Probiotic yogurt or live yogurt as it is also known, has been consumed in many different cuisines around the world since ancient times. Nomadic herdsmen are believed to be the first consumers of probiotic yogurt, begining the tradition approximately 9,000 years ago when man first began keeping animals. Originally, the fermentation of milk to produce yogurt is thought to have occurred naturally by wild bacteria and quite by accident. However, the herdsmen soon learned to culture the milk themselves, making their own probiotic yogurt.
Today probiotic yogurt is still consumed by many different cultures worldwide. In the United States, live yogurt is the most popular probiotic food. Over recent years, as Americans have begun to recognise the benefits of probiotic foods, US consumption of probiotic yogurt has increased. Although on the rise however, US consumption of live yogurt is considerably lower than that in either Europe or the Middle East.
Live yogurts are usually made from animal milks to which the following probiotic bacteria are added:
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus
The milk is most commonly from cows though probiotic yogurts made from goat, sheep or even water buffalo milk are also available. Likewise probiotic yogurts made using soy milk are becoming increasingly popular.
Health Benefits of Probiotic Yogurt
As well as being very nutritious – yogurt contains calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and protein - various research studies have concluded that yogurt is beneficial to health. While more research is needed, eating probiotic yogurt on a regular basis is thought to provide the following health benefits:
- Improved immune ability to resist and recover from infection1.
- Prevention of vaginal yeast and bacterial infections2.
- Lowering of LDL "bad" cholesterol whilst raisng HDL “good” cholesterol levels3.
- Reduction of blood pressure4.
- Improvement in gastrointestinal conditions such as antibiotic-induced diarrhea5, constipation6,lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease, and helicobacter pylori infection and treatment efficacy7,8.
Go try some – see what it could do for you!
Uses of Probiotic Yogurt
If you’re like most people, you probably eat your yogurt as a dessert. However there are numerous other ways to enjoy yogurt. One super easy way of including probiotic yogurt in your daily diet is simply by replacing your usual yogurt with a probiotic one. Other easy ways to include probiotic yogurt in your diet include:
- On your morning breakfast cereal as a replacement for milk.
- As a snack with fresh fruit.
- Use it in place of milk in your smoothies.
- Mixed with cucumber, garlic and/or lemon and eaten as a cold savory sauce or dip.
There are some wonderful and simple recipes for making cold yogurt sauces, as well as other probiotic foods in Sally Fallon’s excellent book,
by Sandor Elliz Katz.
Buying Probiotic Yogurt
Probiotic yogurt can be purchased in most grocery stores. It is available in many different forms including regular, low fat to fat-free, chilled or frozen, flavored and unflavored. Additionally and increasingly you can also buy probiotic yogurt in tubes, which can be squeezed into your mouth. Be wary though, not all of these products as as wholesome and healthy as they appear!
Sorting through all the probiotic yogurt options to find one that will deliver the health benefits of probiotics can seem a daunting task but, armed with a little information, you will be able to do this in minutes. Let us show you how to choose a quality probiotic yogurt.
Check the Label for Probiotic or Live Bacteria
All probiotic yogurt, or live yogurt as it is also sold, contains live probiotic bacteria. To determine whether the probiotic yogurt you are looking at is live, look on the label for the words "contains live/active/probiotic" cultures. Only those with words to this effect on the label will contain live probiotics. Watch out for products stating "made with live/active/probiotic cultures". Such products are likely to have undergone heat-treatment (pasteurization), which kills live bacteria.
All probiotic yogurts are made using bacteria from the Lactobaccillus family along with Streptococcus thermophilus. Some probiotic yogurts also contain other strains of live bacteria. Ingesting a large variety of probiotic bacteria potentially increases the health benefits of the product, so the more probiotic species and strains your yogurt contains, the better!
Look Out for Added Sugar
If you’re like most people you probably prefer your yogurt sweet. Indeed in the United States, most of the yogurt purchased is sweetened with refined or processed sugar. Probiotic yogurt is available though without sugar - look for the "natural", "plain" and "unsweetened" options. Without the processed and refined sugar, which raises insulin levels, supresses immunity and encourages unhelpful digestive flora, these natural probiotic yogurts are healthier than their sweetened counterparts. Be kind to yourself and try an unsweetened probiotic yogurt.
