds, walnuts.
But what about yogurt?
Just as with foods labeled “high fiber,” you need to be very careful when choosing yogurt—as most spout splashy health claims, too, but contain the wrong ingredients. A simple scan of grocery-store shelves reveals yogurts that are full of sugars, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors.
So, to ensure you’ll be enjoying nutritious, healthy yogurt—not junk food in disguise—I recommend looking for four keywords on the label:
- Whole milk
Basically, there should only be one ingredient in your yogurt—milk with about 4 percent fat (yes, it can include some cream), with live, active cultures. The milk should come from animals that are not subjected to growth hormones like rBST, are not fed antibiotics, and are pasture-raised. Organic milk, by definition, must meet all of these criteria, which is why I recommend organic varieties.
In addition, your yogurt should never contain high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, aspartame, stevia, gelatin, preservatives, or artificial colorings. Avoid anything labeled “reduced-fat,” in any dairy product, which actually sabotages your health (and has been linked to type II diabetes and obesity).
Just keep it simple: Look for plain, unflavored, organic Greek or Icelandic (skyr) varieties. And then, for some extra flavor, crunch, and nutrition, you can add your own natural high-fiber foods (like fresh berries, nuts, or seeds), or even some local honey.
Doing so will provide you with healthy probiotics, as much as a quarter of your daily recommended requirement for protein, and significant amounts of essential fats, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.
That’s a lot of nutrients in one simple, delicious food! (So, it’s not really surprising that yogurt—along with cheeses and full-fat dairy—is a key part of the healthy Mediterranean diet.)
The bottom line is, if you eat a balanced diet that’s rich in whole foods like yogurt—and forget the “high-fiber,” processed carbs, packaged fiber supplements, and useless probiotic pills—you’ll keep your GI microbiome healthy, and substantially reduce your risk of many chronic illnesses and stress.
1 “Gut-microbiota-targeted diets modulate human immune status.” Cell. 2021 Jul 6:S0092-8674(21)00754-6.