Before I start I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of dairy products. When I use milk my skin gets dry patches and when I eat butter it literally makes my skin crawl. I’m not lactose intolerant but the less I have it the better. Which is why I generally avoid dairy.
So why am I writing about yogurt? Because it is a lot different from regular dairy products. And it’s really, really good for you. Now to avoid any confusion I am not taking about “regular” yogurt. The kind with tons of sugar, fruit flavours, chocolate flavours, added colours, frozen yogurt or the ones with crunchy “bits” that you sprinkle on top.
No, the type of yogurt I’m talking about is real yogurt. Natural, plain, “live” yogurt.
What Makes Natural Live Yogurt Different?
Yogurt is a fermented food and fermented foods are among the healthiest types of foods you can eat. All yogurt is made with “live cultures” which feed on the lactose (milk sugar) present in milk giving yogurt it’s distinctive taste and texture. The difference between “regular” yogurt and “live” yogurt is the presence of these cultures when they make it to the stores.
Live cultures in regular yogurt are killed off with high heat to extend shelf life. Live yogurt on the other hand still contains live and active cultures (or probiotics) when you buy them. This is the key difference, and it makes all the difference.
Probiotics – Healthy Gut, Healthy Body
A healthy gut is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of being healthy and looking good, but it’s actually one of the most important elements for optimum health. Even more surprisingly, good health and good looks are all about our immune system and the balance of bacteria involved. We want more “good” bacteria and less “bad”, so how do we get it? Yep, yogurt.
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria we need to help balance out the “bad” bacteria present in our digestive system. When we have an unhealthy diet, are under stress or have taken a course of antibiotics the “bad” bacteria can get out of control and cause all kinds of health problems. While it isn’t possible to completely get rid of all the “bad” bacteria, we can help to control it by taking in the “good” bacteria through our food. Natural live yogurt is one of the best food sources of probiotics you can find.
Health benefits of probiotics in natural live yogurt:
- Improves digestion
- Fights infection
- Has anti-cancer properties
- Improves cholesterol – lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol
- Promotes clear, healthy, youthful skin – boosts skin hydration
- Good source of protein – helps to build lean muscle
What Type Of Yogurt Should You Look For?
Make sure you read the label the next time you are buying yogurt. The less ingredients the better. Ideally it should just contain milk and live cultures. Some yogurts will say “made with live cultures” but as I said above all yogurt is made with live cultures, it’s whether or not they are still active that counts.
The ingredients need to say “contains live cultures” or “contains live, probiotic cultures”. The specific cultures should also be listed, some brands may contain two others four. Look for Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium longum, Streptococcus thermophillus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
“Old MacDonnell’s Farm” is the brand I use as it contains all of the above live cultures. The bulgaricus strain isn’t contained in a lot of other brands of live yogurts, possibly because it has a sharp taste. But it is one of the most beneficial probiotics you can take so it’s worth looking for. Try adding some fresh berries, dried goji berries, a little agave and/or cinnamon if you don’t like the taste. It’s also great in salads as a healthy alternative to mayo.
No-Fat, Low-Fat, Full-Fat?
Most natural live yogurts are available in low-fat and no-fat versions, you may also find whole or full-fat versions too. Many people still think all fat is bad and should be avoided, which just isn’t the case. We need a certain amount of dietary fat to be healthy, for our bodies to work properly and to help us absorb nutrients, and that includes saturated fat. We just need to make sure the fat comes from healthy natural sources and to use it in moderation. The brand of yogurt I use is low-fat which is the only version they sell, which is fine because there is at least some fat.
Most people eat too many processed carbohydrates and not enough quality protein, which makes sense because processed foods are convenient and readily available. But these foods eventually lead to weight gain and the lack of quality protein causes the face and body to look soft and doughy.
Finding convenient good quality protein sources to have as a quick snack when you get hungry or when you’re on the run can be difficult, but natural live yogurt is an excellent option. Not only will you be getting all the health benefits of probiotics, but the added protein will help you build muscle and burn fat as protein makes you feel more satisfied and less likely to over eat.
So hopefully you will give natural live yogurt a try, or if you already eat regular “yogurt” you will make the switch to real yogurt and start getting the many benefits.
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