Category Archives: product review

Are These Garden of LIfe Probiotics Worth the Cost?

Garden of Life LogoI recently received the opportunity to review several Garden of Life products, including their line of Doctor Formulated Probiotics. In the spirit of full disclosure, please be aware I was given these products for free. I  tried two of them myself and gave the others to clients who volunteered to try them and report their results. As you read this review, it will be obvious the fact I received free product in no way influenced my review. I am brutally honest and am fully committed to always sharing the truth. Please note that some of the links shared in this post are affiliate links for which I receive a very small sum if you make a purchase after clicking the link. These small affiliate sums help pay the costs of maintaining this website.

I reviewed a meal replacement powder, several probiotics, and several organic multivitamins. The products I reviewed and my opinion of each follow. I’m covering the probiotic line first, as it’s one that has products marketed toward the entire family. I’ll review the other products in future articles.

Dr. Formulated Probiotics

This line of probiotics was formulated by Dr. Perlmutter, a renowned neurologist who is a recognized expert on nutrition, the gut-brain connection, gluten issues, and neurodegenerative disorders. The entire line includes broad spectrum probiotics with a high number of active cultures and a large number of bacterial strains. Each product is hypoallergenic, vegetarian, and free of gluten, dairy and soy.  The probiotics in each product are specially formulated to be resistant to stomach acid and bile so they reach the digestive tract. (Many probiotics on the market are not, so they are consumed by stomach acid and bile and never reach the digestive tract.) Those are all definite “pros” related to this line. 

It is also important to note that Garden of Life is the only manufacturer of OTC probiotics that ships them in refrigerated trucks. This ensures the probiotic strains stay viable. Most other manufacturers ship in regular trucks, which means the heat during the summer may very well diminish the potency of the products. Garden of Life shipped me the Prostate+ product in a cooler filled with ice packs. I was impressed. In spite of that, the cost required to do so doesn’t seem to have impacted the cost of these probiotics. They range in price from $21 for the children’s up to around $40 for the probiotic with the highest potency. Those prices are in line with similar probiotic products, and are less expensive than some which are only sold to doctor’s offices but which have fewer strains and lower potency.

The complete line includes general formulas and specific formulas for the following:

  • Mood+:  A combination of organic Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb known ot assist with stress, combined with probiotic strains known to help support neurotransmitter balance.
  • Prostate+:  A formula that combines organic herbal remedies known to support prostate health combined with specific probiotic strains known to do the same.
  • Urinary Tract Plus:  A combination of organic cranberry extract combined with Vitamin D and strains known to boost immunity to support the body’s natural ability to resist e coli.
  • Fitbiotic:  A combination of healthy organic fiber combined with probiotic strains known to support weight loss and blood sugar levels.
  • Once Daily Ultra:  This probiotic contains a whopping 90 billion active cultures and also contains lactobacillus gasseri, a strain known to support healthy blood sugar levels. Not many probiotics on the market contain that strain.
  • Once Daily Women’s:  A nice blend specifically designed for women’s physiology. Is shelf stable, meaning it maintains its potency without being refrigerated. (However, for best results I don’t recommend storing these in hot, steamy bathrooms.)
  • Once Daily Men’s:  The counterpart to the women’s version. My male clients liked only having to take one capsule per day.
  • Children’s Plus Chewable:  A nice blend that includes 5 billion active cultures along with Vitamin C and Vitamin D in an organic, all-natural tablet that actually tastes good. I have many clients who found their kids didn’t get sick as often when they happily ate one of these each morning during the winter.

It’s a simple fact that most of us need a probiotic and would benefit from taking one every day. I like this line and especially like that it contains strains of probiotics that most OTC probiotics do not. I’ve used the 

I like this line and I especially like the products designed to support specific systems. In the midst of that, be aware that the specific support products aren’t designed to be used alone. They should always be used as part of a support program and not used as the sole product. It would be impossible to include therapeutic doses of additional support ingredients in a single dose, so the products for specific systems don’t contain a large enough quantity of additional ingredients to provide a strong amount of therapeutic support. 

