Part IV: Foods Containing Probiotics, Prebiotics Or Both ~ Lassi, Cheese & Kefir
This is Part IV of an ten-part article. Use the article index below to click among the pages. In this section, we take a look at brands of lassi and other dairy products that have probiotic, prebiotic and synbiotic benefits. Some of these products have only regional distribution. If they aren’t available in your area, you can ask your retailer to bring them in.
Unlike the faithful collie known to Americans (and spelled “Lassie”), lassi will be instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up in an area with a significant population from India. Lassi is a traditional chilled drink that originated in South Asia, hundreds of years ago or longer. While it is usually thought of as being made from a variety of flavorings and yogurt or buttermilk (there are savory as well as sweet versions), one manufacturer of this product disagrees. Dahlicious Lassi, based in Massachusetts, maintains that its product consists of lowfat milk blended with dahi, not yogurt. Their definition of dahi (also called dadhi), however, is “a light and creamy yogurt-like product.” Encyclopedia.com simply characterizes dadhi as “fermented milk.” In any case, this is clearly a cultured milk beverage, which contains five live cultures as well as the prebiotic inulin; the product’s label claims “15 billion Active Probiotic Cultures in every bottle” (a bottle is eight ounces). Distribution of this product appears limited mostly to New England, though I’ve also seen it in New Jersey. Their Mango-Go variety is the best commercial product of this type I’ve ever tried, with a lively, genuine mango flavor.
Lifeway Foods states that its lassi is “the feel-good beverage of the last 2,000 years” and defines it as an “Indian cultured milk smoothie”—a great description and one to which most Americans should be able to relate. While Lifeway doesn’t list the specific cultures it uses, nor the quantities of probiotics its lassi provides, the lassi also contains inulin. Distribution is widespread across most regions of the U.S.
Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery makes a kefir cheese. “Dexter” refers to the breed of cattle used on this small farm. This is a farmstead, raw milk cheese, made with genuine kefir grains, and aged for at least sixty days. The cattle are grass fed (pastured). The cheese ranges in color from whitish to cream, according to the cheesemaker, depending on time of year and what’s in the pasture when the cows graze. The cheese is said to have a tangy flavor. This is a strictly seasonal cheese with limited production. It will be available for sale online starting this July. The cheesemaker tells me that she’s done lab tests on cheese that was 80 or 90 days old and her probiotic counts were “very high” (she didn’t supply exact figures), so she knows that the probiotics survive the aging process.
Another probiotic-enhanced cheese is made by Bunker Hill Cheese Company and sold under the name of Heini’s Yogurt Cultured Cheese. This cheese has a bit of that yogurt tang to it, but it’s not so much that kids would shy away. Yogurt Cultured Cheese is made in eight flavors, including Garden Vegetable and Peppercorn & Chive (I like the unflavored Original). The cheese contains the cultures Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. casei, Streptococcus thermophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis.
The LiveActive line from Kraft includes Breakstone’s and Knudsen cottage cheese and Natural Cheese Snacks and Cheese Cubes. These products, the cornerstones of the LiveActive line, were launched in 2007.
Not much seems that new in the world of kefir since last year’s article. One newer kefir that I like, though, is the organic ProBugs line from Lifeway Foods. I know this product is meant for kids, but I don’t let a detail like that stop me from enjoying it. I like the Goo-Berry Pie, which is actually a somewhat tart kefir, without any of the artificial colors some manufacturers deem necessary to put into products designed for children. You can also choose between Sublime Slime Lime and Orange Creamy Crawler, if you’d prefer. All of these are synbiotics, as they contain inulin in addition to friendly bacteria. Parents will appreciate the somewhat-reduced sugar levels.