A natural probiotic yogurt will of course taste sour in comparison to a sweetened. To make your transition to plain yogurt easier why not try initially:
- Mixing half your usual sweetened yogurt with half a natural probiotic yogurt.
- Eating your natural probiotic yogurt as a savory dip.
- Adding honey or a fresh fruit to your natural yogurt.
Choose a Chilled Yogurt
Always choose a chilled yogurt as opposed to a frozen one. Beneficial bacteria can survive freezing but frozen yogurt contains far fewer probiotic bacteria than a chilled yogurt. Frozen yogurts also often contain a great deal of sugar. Choose chilled probiotic yogurt over frozen probiotic yogurt every time!
Making Probiotic Yogurt
Of course you can also make your own probiotic yogurt really easily. This way you can ensure your home-made yogurt is completely natural and contains no unneccessary additives. You can also ferment your yogurt for longer periods to ensure that your end product is almost lactose free. Such long fermenting periods produce home-made yogurts especially suitable for people with lactose intolerance, producing a product that much is lower in lactose and thus easier on digestion than commerical yogurts.
To make your own yogurt you typically need:
- Shallow oven-proof container with lid.
- 1 US quart or 1 liter milk. Use either whole milk (3.5% fat), reduced-fat milk(2%) or semi-skimmed milk (1.8% fat).
- Yogurt starter
To make your own delicious yogurt:
- Heat your milk to approximately 180ºF (82ºC) for fifteen seconds and then cool to 110ºF (43ºC).
- Mix in half a cup (4 fluid ounces or 8 tablespoons) of commercial plain probiotic yogurt.
- Stir thoroughly and place in your shallow covered container.
- Place in an oven heated to 150ºF (66ºC) or in gas oven with pilot light on for twelve hours/overnight. For low-lactose yogurt leave in the oven for twenty-four hours.
You can also use a commercial
instead of commerical plain yogurt.
Finally you can make your life even simpler by using a yogurt maker. We find this the best way to make home-made yogurt. This no-fuss approach ensures your probiotic yogurt is kept at the right temperature as it ferments. Choose a maker with either individual cups or one large tub. The Yogourmet Electric Yogurt Maker is a bulk yogurt machine suitable for making one or two quarts of yogurt and is also good for those who don’t like too much washing up! If you prefer to make your yogurt in individual jars, then try either the Eurocuisine YM80 Automatic Yogurt Maker or the Cuisipro Donvier Electronic Yogurt Maker.
1. Meyer AL et al, Daily Intake of Probiotic as well as Conventional Yogurt has a Stimulating Effect on Cellular Immunity in Young Healthy Women, Ann Nutr Metab, 2006;50(3):282-9.
2.Shalev E et al, Ingestion of Yogurt Containing Lactobacillus Acidophilus Compared with Pasteurized Yogurt as Prophylaxis for Recurrent Candidal Vaginitis and Bacterial Vaginosis, Arch Fam Med. 1996 Nov-Dec;5(10):593-6.
3.Fabian E & Elmadfa I; Influence of Daily Consumption of Probiotic and Conventional Yoghurt on the Plasma Lipid Profile in Young Healthy Women.; Ann Nutr Metab; 2006;50(4):387-93
4.Jauhiainen T et al, Fermented Milk Product Lowers Blood Pressure, Am Journal of Hypertension, Vol 8, 2005, 1600-1605
5.Colombel JF et al; Yoghurt with Bifidobacterium Longum Reduced Erythromycin –Induced Gastrointestinal Effect, Lancet II, 1987, 43 (Letter)
6.Meance, S et al, A Fermented Milk with Bifidiobacterium Probiotic Strain DN 173-010 Shortened Oro-Fecal Gut Transit Time in Elderly, Microbiol Eco Health Dis, Vol 13, 2001, 217-222
7.Oskar Adolfsson et al, Yogurt and Gut Function, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 2, 245-256, August 2004
8.Bor-Shyang Sheu et al, Pre-treatment with Lactobacillus- and Bifidobacterium-Containing Yogurt can Improve the Efficacy of Quadruple Therapy in Eradicating Residual Helicobacter Pylori Infection after Failed Triple Therapy, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 4, 864-869, April 2006
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