This is the second Super Food in our big series on foods you should eat more of.
Yogurt is fast becoming one of my favorite foods, if not for my tongue, for my intellect. Yes, yogurt feeds my brain physiologically, but the more I find out about the nutritional benefits of cultured dairy and probiotics, the more impressed I am. I try to eat yogurt at least once a day. Our little family of three goes through about a gallon every week and a half. Mmm, mmm, good.
This was not always the case. In fact, I hated yogurt until halfway through my first pregnancy. I was in a café at dinnertime and realized I needed more protein in my day. My options were slim. Cinnamon roll, baguette, coffee, Danish…you get the idea. I decided to tough it out and get down a yogurt parfait. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t that bad! I found out that vanilla yogurt in one brand fit my palate. From there, I was able to work my way up to the point where I can now eat plain yogurt with just a little honey sweetener and fruit or even with homemade cinnamon applesauce (unsweetened) mixed in.
Like with the beans, I’m going to try to compress a lot of information into some nice bulleted lists. Prepare to be in awe!
Nutrition of Yogurt
Yogurt will give you the following nutritional benefits:
- Protein (9 g/6-oz serving)
- Vitamins B2, B5 and B12
- Potassium and magnesium
- Iodine (almost 50% daily value in one cup)
- “Probiotics” (This is the big one!)
All those nutrients can improve your health:
- Prevent Osteoporosis
- Reduce the Risk of High Blood Pressure
- Helps gastrointestinal issues:
- Lactose intolerance
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- H. pylori infection
- Fight yeast infections
- Help you feel more full (good for dieters!)
- May fortify your immune system (since 80% of your immune system is in your gut)
- Improve cholesterol
- Lower LDL and raise HDL
- Protection against Ulcers
- Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
- Improve dental health
- Balances intestinal flora
- Improves eczema
- Decreased allergies
- Some positive affect on asthma
What is a probiotic?
A probiotic is the opposite of an “anti” biotic: healthy bacteria necessary for digestive function and life itself. Our digestive system is an ecosystem within us, native to 500 different species of bacteria. Population: over one hundred trillion strong. Phew! That’s a lot of campers to keep happy! Probiotics supply more fighting forces for the good guys. Because of course, out of Eden, there are always forces of evil trying to squirm their way in…
Why do I want healthy bacteria in my gut?
First, healthy digestion (what goes in is utilized and then, you know, comes out, preferably without much fuss) is always a plus.
Second, 80% of your immune system resides in your intestines. What you eat and the health of your gut has a major impact on your bodily health. “Approximately half of the body’s total enzyme production is used for digestion. Oddly enough, the body places a greater priority on digestion than on overall health.” (source)
Third, a large force of healthy bacteria keeps the bad bacteria out. Ever heard of salmonella, E. coli, or yeast infection (Candida)? Lots of healthy bacteria leaves no room for these guys to shoulder their way in.
How does yogurt provide healthy bacteria?
The two main bacteria in our intestines are Lactobacillus Acidophillus and Bifidobacteria, which are usually among the major players in yogurt. Yep, when you make yogurt, you are growing bacteria, the same little guys inhabiting your insides every day. Fortify the troops!
The Science of Yogurt-Making
Yogurt has two ingredients: milk and bacteria. You get the bacteria either from a storebought culture/starter or from plain yogurt. When you mix the yogurt or starter into your milk at the appropriate temperature for reproduction, it’s like a teenager having a growth spurt. The bacteria consume food (lactose, see below) and reproduce, thickening the milk as they fill the space. You can culture yogurt for as little as four hours or as long as a few days. Bacteria will continue to reproduce as long as they are under the proper conditions of temperature and space to grow. When you cool the yogurt in the fridge, reproduction stops and the consistency becomes…well…consistent.
This whole “growing bacteria” thing also means you shouldn’t sneeze on your yogurt as your stir in the culture.
What About Dairy Problems?
Yogurt is the coolest dairy product I can imagine. People who have problems digesting dairy cannot digest the lactose in milk. The guts of human infants and calves are two places you’ll find the enzyme necessary for digesting lactose. It’s called lactase, and many of us stop producing it when we’re no longer infants. You can deal with this by finding lactase in fresh milk (unpasteurized), or you can avoid lactose. When all that healthy bacteria reproduces as the yogurt cultures, it converts the lactose into lactic acid. This also help increase the absorption of calcium. When you eat yogurt, you’re consuming much less lactose than you’ll find in milk. The bacteria have eaten it for you. Culturing your yogurt 24 hours can get rid of almost all the lactose in the milk.
Antibiotics: Invasive Killers
Antibiotics are a good deal when you’re suffering from an ear infection. I got my first and only ear infection when I was an adult and my son was an infant. The irony was not lost on me, and I have a great deal of empathy for crying babes with owie ears! However, antibiotics run through your system and kill all sorts of the “good guys” that they can’t discriminate from the nasties. After taking antibiotics, your “intestinal flora” (fancy language for the bacteria in your gut) is off-balance, leaving you open to new inhabitants. Q: Which side will win the space? A: What kind are you going to eat? Consume yogurt with active cultures, and you’re sending reinforcements right where they belong. I might add that antibacterial soap can cause similar problems in our earth’s ecosystem, randomly killing all bacteria in sight.
Why Make Your Own Yogurt?
- You’re totally in charge of the ingredients
- You can culture long or short, depending on your taste and lactose preferences
- Waaaaaay cheaper
- I’ll show you how to make homemade yogurt so easily on Monday – no dishes, no fuss, no special contraptions!
Looking for other Food for Thought?
- Antibacterial Soap
- Supermarkets waste of food
- America’s Food Waste
- Energy Use
- Menu Planning
- Plastic Safety
I am a guest lecturer and partner with GNOWFGLINS eCourses, so I will earn commission from any sales made starting here. Of course, the courses are also an awesome way to learn to cook real food, so I’d gab about them anyway.