THANKS TO SEVERAL LARGE YOGURT COMPANIES, the word “probiotic” has become part of the everyday vernacular. People often say, “I take a probiotic, I eat yogurt every day.” But, is yogurt really a probiotic? Does it provide enough live microbes to correct digestive problems? It depends if you are eating real yogurt or not.
How do you know if the yogurt has been fermented or not? Here are some things to consider:
*If it is sweet it is likely not fermented. (The sugar would have been consumed by the microbes during fermentation.)
*If it is really thick, it likely hasn’t been fermented.
*If it has some fake coloring in it, it is likely not fermented either.
What does all this mean? Let’s look at how yogurt is made.
Commercially-produced yogurt is often made from dried milk and milk proteins that are re-hydrated with water. An acid is added to the milk to thicken it. This is usually acetic or citric acid. Then a bunch of sugar is added to it (we just go to have everything sweet!). After the sugars are added only then are the freeze dried probiotics added. The “yogurt” is immediately put in the chiller to prevent fermentation. This means no fermentation occurs at all in the process. Note that between 90 and 95% of freeze dried microbes are dead and will not come out of the suspended animation state due to cellular damage during the freeze drying process.
The reason commercially-produced yogurts are made this way is because the fermentation process takes too long. And, the end product is completely different than traditional, real, yogurt. None of the milk sugars have been fermented and broken down, nor have any of the beneficial enzymes or other metabolites been produced because the microbes were mostly dead and the live ones never had a chance to reanimate and start a predigestion of the sugars in the mixture. As for these sugary non-fermented yogurts, this means that all the health benefits that are touted about the probiotic aspects of yogurt are not really true. When you consume these popular yogurts, you are consuming loads of sugars and some fairly ineffective microbes. It is totally different than if you consume a traditional, fermented milk product that is thicker than milk and pretty sour in taste, not sweet. Take a look at these resources on how to make your own REAL yogurt:
Sandor Katz, in his book, The Art of Fermentation, has a very traditional recipe for making home made yogurt. You can read about it here: http://www.splendidtable.org/story/yogurt-an-excerpt-from-the-art-of-fermentation.
For those of you who prefer the thicker Greek style yogurt: http://www.happysimpleliving.com/2011/03/06/make-your-own-homemade-greek-yogurt/.
Eric Lancaster is Executive Vice President of TeraGanix, Inc., the exclusive North America distributor of the Original Effective Microorganisms® and EM® Bokashi products. Please visit www.TeraGanix.com for more information on probiotics including recipes and everyday instructions.