Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to quit making excuses for not eating probiotics every. single. day.
I’ve been teaching people to make homemade yogurt for over six years now (saving hundreds, if not a thousand dollars per year on my food budget!!), and I know that while not everyone has time to make their own (about 20-40 minutes a week), I still maintain that there’s no (good) excuse for not just buying it from the store.
I’m tired of hearing people proliferate the lie that commercial yogurt is DEAD.
Cut Yourselves some Slack, People!
Just because it’s in a package in the store doesn’t always mean that it is a highly processed, awful, food-like substance not to be touched with a ten foot pole if you care about your family.
It’s easy for real food blog readers to become over-skeptical about the entire world, really, with all the things you’re told to “beware” of these days.
And it’s true that food processing has done little good for our health as a culture.
But not everything in the grocery store will be for your ultimate ruin!
Here’s the thing – Yes, store yogurt is made from pasteurized milk, just like ice cream and cheese and every other commercial dairy product.
But then it’s cultured. With live cultures.
Almost any yogurt you buy will say “live and active cultures” and list them out. The MILK is pasteurized, but if they pasteurized the yogurt again they couldn’t say “live and active cultures.” It would be the biggest scam in the food industry since Crisco claiming it was healthier than lard. 😉
Plus it would be totally illegal.
If Perfection is Your Goal…
Sometimes I think that we set our standards too high.
All milk must be raw, 100% grassfed, unhomogenized, delivered in glass jars and from the exact right breed of cows pastured in a small field in northern Canada that has been triple-tested for pollution.
All vegetables must be from heirloom seed, grown in ten-year organic soil with added minerals and hand-picked by African tribal women, packaged in untreated cotton bags.
All meat must have three pages of information certifying that it’s exactly…
I’m tired just writing out the tongue-in-cheek version.
Yes, I buy grassfed meat (but not 100%).
Yes, I buy raw milk (but I don’t freak out about non-organic cheese or ice cream).
Yes, I have a local, sustainable CSA delivering veggies and fruits to my house this year (but they’re not certified organic).
I’m all about doing the best I can for my family, prioritizing where I spend my time and money, and keeping the balance – it’s what Kitchen Stewardship has been about since its inception.
And I think if you don’t have time to make homemade yogurt from organic, grassfed milk, and if you don’t need the cost savings – for Heaven’s sake, buy some yogurt from the store.
Some probiotics are better than no probiotics, and it makes a great snack (unsweetened – add your own fresh or frozen fruit and honey if you must, but see if you can wean that down using these tips).
Still no trust? I tested it myself
Let go. It’s not “dead.” I promise.
I know for certain yogurt can’t be pasteurized and dead because I use store yogurt of all sorts of brands to start my culture for my homemade yogurt.
The Kimball test kitchen does not lie!
People who get uppity about store yogurt not being a source of probiotics because it’s pasteurized are just being uppity. 😉
I’d rather see you begin to integrate this easy source of probiotics into your diet than feel paralyzed because you might not be doing it “right,” and end up not incorporating good bacteria at all. (It’s so important for your own microbiome that you consume probiotics regularly!)
Yogurt is not the best source of probiotics out there though, not the panacea Dannon Activia would have us believe.
As for commercial kefir, as long as the labels says “live and active cultures” it should work the same. Much kefir has too much sugar (same with yogurt) so the other ingredients are really what you want to look out for, the sweeteners and additives.
You can’t really culture something from kefir without the “grains” so I can’t test it quite as easily as the yogurt.
But Food Babe Says Not to…
If you read Food Babe’s post about things that are in commercial yogurt that aren’t labeled, it’s easy to get scared off or to think you can only buy premium organic brand yogurt (for big bucks) if you want to get the health benefits and avoid the scary stuff.
But if you slow down and really read each point – 95% of what she lists are NOT a concern if you buy plain, whole milk, unsweetened, unflavored yogurt.
The only points left are the problems with conventional dairy in general (which is a bummer, but it’s not like that is “unlabeled” or unknown if you’ve done your reading) and the foaming agent she mentions (maybe – although the rest of the fearful post makes me question whether this is really a concern or just an exaggeration).
So rather than get scared off and skip the yogurt, just buy plain, full fat yogurt.
It’s that simple.
Or make your own, of course – my method creates zero dishes – but that’s not what this post is about.
But Research Says it Doesn’t Even Make me Healthier!
I was surprised this spring to see headlines proclaiming new research that proved “regular consumption of yogurt does not improve health.”
I’d love to dig more into the research, but my hunch is this: the yogurt was sweetened, or not recorded one way or the other.
Consuming the sort of highly sweetened yogurt that is the norm in America (the research was done in Spain) could certainly mitigate any positive probiotic effects with the negative effects of all that sugar!
I’m curious to know more about the parameters: what measures of health were inspected (for example, calcium and bone health was mentioned as a benefit of yogurt consumption, not probiotics), what other probiotic foods (or not) were participants eating, and of course the sugar.
If you’ve got any info for us on this study, I’d love to hear it!
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 – no dishes, no fuss, no special contraptions!
Just Take the Baby Step
If you’re not eating probiotic food at least daily, then cut the excuses – take the baby step.
Buy some plain yogurt, figure out how you like to eat it best, and make a goal that you’ll eat one whole 32-oz. tub in a week.
You can do it!
I’ve been eating daily yogurt for about 8 years now, and even though I despised yogurt until my mid-20s, I can’t imagine life without it now. My 3yo keeps begging me to introduce it to our 7mo – I can tell he thinks little Gabe is missing out on the best mooshy food there is! (We’ll get there by the way – he’s only eaten about four foods thus far, so we’re taking it slowly and I like to wait until 8 months for dairy, although I realize as I type this that may be a leftover habit from 10-year-old pediatrician advice…)
My own baby step this weekend was to re-commit to eating more cultured foods, ones that have even more strains of healthy bacteria than our daily yogurt: I bought some live-cultured kimchi from a WAPF farm stand and I’m ordering some dairy kefir cultures from Wise Choice Market as soon as I get to that item on my to-do list. I am determined to get my husband to do the same after his hair analysis test recommended dairy kefir, so we’ll see how that goes!
I have made and enjoyed homemade kimchi before, and I loved the spiciness of it – I don’t think this jar that I purchased will be quite the same, but hopefully I’ll like it! I’ll eat it either way…
Sometimes, it’s not about getting it perfect.
It’s not about avoiding all the possible things in this world that could hurt your body.
It’s not even about doing the very best thing for your health right now.
Sometimes, it’s just about doing something, taking one baby step that you think will help your health or move you along the real food journey, even just a little.
Commit to it today, whether you make homemade yogurt or go out and buy an unsweetened tub.
Tell us here for some accountability!
Other Probiotics Posts
- How to make homemade yogurt (the easy way)
- The definitive homemade yogurt troubleshooting guide
- How to make yogurt cheese and whey (or Greek yogurt!)
- How to eat plain yogurt with less sweetener
- How to dehydrate yogurt
- How to incorporate probiotics into your day
- The probiotic supplement my family takes
- The trick to perfect (thick!) raw milk yogurt
- Room temp yogurt
- Health benefits of yogurt
Disclosure: Links to Wise Choice Market are affiliate links and I will earn commission.
Need More Baby Steps?
Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.
That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and made a printable checklist so you can track your progress.
Sign up to get the checklist and weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.