To the waffle house

How often do you eat health food for breakfast? If you start your day with a bowl of fruit, your answer would probably be “every day.” But what if you indulge in a nice waffle or a stack of pancakes? Does that sound like “health food”?

Turns out, it can be – if you use the right ingredients.

Breakfast in Madrid

When I think of Spain I generally don’t think of waffles, but a recent study from a team of researchers in Madrid sheds new light on the healthy aspects of buckwheat – an ingredient that’s probably most common in waffle and pancake recipes.

Buckwheat is a hardy and nutritious fruit. That’s right – technically it’s not a grain but a fruit that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids. Knowing this, the Madrid researchers wanted to find out if buckwheat might also act as a prebiotic – a non-digestible carbohydrate that prompts the growth of “friendly” bacteria (probiotics) in the digestive tract.

For 30 days the scientists fed 10 laboratory rats a diet that included buckwheat. An additional group of 10 rats were fed the same diet, but without buckwheat. At the end of the trial, the intestines of the rats were analyzed and compared. Researchers found that the rats receiving buckwheat had a significantly greater amount of friendly bacteria than those of the control group, as well as three types of beneficial bacteria that were not present in the controls.

Although these results reinforce the potential health benefits of buckwheat, this is, admittedly, not exactly groundbreaking research. But it does serve to point up the importance of prebiotics and probiotics.

The good, the bad, and the flora

In both e-Alerts and Members Alerts we’ve written many times about the necessity of probiotic organisms. In a healthy individual, these beneficial bacteria inhabit the digestive tract in massive numbers, crowding out harmful bacteria, aiding digestion, and supporting immune function. This healthy “gut flora” produces valuable nutrients (including certain B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids), digestive enzymes like lactase, and immune chemicals that fight harmful bacteria and even cancer cells.

But this critical ecosystem is fragile and easily disturbed. For instance, some types of antibiotics can completely kill off the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Steroid drugs like cortisone and prednisone, as well as birth-control pills and chemotherapy can also upset your gut flora. In addition, poor nutrition or digestion can impair the efficiency of intestinal bacteria, as can stress, trauma, surgery, or parasitic infestation.

When the number or activity level of your good bacteria drops too low, it opens the door for harmful bacteria to proliferate, allowing the opportunity for diseases to develop.

Keeping it balanced

Sufficient amounts of intestinal flora can be maintained through dietary sources such as cultured products (like yogurt and kefir), and lignans (like flaxseed, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, millet, andbuckwheat). But while the digestive tract can be “re-colonized” by introducing enough good bacteria to overpower the bad bacteria, dietary sources alone can’t provide organisms in the vast numbers required to correct an imbalance. For this, a high-potency probiotic nutritional supplement is necessary.

Unfortunately, most probiotic supplements are ineffective. In a recent test, researchers sampled three dozen probiotic products bought at random from health-food-stores, including a number of “leading” brands. Fewer than one in five of the products sampled delivered the number of viable organisms guaranteed on the labels, and several brands fell short by 90 percent or more. One brand even contained harmful bacteria.

In an HSI Members Alert we sent you in September 1998, we told you about a supplement manufacturer (Vitamin Research Products) that had just developed an air- and moisture-proof manufacturing technology that allowed them to produce a potent new strain of good bacteria without compromising its viability or potency. The new strain is called Lactobacillus G.G., and the supplement that contains it is Culturelle. When refrigerated, Culturelle is guaranteed to provide an astonishing 20 billion live microorganisms per capsule, even after six months of storage. It has also been shown to be completely free of competing strains or harmful contamination.

For more information about Culturelle, you can visit the Vitamin Research Products web site (, or call them at 800-877-2447.

I’ll bring the juice

So if you indulge in a stack of buckwheat pancakes or a buckwheat waffle for breakfast, you’ll be getting a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and perhaps also a prebiotic source that your digestive system just can’t get enough of.

And if you top it off with buckwheat honey (a very dark grade of honey), you’ll also get the benefits of a much higher level of antioxidants than lighter honeys (see the e-Alert “A Bouquet Of Flowerets” 8/21/02).

That’s a win-win breakfast right there. (Now, if I could only find the time for fresh pancakes in the morning.)


To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute

“Role of Buckwheat Diet on Rats as Prebiotic and Healthy Food” Nutrition Research, Volume 23, Issue 6, June 2003, pp 803-814,
“Bucking the Health Trend” Nutra Ingredients, 6/11/03,