My clients who used these products reported the following:

  • Several saw improvements in digestion, ranging from being more regular to having less indigestion. One saw loose stools completely disappear. She had resisted using a probiotic prior to this, even though I had recommended it repeatedly.
  • More than one reported feeling more energy throughout the day.
  • A male client who was using the Prostate+ product said everyone in his office came down with a nasty virus, but he skated through without so much as a sniffle.
  • A client who used Urinary Tract+ said, “I liked knowing this provided extra support, but really think the D-Mannose I was taking helped prevent UTIs more than this did.” 
  • One client had mild detox symptoms associated with having harmful bacteria in her gut die off. Those symptoms disappeared once we reduced her dosage from once daily to once every-other day. She was able to return to a once-daily dose two weeks later, and I recommended other steps to help improve the balance of good and bad bacteria in her digestive tract.

The only “cons” I found with this line of probiotics were related to the fact the products marketed to benefit specific systems don’t contain therapeutic doses of additional nutrients, and that this line can only be purchased online or in specialty health food stores. Those are paltry issues when compared to the other benefits of these probiotics.

Are they worth the money? In my opinion, that answer to that question is a definite YES.

A Closer Look at Panera Bread’s New “Green” Smoothie

Panera Bread recently added a new “green” smoothie to their line of specialty drinks. Good for them! I applaud their efforts to add healthier options to their menu. I do, however, have a few concerns.

Green Smoothie

Please note this is a general picture of a green smoothie and is NOT an example of any products sold by Panera Bread.

The nutritional information for the smoothie states a 12.5 oz serving contains:

190 calories
49 g carbohydrates
4 g fiber (More on this below)
2 g protein
0 g fat

Although I still think this smoothie is a better option than much of the Panera menu, I have the following concerns:

  • The high amount of carbohydrates (and calories) and low amount of fiber concerns me. Part of the reason this “smoothie” is so low in fiber is that they are using vegetable juice concentrates instead of making a true smoothie using real veggies. Had they used the real thing instead of juice concentrates, the fiber content would be much higher. Fiber serves to slow the digestion and absorption of carbs.
  • This smoothie contains more than three servings of carbs in a paltry 12.5 ounces. That means every ounce contains about 4 g of carbs. That is an incredibly high amount of carbs and is a concern. A teaspoon of sugar contains 4.2 g of carbs, so this smoothie is very similar to plain table sugar in terms of carbohydrate load. (It does have more nutrients, but sugar is sugar as far as the body is concerned.) Before ordering this smoothie, please pause to consider that the sugar content is the same as eating 12.5 teaspoons of sugar.
  • The other ingredients in the smoothie and the lack of fiber definitely give this item an extremely high glycemic impact, meaning it will raise blood glucose levels to a high level very quickly. This is NOT a good option if you have any form of blood glucose or metabolic imbalance. It is also NOT a good option for weight control.

Ingredients Breakdown

The ingredients identified on the Panera website are: Vegetable and fruit base (apple [juice, puree and juice concentrate], pineapple puree, kale, celery and cucumber juice concentrates, water, fruit and vegetable juice concentrates [color], lemon juice, pectin, natural flavors, vitamins [vitamin C, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12], spirulina), water, banana.

Let’s look at these ingredients more closely … 

  • They are adding pectin as a thickener. Again, if they would use real vegetables, no thickener would be needed. Most pectin used today is derived from non-organic fruits which may be genetically modified. Pectin has zero nutritional value, so it disappoints me that Panera is using a highly-processed additive instead of real, whole foods.
  • Vitamins: The fact they are adding vitamins means they are adding synthetic vitamins which cannot be easily absorbed. Again, simply using real food would eliminate the need for synthetic additives.
  • Natural Flavors: If you’ve done much reading about food ingredients, the term “natural” is not regulated. Some “natural flavors” are known to include GMOs, MSG, plastics, animal extracts, and/or food allergens. It is difficult to say which flavorings have been added to this smoothie, but the term “natural flavors” always makes me a bit leery. After all, if they were simply adding a cucumber extract, they would say so. The fact they aren’t willing to name the specific product being used is a warning sign. If you’re not drinking one of these daily, the exposure is probably minimal, but be aware of the potential.

So there you have it. What are your thoughts about these new smoothies?

Reference Information:

Panera Nutrition Information: Click the “ingredients” link to view ingredients