Is Yogurt really a health food?
By Joan L. McDaniel July 14, 2014
Conventional or commercial Yogurt is promoted to the concerned consumer looking for a healthy diet food or snack they can eat on the go and help the immune system at the same time. In a way its image is that of a “Fast Food” that is healthy and good for you.
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product with “Live and Active Cultures” or probiotics that give the immune system the good bacteria it needs to function to fight off illness and stay healthy.
But is commercial yogurt really just junk food disguised as a “Health Food?”
Typical Yogurt Food Label
I became intrigued
As I have said before in this blog, I was learning how to get well from the food I ate. I looked into Yogurt as an option. I even tried some. I had already stopped eating “low-fat” or “fat-free” foods for I found the tremendous value of saturated fats like Coconut Oil. One unknown value of Fats is Vitamins. Vitamin A, C, E, Selenium, Zinc and many more are only soluble in Fat. You can eat all you want or take all the supplements you can, but if you don’t eat fat they won’t be broken down and absorbed by your system.
The commercial Yogurt is also loaded with sugar which was why I was sick in the first place. I had Yeast Overgrowth in my system and in my lungs. I could not catch my breath. Yeast Overgrowth is one side/effect of too much sugar and carbs in your diet. Sugar is acid and Yeast loves acid and destroys and eats oxygen.
I was never one to drink a lot of milk and yogurt in America is mostly made with cow’s milk. I am also not a real advocate for Cow’s milk. I have often said, “Cow’s milk is for calf’s not humans or even human babies”. A Cow is a large animal and so is its calf. A human baby will never be as big as a baby calf. Goat for example is a smaller animal and its milk is better suited. Or at least that is what I have found in my research which has firmed my opinion.
Kiernan Farm Grass Fed Beef. Cow and her calf
I did try to make my own Yogurt from whole milk minus the sugar but wasn’t very successful or motivated, so I just gave it up.
Recent articles Questioning Commercial Yogurt
Recently there has been a rash of articles on Yogurt questioning its “Health Food” and “Natural Food” claims and I have become intrigued again with Yogurt.
I have learned the value of fermentation and building up of good gut flora which is your immune system, and I have been eating small amounts or fermented Cabbage (sauerkraut). I know your colon needs both probiotic (live bacteria) and prebiotic or roughage.
I Started My Research by Asking Questions
I began my research by asking a few questions then using search engines to try to find answers but there are two I could not find a good answer for:
Basically I have two overall problems that I don’t understand about Yogurt first is how can it be called a “health food” and contain so much sugar and the second is how can it be pasteurized which kills off both good and bad bacteria even though they say they add active live cultures back in and the product shelf life?
How do you know for sure the cultures are still alive other than the label? I do not know of a good way to test to find out you just have to believe the label. The same label that calls Yogurt healthy with no fat and 26 grams of sugar.
The rest of the questions and answers appear below. The sources are listed at the bottom under sources. The answers I have paraphrased based on all information I could find.
First some Needed Terms
Fermented foods – such as raw milk kefir, kimchee, miso soup, pickles, probiotic beverages (Kombucha Tea, Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and water Kefir), sauerkraut, tempeh, etc, which are rich in probiotic, or good bacteria. Scientific research shows that 80 percent of your immune system resides inside your digestive tract, so eating probiotic-rich foods, or taking a high-quality probiotic, will help support your immune system health and maintain optimal gut flora. Fermented food produce acid, you want to take small amounts on a daily basis but not too much. I take about a tablespoon of sauerkraut a day. You want your stomach with an acid balance but the rest of your system including the lower intestine to be alkaline. You want the probiotic to stay in your stomach.
Health Food – Is a food believed to be highly beneficial to health. The closer the food is to the earth the better. Natural food is free from artificial ingredients, chemical additives and colors or anything else manufactures love to add including sugar. Foods fresh from your garden or the local farm are loaded with antioxidants, flavonoids, natural sugars, nutrients and vitamins. They are also rich in dietary fibers. Meat is also health but it should also come from nature not a large farm. Free range beef, chicken and fish caught in the wild are rich in nutrition and Omega-3 fats.
Pasteurization or pasteurisation – is a process invented by French Scientist Louis Pasture during the nineteenth century. Pasteur discovered that heating milk to a high temperature then immediately cooling it enabled the milk to remain fresher for an extended period of time (shelf life). This process is not only kills the bad pathogens that cause spoilage but kills off the good bacteria also. Today the process of pasteurization is used widely in the drinks and food industry to increase the shelf life. Pasteurization occurs at the higher heat of 145 degrees while boiling is normally done at the lower 110 degrees where some cultures can still stay alive.
probiotic – (Literally means pro-life rather than anti-life antibiotics). Refers to a dietary of food supplement that contains “good live bacteria”. This bacteria is viable in our disease-fighting digestive track and immune system. Fermented food products such as cultured dairy food (from raw milk) such as yogurt, kefir, Sauerkraut (cabbage), and Asian cabbage called kim chee. In America and western culture, Yogurt made from pasteurized milk have active cultures added after pasteurization.
