Mondays With Millie: Probiotics in Your Diet- Yogurt

Yogurt Topped with Cashews and Coconut

Have you seen the commercials sharing how eating (a certain brand) of yogurt can improve your digestive health?

It’s true, yogurt is a great way to add probiotics, enzymes and beneficial bacteria to your diet. Unfortunately, most commercial yogurts also add heavy doses of  ingredients that you may be trying to avoid on your real food journey.  Overly processed and GMO laden, high fructose corn syrup is often the sweetener used in flavored yogurts.  Preservatives and natural flavorings, that probably are not as natural as you think, are also common in commercial flavored yogurts.  Plus the fact that it is extremely difficult to find a full-fat flavored yogurt and the low fat products are often made with the addition of powdered milk which is high in oxidized cholesterol which can cause heart disease and cancer.

So what should you do? If yogurt is beneficial to our digestive health how can we get those benefits without all the ‘stuff’ we can do without?

Buy it Plain

One option would be to choose a full-fat plain yogurt.  This will allow you to get the probiotics, enzymes and beneficial bacteria (usually) without the HFCS and other things.  Read the label and choose a plain yogurt with as few ingredients as possible.  Some brands offer cream top yogurt which is (usually) made from milk that has not been homogenized. I like Brown Cow brand full fat plain yogurt.  The flavor is great and the ingredient list is short. Unfortunately, it is not organic but I do think it is an okay compromise. But our first choice is to make our own yogurt.

Make Your Own

I started making yogurt several years ago, actually before we ever started on this real food journey.  Then I used to make it with low fat milk and the addition of powdered milk since that was what my recipe called for. Now, for reasons mentioned above, we use whole, raw milk and avoid powdered milk.

The original method that I used for making yogurt was in the crock pot. This is a very simple way of making yogurt but does take some time. In fact, all yogurt making is simple but time is required.  Here is the method for making crock pot yogurt.   If you have access to raw milk (and the budget for using raw milk for other than drinking) substitute it for the whole milk called for in the recipe. If you don’t have raw milk you can use pasteurized milk (non-homogenized is great if you can find that) and improve the nutritional profile of the pasteurized milk.  Or you could use pasteurized cream that you have diluted with water.

The crock pot method worked well for me until one day it didn’t seem to work as well. I can’t explain the difference but I started noticing my batches of yogurt had an almost stringy consistency.  I decided to try a different yogurt making method to see if we could get back to the wonderful thick texture we were used to.  This method from Shannon at Nourishing Days was the answer.  We love the consistency of the yogurt made in the cooler. It does take a small amount more of hands-on time. The milk must be heated and then cooled and then the yogurt starter is added in and then it is put in jars and wrapped in the cooler. But it is not overly difficult.  And again, most of the time is spent waiting.

There are several other methods for making yogurt including buying an actual yogurt maker. I’ve not tried those but you could certainly do a little bit of research and see if a different method sounds like it would work for you.

A couple of months ago I changed my yogurt making method again.  I had always felt a little bit ‘bad’ about heating my raw milk to use for yogurt. While it makes delicious yogurt I wanted to preserve as many of the beneficial qualities of the raw milk as possible. I decided it was time to try a counter-top yogurt. These yogurts are raw when made with raw milk.  The yogurt starter comes powdered and then a mother culture is created. The milk used in the mother culture is heated to 160 degrees in order to destroy anything that might compete with the yogurt culture.  This mother is then used as the starter for the raw yogurt. Add 1 tablespoon of mother culture to each cup of raw milk, stir, cover with a cloth and set in a 70 degree (ish) spot.  Around 24 hours later you’ll have yogurt. This counter top yogurt is a little bit thinner than crock pot or cooler yogurt but still a great consistency. We are using the Viili culture and love it.  If you wanted a thicker yogurt you could strain it through a coffee filter or similar item for a few hours.  I do that sometimes if I wish to make a yogurt based dip.

Yogurt on the Road

As you read this my family is on a 2 week long road trip. Our yogurt mother culture has been invited along on the trip.  While we will have access to raw milk on part of the trip we’ll use non-homogenized pasteurized milk as needed on the road.  Using pasteurized milk eliminates the need to heat the milk for the mother culture which makes things even easier when living out of hotel rooms.  All we’ll need to make yogurt will be a jar, something to stir with, milk, mother culture and a cloth to cover.  This will be a great way to keep our guts healthy when our diets may not be quite as good as usual.  You can read more about our road trip at my blog, Real Food for Less Money- Real Food Hits the Road.

Have you tried making yogurt? What method did you use?


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