The Benefits of Probiotics
Probiotics here, probiotics there, probiotics everywhere! We hear Jamie Lee Curtis talk about them on commercials, we see them on labels at the store, but what are they? Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be beneficial to digestion because they are similar to the good bacteria found in the human gut (Wikipedia). Along with other places, probiotics are commonly found in fermented foods with live and active cultures. Although there’s not solid scientific evidence, yet, there are thousands of years worth of experience from the many cultures, who have fermented food in order to extend it’s shelf life and it’s nutritional value, that show us consuming probiotics can help (Weston A. Price Foundation):
- Treat diarrhea, especially following treatment with certain antibiotics
- Prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections
- Treat irritable bowel syndrome
- Reduce bladder cancer recurrence
- Speed treatment of certain intestinal infections
- Prevent and treat eczema in children
- Prevent or reduce the severity of colds and flu (Mayo Clinic)
As we see on the Danon commercials, probiotics are found in yogurt (fermented milk). Although I have been on the fence about dairy, mainly because there so much controversy and neither side makes “perfect sense” to me, I do eat yogurt because the fermentation process makes the lactose more digestible and the benefits outweigh any of my dairy doubt. Lately I’ve been eating more Greek yogurt than I ever have, it’s an easy snack to take with me to work and grab when I’m just oh-so-hungry and don’t want to cook. After a while, though, at about $1.00 each (and that’s getting the in bulk at Costco), they start adding up and I began wondering if I could make my own. At my wedding shower, in addition to multiple old cookbooks, my Grandma Betty also gave me a yogurt maker that she had kept in mint condition since the 70’s. It had remained in it’s box in my closet until last week, when I started reading about the benefits of fermented food and took it down and decided to make.
Finding Quality Milk
For a few weeks I’ve also been reading about the benefits of raw milk, non-pasteurized or homogenized, straight from the cow. What we get in the store is far different from the milk that is pumped from the cow. During the ultra-pasteurization process or ultra high temperature (UHT), milk is heated to 280 degrees for at least two seconds, (Wikipedia) in which all of the enzymes that make the protein in the milk digestible, are killed. Learning all of this, I started thinking about how “whole” even whole milk is (or isn’t)! There is SO much that is left out; many of the beneficial aspects of raw milk are absent after ultra-pasteurization. So, what’s left in my yogurt if the milk they used to make it was pasteurize? Is it helping me that much? Regardless of my doubts, I still enjoy eating yogurt and my digestive system seems to enjoy the help of the probiotics. However, I was in search of a way to use less processed milk, the problem is that it is illegal to sell raw milk. Hmm… I get the most nutrients from raw milk, and the natural enzymes that are included in raw milk make it more digestible…but it is illegal to buy it. That is a predicament.
Short of getting a cow or buying a cow share, which meals I would legally own a share in a cow, therefore part of the milk that came from that cow belongs to me, the owner. I would just have to pay a monthly cost of boarding and the upfront share cost, but I am not ready to make that commitment yet. Instead, my husband and I made a leisurely drive down to Richmond, where they sell non-homogenized (although pasteurized) milk, that is intended for pet consumption, but it is perfectly safe for human consumption. The processed of homogenization takes the cream layer on the top of the milk and mixed it into the milk, so that it won’t separate anymore. Non-homogenized milk will separate, cream on the top and milk on the bottom, making a creamier, more rich-tasting milk.
Going off on a tangent…
It also contains a higher amount of saturated fat, which conventional “wisdom” has taught us leads to weight gain and heart disease. All the while the low fat diet has lead to weight gain and heart disease in this country! I am no scientist, but this seems to be very contradictive. Again, in an effort to allow you to do your own research, I’ve found a couple articles that make it easier for me to understand why we shouldn’t omit saturated fat from our diet, and hopefully they will help you come to your own conclusion.
Back on Topic: Homemade Yogurt
After 150 miles and a lot of research, I finally got around to making home made yogurt. It may sound difficult (or unnecessary), but it was extremely easy (and delicious). I followed the instructions on my yogurt maker:
- 1: Heat one quart of milk up to boiling, then turn the heat off (next time I am going to try not boiling the milk, just warming it).
- 2. Let the heat come down to around 110 degrees.
- 3. Add 1 Tablespoon of live active cultures (I simply used a tablespoon of sour cream because I was out of plain yogurt).
- 4. Pour into containers and place in yogurt maker, where it will be kept at around 100 degrees for 12 hours.
And there you have it, yogurt. I did go ahead and strain some of the liquid from the yogurt to get a more thick, creamy consistency, and the end product was delicious. So creamy and rich, and my belly could definitely tell the difference! After I had my first 1/4 cup I could hear it my tummy movin’ and groovin’–in a good way, just enough to say, “Wow, that really helped!” If you’d like to make yogurt, but for some strange reason you don’t own a yogurt maker, 🙂 there is a very simple way you can make it in your oven. Visit one of my new favorite sites: The Nourished Kitchen for a homemade yogurt tutorial! While you’re there, check out the rest of her site, it is a wonderful resource.
This may be far more information than you ever wanted to know about yogurt, milk, or saturated fat, but part of living a more healthy lifestyle is gaining new knowledge and new ways of thinking! Have a great Friday, enjoy your weekend, and look for a new weekly meal plan on Saturday or Sunday!