Trillions of bacteria live happily in our gut. The goodies among them help us digest our food and absorb its nutrients. They also help our body make vitamins, absorb minerals, and get rid of toxins. They make our immune system strong. And best of all, they work on our brain cells to help them battle anxiety, stress, and depression. Friendly bugs in our gut make up the army that protects us from disease, including mental illness.
Good bacteria, called probiotics, come to us in fermented foods. Buttermilk, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, sour dough bread, raw-milk cheeses and kefir all harbor the good guys. For many, though, probiotics march forth into our gut in yogurt.
The baddies hanging around in our food, however, make a fierce opponent. Bacteria, yeast and fungi programmed to make us sick gain strength from artificial colors, flavors, and additives. But their strongest ally is sugar. And the worst of its kind is fructose.
Since our gut has limited real estate, baddies fed by sugar soon smite the helpful bacteria. Trouble gets the upper hand.
Yogurt, our friendliest source of probiotics at the grocery store, is a mixed bag. Some brands are loaded with sugar. Any more than 10 grams of sugar a serving (two teaspoons) means sugar was added in addition to that in the milk. Some have as many as 50 or 60 grams of the stuff. Brands bragging about their “live” cultures have been shown to have next to no living probiotics in their lineup at all. I suspect too much sugar.
A winning strategy
Since reading a wonderful book on food psychology a while back, I know that French women don’t get fat. Why don’t they? The French woman says one reason is many of them make their own yogurt.
You can too! I do, and it’s soooo easy. The results are tasty, full of living probiotics, and brimming with nutrients. Even better, there are no additives or sugar. Best yet, you can pump up the protein and keep the fat in tow by adding skim-milk powder and using any kind of milk you like. I use 2% goat’s milk or skim milk and skim-milk powder. Delicious!
The French lady said I should get a yogurt-making machine. And, I must admit, I did just what she said. That was years ago, and I’m still using my machine every week to crank out 8 servings of creamy, healthy yogurt.
But you can make yogurt on the stove top without special gadgets. You need only a good thermometer and a warm place to let the mixture sit overnight while the milk ferments into thick creamy yogurt.
Make yogurt easily and inexpensively
- 1 liter milk (I use skim milk or 2% goats milk)
- 1/2 cup skim-milk powder (I buy this in small quantities at the bulk food store)
- 1 package (15-30 ml) starter culture (find it in the refrigerator section of the health food store)
- Wisk the skim-milk powder into the milk in a large micro-wave-safe bowl.
- Heat the milk on high for 9 minutes in the microwave oven (time varies with your unit). At 85-88C (185-190F), it is done. Alternatively, heat the milk on medium-low on the stove. Don’t let it boil.
- Put the milk in the fridge to cool. Mine takes 45 minutes to bring the milk down to 43-46C (110-115F), the optimum temperature for adding the starter culture. My yogurt machine came with a thermometer that has a window showing the optimum temperatures for scalding the milk and adding the starter culture. Leave it in the milk while in the fridge.
- Wisk the starter culture into a little of the cooled milk to dissolve, then pour it back into the large pot of cooled milk and wisk madly.
- Pour the milk into the single-serving cups that come with the machine, cover them, and put them into the yogurt maker. Secure the lid and set the timer for 10 hours. Press “Start” and carry on with your day.
- Alternatively, cover the bowl of milk and place it on top of the fridge or over a heating register where you can keep it warmish and let it sit there for 10 hours or until it solidifies.
- Once the milk has changed into yogurt, put it in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours.
To serve, mix one serving (about 1/2 cup) with cut fruit or berries and a little maple syrup or stevia. I also add nuts, dried fruit and /or chia seeds to the bowl for variety. Vanilla, pomegranate juice, or fresh lemon juice is also nice. Don’t be boring. Mix it up for fun and best nutrition!
Save a few tablespoons from the last cup as a starter for a new batch. Plain yogurt will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.
A happy gut means a happy brain
You may think your brain is the officer in charge of your mental health. But your gut may actually be the senior commander. Mounting research indicates that problems in your gut can directly impact your mental health, leading to anxiety and depression.
Live cultured foods is one answer — naturally fermented the way our ancestors have done it for centuries. For them, it was a method of food preservation.
To us, it’s the secret to preserving our good health.
Probiotics: Sour cabbage is sweet – Vinny explains why you need probiotics, where to find them, and how best to buy and serve sauerkraut. Try a delicious recipe for Bavarian chicken.