Like it or not, we are exceptionally popular carriers for raging throngs of bacteria. Forget scare-mongering studies on how many microbes are living on keyboards and cellphones. It’s the humans who are really ripe. Scientists have estimated that the number of bacteria living in an average, healthy adult human outnumbers the human cells by ten to one.
Of course, not all bacteria are bad. In fact, the concept of “good” bacteria , necessary for a healthy digestive tract and a whole host of other ensuing benefits, starts to become ingrained from Kindergarten onward. When it comes to ensuring your body is in balance with adequate amounts of good bacteria, one of the easiest, most accessible means of doing so is through diet.
Yogurt, a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk, causing the transformation of lactose into lactic acid, has suffered a bit of a bad wrap recently. A rise in dairy sensitivity may contribute to a slight lessening in yogurt’s popularity, but not nearly so much as the proliferation of neon-colored, yogurt-like products brimming with high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and chemicals. But quality yogurt comes with numerous great health benefits, not the least being the inclusion of healthy, live bacteria.
Eating yogurt has been associated with boosting immune response, contributing to colon health, and increasing the absorption of calcium and B-vitamins. Studies have also linked eating yogurt with weight control. In addition to the probiotic (referring to living organisms that can provide health boosts) benefits, yogurt is a source of important nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, B-vitamins, zinc, potassium, protein and more.
Want to be certain you’re getting great quality yogurt? Check labels carefully, looking out for natural ingredients and live, active cultures. Or, make your own. The process is simple, and takes very little involved, active time. All you need is milk, containers (glass mason jars seem to be the most popular choice), and some kind of starter, either a packet of freeze-dried yogurt starter, such as from yogourmet, or plain, already made yogurt. Some people like to include some powdered milk, too, as a thickener. Here’s what to do:
- First, sterilize your jars by boiling, approximately 10 minutes.
- Next, heat your milk in a heavy stockpot to 170 degrees F.
- Remove your milk from heat source and let it cool to about 110 degrees F.
- Stir a small amount of milk into the starter to help break up the yogurt, then mix in with the rest of the milk. For 1 quart of milk, use approximately 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt with live, active cultures (some recommend using a little more, up to ½ cup). Whisk to combine smoothly.
Pour your milk into your jars, filling to about an inch from the top, and put your lids on. Place jars in the oven with the pilot light on until the yogurt sets, which should take between 4 to 8 hours. Place in the refrigerator.