What's the Fuss
by Paulette Millis
We hear a lot about yogurt and its benefits. In this article I plan to clarify whether or not yogurt is something you may wish to add to your diet, offer some alternatives to making yogurt with cow's milk, and include instructions for buying good quality yogurt and/or making your own.
Yogurt probably originated with the need to preserve fresh milk. Some cultures simply allow the milk to sour, producing a product called "clabber." Others add a culture, after boiling the milk to remove any undesirable bacteria. When I was growing up, we had fresh raw milk, and when we had extra, my mother often let it sit out overnight to sour. Though we never had yogurt, she used this sour milk to make cottage cheese by placing it in a cheesecloth and letting it drain overnight. Many rural Americans used raw milk to make clabber and cottage cheese.
In the early 1900s, the predominant organism that was first identified in Bulgaria was "lactobacillus bulgaricus." This culture was used to make yogurt and was believed to colonize the intestine. Research eventually showed that, although this culture could change the composition of the feces, the effect was temporary. It has been discovered in the last couple of decades that "lactobacillus acidophilus," a milk-fermenting culture, does colonize the intestine and can remain permanently.
During the souring and/or culturing process, lactose is broken down to lactic acid; therefore, soured products are more easily tolerated by those who are sensitive to, or have an allergy to, milk sugar (lactose).
In addition to the benefit of reduced lactose, the bacteria also act on the milk protein (casein) so that it is, in effect, pre-digested. This further increases the benefit of yogurt over milk, even raw milk, for its ease in digestibility.
Many people are allergic or sensitive to all forms of dairy products, usually due to the lactose as mentioned, or an allergy to casein, the protein in milk. No matter the benefits of yogurt, it may be necessary for these people to refrain from ALL dairy products to maintain or regain their health.
Experiment with other yogurt products (see recipe section) such as goat's milk yogurt, whose fat and protein molecules are much smaller, therefore easier to digest. Goat's milk takes 20 minutes to digest, whereas cow's milk takes approximately two hours. (Rohe) Soy yogurt is available in many health food stores. In addition to the goat's milk and soy milk yogurt, you may wish to try making a form of yogurt using seeds, rice milk, or a mixture of ingredients based on bee pollen and honey (see recipe below).
Making your own yogurt ensures you will be avoiding various additives, such as gelatin and vegetable gums added for thickness, fruited yogurts, artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, and sugars. Some fruited yogurts say "no sugar added"—this disguises the fact that many fruit preserves bought by the manufacturer to flavour the yogurt already had sugar and corn syrup added. They may not ADD any sugar, but the yogurt is loaded with it.
Another concern with most commercially-made yogurts is that they are often made with the "flash" method, which takes about three hours. Homemade yogurt may take seven to eight hours for the full development of the culture process.
NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL INFORMATION
Yogurt contains vitamins A, D, and many of the B-complex vitamins. One cup of regular yogurt has approximately 152 calories, low fat has 124 calories, and commercially-flavoured yogurt 263 calories. (Exploring the Yogurt Mystique, Dr. Mort Walker.) Yogurt contains 12 grams of protein per one cup and 174 mg of calcium.
It is necessary to repopulate the intestines with beneficial lactobacilli, especially L. acidophilus for the small intestines and bifidobacteria for the large intestines. This restoration of healthy intestinal flora improves the digestive function, the immune system, and overall health due to the excellent antibiotic properties. These antibiotic substances produced are likely what is responsible for subduing undesirable bowel microbes that would otherwise continue to grow. Homemade fermented yogurt can replace or be used in addition to the capsules or powders available. It makes good sense to use acidophilus cultures, three times a day, either yogurt or capsules, when one is taking antibiotics, because these drugs overwhelm all bacteria, good and bad.
Yogurt is the perfect antidote for Montezuma's revenge, so eat plenty of yogurt before and after travelling.
Yogurt based on cow's milk is often mucus-forming and is high in estrogen, which is not good for various female cancers. For those who wish to follow the blood group diet, cow's milk is acceptable only for blood group B and possibly AB. If you are not sensitive to cow's milk, then the cow's milk yogurt is best made with fresh organic raw cow's milk. Organic full fat milk would be the next best choice.
