Yoghurt has been a part of our diets for thousands of years. Highly nutritious, tasty and healthy, it has many benefits when it comes to healthy living. Having become a staple part of many people’s diets, it aids weight management and reduces the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
As a milk-based product, yoghurt shares most of milk’s beneficial nutrients – vitamin A, calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus and potassium. Not only that but in its traditional form, yoghurt is rich in high-quality protein, probiotics and cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid.
Today, yoghurt is stocked in every supermarket and used by people all over the world. In the U.S. alone, sales of yoghurt are worth around $8 billion, half of which is attributed to sales of Greek yoghurt. And although it’s generally consumed as a tasty snack, don’t just take word of the health messaging on the packaging. Instead, look beyond the labelling and consider the facts.
An excellent source of health-positive bacteria, yoghurt is essential for the wellbeing of your digestive tract. Active bacterial cultures help to prevent infections and stop the development of harmful bacteria dead in its tracks.
These cultures promote digestive health and boost your immune system, and due to its high calcium levels, yoghurt has also been shown to help with cholesterol level and osteoporosis risk reductions. It can also help to relieve some gastrointestinal conditions, such as constipation, diarrhoea, colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.
Sadly, though, most of the commercially available yoghurts are essentially glorified snacks, their benefits implied through being labelled as yoghurt.
The wide range of thickeners, stabilisers, preservatives, sweeteners and artificial colouring agents have turned yoghurt into a shadow of what it once was. What that means is most store-bought yoghurt contains only a negligible amount of nutrients and probiotics that are actually useful, making it way less healthy than you’d think.
In fact, depending on the quality of the commercially produced milk and the methods used to turn it into yoghurt, you may enjoy only a couple of its actual benefits – and in some cases, you’ll get none at all!
Whilst high-quality yoghurt is very beneficial for the health of your gut, store-bought brands rarely hit the mark for the following three reasons:
- Poor milk quality – most of the commercially produced milk is obtained from animals, raised on animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
- Artificial ingredients – even though a lot of the commercial brands advertise their products as healthy, they contain a wide variety of artificial colouring, flavouring and sweetening agents, as well as thickeners like pectin. A ’good’ yoghurt, on the other hand, should contain only full-fat, grass-fed raw milk and live probiotic cultures.
- High corn and soy content – unless you’re buying organic yoghurt, chances are that your product has been laced with GMO corn and/or soy. As you most likely know, over 90% of the world’s supply of corn and soy is genetically modified.
Why you should make your own homemade yoghurt
So, if it’s difficult to buy a commercially-produced yoghurt that gives you maximum health benefit, why not make your own healthy version?
It’s a great idea because it’s a quick and easy way to get much-needed nutrients into your body. All you need is a high-quality start culture and milk from grass-fed animals. Add your starter culture to the milk, let it stay overnight at room temperature, and you’ll be greeted by tasty and healthy, homemade yoghurt!
Bacteria cultures, being temperature sensitive, require a consistent warmth to do their job and ferment the milk. When you’re just starting out, it may take you a couple of tries to get your desired consistency and preferred taste. If your homemade yoghurt is too runny, don’t put it in the fridge yet – give it a couple of extra hours to ferment. Only chill it once it’s thickened to your desired consistency.
Whatever you choose for your starter culture, however, make sure to avoid using sweetened commercial products as your base as they contain too much sugar and too few live cultures.
Greek yoghurt and its alternatives
Greek yoghurt is the most popular, commercially available type of yoghurt. A lot of people prefer it for its thick consistency and rich, creamy texture. Most brands, however, tend to add a lot of artificial sweeteners and thickeners that harm its natural properties, which is why it’s best to avoid it as a starter culture.
The closest, natural alternative to this is the Bulgarian yoghurt. Real Bulgarian yoghurt is produced without artificial additives. Created with the help of the Bulgaricus strand of culture, originating in – you guessed it – Bulgaria, this yoghurt usually contains Acidophilous and Thermophilous, allowing you to enjoy an excellent taste without losing out on any of the health benefits.
Yoghurt is a staple snack in Bulgaria. It’s used for afternoon snacks as well as a cooking ingredient in a variety of meals and because Bulgarians see the benefits of the probiotic bacteria, they try to benefit from it as much as possible. Bulgarians also take price in our rose oil, for which I made a separate article. Have a look if you’re interested.
How to make healthy yoghurt at home
To make your very own, healthy homemade yoghurt, you will need a Lactobacillus Bulgaricus starter culture. This means that to make genuine Bulgarian homemade yoghurt, you’ll need to get yourself the real deal.
If we look at it scientifically, Bulgarian homemade yoghurt contains one (or both) of the following strains – lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles. Luckily for you, and except for the artificial ingredients, the yoghurts labelled “Bulgarian” will often have exactly what you’re looking for. Finding a good, natural starter culture can be quite a challenge, but once you get your hands on it, you can create new batches out of your old ones.
*If you cannot find Bulgarian yoghurt in the supermarket or if there isn’t a Bulgarian shop nearby, do not worry you can use any commercial natural yoghurt.
What you’ll need:
- 2 litres of whole milk — whole and 2% are the best, but skim is also usable
- 1 teaspoon of natural yoghurt
- A saucepan with a lid
- A whisk
- A spatula
- A small measuring cup or a bowl
Heat your milk. Gently stir it, to avoid scorching and boiling over
Cool your milk. Let the milk cool down until it’s just warm to the touch. If short on time can be sped up by using a water bath. Keep stirring your milk to prevent skin from forming.
Thin out the yoghurt. Pour about a cup of your warm milk into the bowl, add in the yoghurt and whisk until you achieve a smooth texture.
Whisk the thinned yoghurt into the rest of your milk. Pour your homemade yoghurt into the milk while continually whisking the substance. At this point it’s advisable to divide it into separate jars or storage containers, since transferring it after the process is completed can be challenging. I like using glass jars as an eco-friendly alternative to throw-away plastic containers.
Let the bacteria do its thing. For this step, maintaining a constant room temperature is crucial. To help with the process, you can wrap your jars in a blanket to keep them warm.
Wait for the yoghurt to set in. Give the milk ample time to turn into yoghurt. I usually prefer letting it ferment for 3 – 4 hours overnight.
Cooling down. Once your homemade yoghurt reaches the desired texture, put the lids on your jars and put them in the fridge. Homemade yoghurt can last for about 2 weeks when refrigerated.
For your next batch. The best part of making your own homemade yoghurt is that you can use each batch to culture the next one! To do this, just set about half a cup aside for next time. If, in time, some batches down the line show changes in the flavour or texture, you might want to get a new store-bought culture and start over.
The Bottom Line
Yoghurt is an excellent nutrient-rich health booster that can be eaten pretty much every day, helping to avoid a lot of diseases, while also allowing you to enjoy better digestive health and improved weight control.
Making your own yoghurt will ensure that you can consistently get all the benefits while suffering none of the downsides of store-bought products. And that’s what green living is all about – leading a natural, chemical-free life!
Now you know why I am so pro-yoghurt and, hopefully, you’ll be inspired to discover its benefits by making it at home!
If you’ve found this article helpful, or if you have any ideas and experience to share, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!
Recommended for further reading: