Q: Our family is on a tight budget, and while I would like to serve the healthiest food, it always seems too expensive to get fresh veggies and fruit. -- Nancy S., Tampa, Fla.
A: As the old saying goes, "You can pay me now" (when the cost of preventive measure against future problems is minimal) "or you can pay me later" (when the cost associated with health problems is much higher). But as you'll see, if you're on a tight budget, you don't have to spend more now to eat healthfully, and you'll save money later on health-care expenses!
We know a recent Harvard study received a lot of attention when it declared the daily price tag on healthy meals was $1.50 more per day than an average, unhealthy diet loaded with processed foods. But here's how to save money today on healthy foods -- and tomorrow on health-care bills:
Make creative shopping lists. Start with a great roadmap on how to eat more healthfully. Go to www.doctoroz.com and search for "Mediterranean diet shopping list." It will help you build your new healthy, economical menu.
Buy in bulk, and do the math. At big-box stores, look for bulk canned goods such as tomatoes, which you can use year-round to make sauces, soups and stews. And go for bulk buys on frozen fruit and veggies; they're loaded with nutrition.
Make sauces from scratch, and freeze the extra. Sauces for pasta, gravies (thicken them with pureed, cooked veggies, not flour) and even salad dressings (so much better made with olive oil bought in the largest tin) can be prepared in large quantities at huge savings -- and you're eliminating preservatives, food colorings, trans fats, sugars and who knows what else from your plate!
Q: Is there a probiotic that I can take to help me lose weight and get other health benefits too? -- Katie J., Pierre, S.D.
A: We wish there was a simple "take this, get that result" answer! But we do know that gut bacteria influence weight and many other aspects of your health.
Probiotics, health-promoting bacteria that populate your gut, help protect your immune system, process glucose, shepherd nutrients into your bloodstream and do things we don't yet know. Other gut bacteria (should we call them conbiotics?) contribute to insulin resistance, fuel immune dysregulation and may promote depression, dementia, heart disease, strokes and cancer. Altogether, pro and con bacteria compose your gut biome, which changes in response to what you eat, your exposure to antibiotics and encounters with bacteria-rich environments.
Recently, researchers found identical twins -- one fat, one not -- and extracted samples of their gut biomes. Then they injected those bacterial pools into normal-weight mice. The ones receiving the fat twin's biome grew fat, the ones with the thin twin's stayed normal-weight. Even more astounding: Mice that became obese stopped gaining weight if they lived with mice who'd received the "stay thin" biome transplant. Seems "lean bacteria" -- groups of organisms called the bacteroidetes(ph) -- migrate into the "obese biome," because there are job openings for healthy bacteria that the body is eager to have filled.
So what can you do to control your weight? Ditch red meats; avoid saturated fats, all trans fats, all added sugars and syrups; and opt for 100 percent whole grains and fruits and veggies.
We also like taking daily spore probiotic supplements containing bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 and lactobacillus GG.
(Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org)