Preparing yogurt from skim milk powder produces a much higher lactose content than yogurt from full fat milk. The higher the lactose content, the more lymph channels and glands become congested with mucus. Walter Last, in his book The Natural Way to Heal, states that many people can vary, at will, the number of influenza bouts, colds, and other respiratory infections just by varying lactose content and ingestion. As asthma can develop from an accumulation of mucus in the lungs, it is wise to be aware and monitor the effects of all dairy ingestion, including yogurt.
If you are on a diet low in cow's milk, you may try the goat's milk yogurt, but check with your health practitioner and watch for return of symptoms. Soy yogurt is becoming very popular, but I don't recommend soy for habitual use. In addition to the fact that soy is a goitrogen, it often has GMOs, and unfermented soy is high in anti-nutrients (inhibits protein digestion). (Walter Last). It may be best to buy non-dairy acidophilus capsules. These should be in brown glass bottles to protect them from light.
Because the protein is pre-digested and because of the presence of lactic acid and beneficial bacteria, yogurt is an excellent baby food. Babies often like the sour lactic acid taste that many adults do not. Add mashed bananas, or pureed fruit or veggies, or soft-boiled egg yolk.
The late Joseph Metzger, owner of Dannon Yogurt, says to allow yogurt to sit, uncovered, at room temperature for 15 minutes before eating.
Table of Lactose Content
of Dairy Products
|(The Natural Way to Heal, Walter Last)
|Cheese, cottage cheese
|Yogurt and ice cream (with skim milk powder)
In addition to yogurt being beneficial for digestion and restoring bowel bacteria, it also reduces flatulence, is helpful for constipation, is great for hangovers, relieves itchy skin, works wonders for vaginal infections by restoring beneficial bacteria, and many women say it has helped with bladder infections.
Yogurt works well as a facial. When mixed with oil, it protects the skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays. For sunburn, apply it heavily to remove the heat and then dab it off with cotton dipped in cold water.
BUYING, STORING, AND USING
Buy commercial yogurt with the least number of ingredients. Check for additives and the content of cultures. Organic full fat yogurt is the best nutritional choice.
Most commercial yogurt cultures contain freeze-dried bacteria S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus. Try to find one with acidophilus and bifido cultures. You may use yogurt as a starter, or a packaged yogurt starter for the initial batch of homemade yogurt. Succeeding batches made from the resulting yogurt will eventually have altered composition. One type of bacteria begins to dominate, and as other, harmless, airborne bacteria join the yogurt and begin to multiply, the acidity level changes. It is then time to buy a new envelope of starter to begin a new series of batches. On average, this is about eight weeks if you make yogurt weekly.
Store all yogurt in the fridge, although you may remove it 15 minutes prior to eating.
Yogurt is wonderful plain; in smoothies; with fruit added; add seeds; add granola; natural sweeteners such as brown rice syrup, stevia, or agave. Substitute it for sour cream, use as a salad dressing base, make cream soups, sauces, and put a dollop on rice and/or veggies. Mix yogurt half-and-half with fresh fruit or fresh vegetable juice for an energizing refreshing drink.
Yogurt can be substituted for milk in baking by adding one-half teaspoon of baking soda per cup of yogurt. Use equal amounts of yogurt for milk.
For the ultimate treat buy an ice cream freezer and use it for making healthy frozen yogurt ice cream. The live culture most often does not survive freezing, so don't rely on yogurt ice cream to repopulate the intestinal flora!
1 quart or litre of whole milk, either cow's milk or goat's milk. Try soy milk, if desired.
yogurt culture (either 2 tbsp of plain yogurt as the culturing agent, or a package of culture)
2 tbsp dry non-fat milk powder, if desired, for thicker, creamier yogurt
If the yogurt you use for a starter fails to work, it probably means the yogurt was weakly cultured. Use it in cooking and try another brand next time. If you add more culture to the milk, it will thicken the yogurt up to a point, then it won't make it any thicker. Too much culture makes yogurt extra tart and crowds the bacteria; too little makes it not gel.
- Rinse a heavy stainless or glass pan with cold water before adding milk to help prevent scorching.
