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The trend explained: Probiotics are “healthy bacteria” found in cultured foods, like yogurt and kefir; fermented products, like sauerkraut, tempeh, and kimchi; and special supplements. Fermented vegetables, including pickled beets, carrots, and green beans, often contain probiotics. (Since probiotics are living organisms, some supplements need to be refrigerated to stay active.) They take up residence in the intestinal tract and help
strengthen the immune system. Fans say that fortifying the gut’s population of beneficial bacteria can keep the digestive system running smoothly and boost resistance to infections such as colds and flu.

Expert opinion: Many doctors suggest probiotics when you’re on antibiotics, to help preserve the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. “We know that women who tend to get yeast infections after taking antibiotics can ward them off this way,” says David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the David Geffen School of Medicine, at the University of California at Los Angeles. “Also, probiotics help the body use the nutrients in the food you eat, so they’re key for good health,” says JJ Virgin, a nutritionist and a fitness expert in Los Angeles and the author of "The Virgin Diet" ($26,

The bottom line: Probiotics may be a smart addition to your diet, especially as cold-and-flu season approaches. Those with digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, and women prone to yeast infections may find them particularly helpful.

Chia Seeds
The trend explained: These fun-sounding seeds (yep, the same stuff you sprinkle on a Chia Pet) come from the salvia plant and are chock-full of two health powerhouses: omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Some say adding the seeds to yogurt or a smoothie helps keep you full.

Expert opinion: “Ounce for ounce, chia seeds provide more omega-3s than salmon,” says Koren Barwis, a certified health and wellness coach in Ashburn, Virginia. (Of course, it would take a lot longer to eat four ounces of chia seeds than four ounces of salmon.) Plus, “they can absorb 10 times their weight in water, so once inside your stomach, they really do help fill you up,” says Barwis. And they may even have blood-sugar benefits: A 2011 study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry showed that when rats consumed chia seeds, their bodies were better able to process glucose and insulin (key for diabetics). The study also found that chia seeds helped reduce fat around the internal organs of obese rats.

The bottom line: Chia seeds are an easy way to take in more fiber and omega-3s, especially if your diet is lacking in fruits and vegetables or if you’re not a fan of salmon (or of choking down fish-oil pills).

(Yasu + Junko)

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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