The Edgy Veggie

Probiotics are nature’s life support

Cranberry yogurt bread
Cranberry yogurt bread For the Miami Herald

Right now — and all the time — your digestive tract is teeming with billions of bacteria. Some are good, some are potential troublemakers.

Usually your body does a standup job of keeping it all in balance. But it never hurts to ask for help. That’s where probiotics come in. To unpack the name, pro is Greek for supporting, bios means life — probiotics support life.

Probiotics rank among the good bacteria, promoting good digestion and protecting your gut. Research indicates they’re especially helpful with digestive issues or flagging immunity.

You can buy pricy probiotic capsules (Ultimate Flora, $24.99, 30 capsules), which offers between 15 and 30 billion probiotics, and fortified foods like Bio-K+ probiotic-enriched cultures ($25.99, 6 3.5 ounce jars), promising 50 billion probiotics per jar. However, much probiotic goodness gets lost in the processing and how your body absorbs fortified probiotic products is questionable.

Your probiotic experience can be cheap, delicious and natural. Go for cultured whole foods, including kefir and kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut, miso and natto — and yogurt.

Once the simple, satisfying fermented milk from your favorite local ruminant (cow, goat or sheep), commercial yogurt is now an industry unto itself, with more than $7.4 billion in sales last year. There’s a wall of yogurt in every grocery store’s refrigerated section, including vegan yogurt containing probiotics and coconut (So Delicious, 6 ounces, $1.99) or soy (Stonyfield O’Soy, 6 ounces, $.99), but no dairy.

The amount of probiotics varies from yogurt to yogurt, so check the label. Look for live active cultures of beneficial bacterial strains with tongue-twisting names including L acidophilus, B bifidum, L bulgaricus and S thermophilus.

Another reason to check ingredients — with the exception of plain, unsweetened yogurt like Cabot (32 ounces, $3.79, ) or Whole Soy Co. (24 ounces, $3.79), most yogurt, especially popular single serve cups, contains added color, flavoring, thickening agents and an egregious amount of sugar. So Delicious coconut yogurt contains 20 grams per serving, Dannon and Stonyfield O’Soy each have 26 grams. A handful of Hershey’s kisses, by comparison, has 23 grams.

Beneath all that sugar lies something delicious, tangy and probiotic-rich. That’s how it’s made. Probiotic delivery is all but guaranteed with yogurt. Choose one that supports life simply and naturally.

Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.”

Cranberry Yogurt Bread

Yogurt does more than provide probiotics. It makes this easy quick bread beautifully moist. Enjoy for breakfast or as a snack with fresh fruit or even with more yogurt. Makes 1 loaf, or about 10 servings.

4 tablespoons grape seed, canola or other neutral oil

1 cup berry yogurt, dairy or vegan (about 1 and 1/2 cartons of 6 ounce single-serve yogurt)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon flax seed

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not thaw)

Grated rind of one orange

Heat oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the oil, yogurt, 1/2 cup of sugar, orange juice and flax seed, whisking for a moment or two until mixture is incorporated and sugar is dissolved.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Pour into yogurt mixture. Stir briefly, just till combined. Batter will be thick. Pour the cranberries, remaining tablespoon of sugar and grated orange rind In a food processor and pulse briefly, so the berries are coarsely chopped.

Gently mix the chopped cranberries into the batter. Spoon mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until bread is golden brown, smells berry sweet, and an inserted tester comes out clean.

Source: Ellen Kanner for Edgy Veggie.