- Heat milk to scalding 170°F (77°C) so it kills the bacteria that interfere with the yogurt process. Heat the milk slowly at low to medium temperature. It foams up into a rolling boil. Use a candy thermometer.
- Allow the milk to cool for about one-half hour, until the temperature is 120°F (50°C). Now is the time to add the milk powder, if using. Whisk the milk powder in a separate bowl with some of the heated milk, then stir this in with the rest of the milk.
- The milk should then be cooled to 115°F (45°C), which is the ideal temperature to add the culture. Add the culture to the heated milk and stir thoroughly. If the milk is too hot it will kill the culture, and if it is not hot enough the culture will not grow. Test the temperature by placing a clean finger in the milk. If it doesn't hurt when you keep it still but is painful when you swish it around, then the milk is at exactly the right temperature.
- Pour the mixture into a covered glass or earthen container (metal may be eroded by the acidity) and incubate. Or use a commercial yogurt maker.
- Check the yogurt at intervals by gently tilting the container. When the yogurt has thickened enough to lean away from the side, then it is ready to be placed in the refrigerator where it will gel as it cools. Or put a chopstick in the centre of the yogurt and if it stands by itself it is ready. The first batch from a powdered culture may take from four to 15 hours to "make" but subsequent batches may need less time. If it stands too long it will become too tart. Refrigerating it earlier results in a sweeter, mellower yogurt, and "ripening" it in the refrigerator for at least six to eight hours is best. If liquid whey develops on the top, either pour it off or stir it in.
- Suggestions for incubating: (a) Use a wide mouth thermos; (b) Use a glass jar which you can cover with a fibre-filled or down sleeping bag; (c) Place the jar on top of a heating pad set to low; (d) Put in an electric oven & set at warm, or a gas oven with the pilot light only; (e) In an ice chest filled with warm water at 115°F; (f) Set a glass jar outside in the summer sun in an area sheltered from the wind; (g) Use a commercial yogurt maker.
- Refrigerate the yogurt.
Cook soaked organic brown rice in plenty of water. After cooling, blend and strain. Add starter culture and two teaspoons of raw honey to the strained rice water. Rice yogurt does not set, so drink it when it turns slightly sour or smells slightly fermented. You can make rice milk by blending and straining sprouted brown rice. This is sweet enough by itself and needs no honey. (Walter Last)
FERMENTED HONEY DRINK
Add yogurt starter to one quart of water. Then add 5 to 10 teaspoons of pollen, 2 or 3 teaspoons of raw honey, 1 or 2 teaspoons of kelp powder, and if you like, several teaspoons of spirulina, chlorella, or cereal grass powder. Experiment and use more or less of the indicated amounts. It does not set, as with rice milk, and is best used when it starts frothing and tastes somewhat acidic. (Walter Last)
BASIC YOGURT CREAM CHEESE
Line a colander with cheesecloth. Spoon 3 to 4 cups of yogurt into the lined bowl. Let it drain 12 to 24 hours. The longer it drips, the drier it will be. Remove from cheesecloth and use as regular cream cheese. Do not cook with this cream cheese as it will separate. Two variations are:
Herbed Cream Cheese:
1-1/2 cups of yogurt cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp minced parsley
1 tsp dried herbs (combination of dill, savory, tarragon, rosemary, thyme)
Mix and serve.
Sweet Yogurt Cheese:
1-1/2 cups yogurt cream cheese
2 tbsp minced raisins
1 tbsp chopped almonds
1-1/2 tsp honey
1-1/2 tsp orange juice concentrate
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon.
Mix and serve.
RUSSIAN SALAD DRESSING (Fred Rohe)
1-1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
(use healthy mayo only)
(may use less yogurt and more mayo depending on desired tastes)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp minced parsley
1/4 tsp powdered dill
1/4 tsp powdered tarragon
Mix all ingredients together, chill, and serve.
References: The Natural Way to Heal, Walter Last; Diet and Nutrition, Rudolph Ballantine, MD; The Complete Book of Natural Foods, Fred Rohe; Menopause, A Positive Approach, Rosetta Reitz.
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a counsellor and nutritional consultant. Her book, Eat Away Illness, and cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, are available in health food stores or by calling Paulette at (306) 244-8890, emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting www.healingwithnutrition.ca.