Probiotics and Prebiotics – Although they are sometimes used interchangeably, a probiotic is not the same thing as a prebiotic. probiotic are the actual bacteria, whereas prebiotic are non-digestible foods that help establish a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive. Also called dietary fiber. Don’t look for any prebiotic in Yogurt for all I found the fiber content was less than 1 %.
Raw Milk – Is a safe food, rich in living enzymes and beneficial probiotic bacteria. Our ancestors drank raw milk our countries founders like George Washington drank raw milk. People have safely consumed raw milk for millennia, and many countries today allow raw milk sales including Europe where it is sold in vending machines or on street corners. Raw milk’s availability is limited in the United States depending on where you live. You can locate the source closest to you at RealMilk.com.
Whole Milk – Most American Yogurt is made from fat-free cow’s milk but you can find commercial yogurt made from whole or 2% fat milk. So you can get saturated fat but a lot of good that will do you because they still add sugar.
More information about the two questions I cannot find the answer for – I know I’m repeating myself but I still don’t understand it.
What does eating sugar with probiotic do?
probiotics are good. Your gut flora needs both probiotics and good bacteria to fight the bad bacteria but I don’t know what happens to the probiotic in a sea of sugar. Natural sugar is one thing but added sugar is something else. All Sugar is bad but added sugar is worse. Refined processed sugar is toxic and it is known to cause disease such as Diabetes and inflammation.
Sugar causes insulin rushes, insulin resistance. Sugar overloads the system once consumed it passes immediately into the blood stream and is burned up fast. Sugar causes instant energy. But it may cause instant energy but it will also cause instant fatigue. Sugar is an acid. Acids hate oxygen and a probiotic needs oxygen. Sugar destroys oxygen. Get rid of the sugar and the probiotic might have a chance.
In other words eating enough sugar results in a roller coaster ride of highs and lows leading to daily fluctuations in energy and alertness, and possibly to eventual chronic adrenal exhaustion
You drink enough of this stuff your life is one big ROLLER COASTER RIDE and so is your health – Up Down and Not Very Good.
How 26 grams of sugar in a 6 ounce contain of Yogurt can be labeled as “Health Food” I will never know. 28 grams of sugar is equal to 1 ounce. 1/6 of the yogurt is sugar. I know I’m repeating myself but I still don’t understand it.
Can Milk be Pasteurized and have “live cultures”?
I do not know how to answer the question – Can something be pasteurized and have active live cultures? Since the pasteurization process kills all bacteria the live cultures are added back in after the milk has cooled. In many cases I wonder if the live cultures can survive and still allow the product a decent shelf life. I even asked a search engine the question and this is one answer I got from answers Yahoo.com
The manufactures label says “life and Active cultures” and I guess we have to believe them. I have not heard of any real independent test to find out.
I’m not too good at believing labels since I am finding them more advertising slogan than product information. But who am I to know? I just won’t eat it and suggest other people stop eating it.
According to Dr. Mercola findings most commercial yogurt are worse than worthless as they are pasteurized and associated with the problems of pasteurized milk products. The heating process destroys milk’s natural sugar lactose so the added additives, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial colors and flavors or artificial sweeteners are put back in all of which are bad for your health but great for your taste buds.
According to Dr. Mercola “Look for yogurt brands that say “grass-fed, no added hormones” or, even better, “gluten-free.” Stonyfield Organic Greek yogurt uses NO toxic pesticides, artificial hormones or antibiotics. It’s also non-GMO and USDA Organic.” I have heard about some problems with Stonyfield products but cannot verify.
I recently found a Goat farmer that pasteurized her goat’s milk but adds the cultures in after pasteurization. She uses whole milk and adds zero sugar. I tasted it and it was wonderful. I’m a new fan of farm fresh yogurt from my local Goat Farmer. Now I can alternate the sour sauerkraut and use natural yogurt on my morning ½ cup of berries.
Maybe you can find a local farmer that makes fresh and I mean fresh yogurt.
Now to my Remaining Questions
What is Yogurt?
Yogurt – Is a Turkish word. Yogurt originated in many places and it is not known where it actually originated. Yogurt refers to a tart, thickened fermented milk product. It is heated until it starts to separate and make curds. The milk is then removed from heat live active cultures are added and it is left to sit for up to 12 hours to ferment. The fermenting process works on the milks protein and natural sugars called lactose. The active cultures feed off the sugars leaving a characteristic Yogurt tangy tart taste. The fermenting process creates lactic acid which acts as a preservative.
In America the milk used for yogurt comes mostly from cow’s milk but in other parts of the world the milk can come from, camel, ewe, goat, mare, water buffalo and yaks.
Yogurt cultures where first isolated in the early 1900s. These cultures are separate and sold as direct set starters or cultures can be obtained from previous cultured yogurt.
Note in commercial yogurt the sugar is added to preserve shelf live and to remove the tangy tart taste to not offend Americans sensational sweet tooth and to sell more product.
What is Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt is the latest thing. It is celebrated for its very thick and creamy texture. The same process of making yogurt is followed but Greek Yogurt adds an additional step to the process to drain away the whey or liquid. They use cheesecloth or muslin to filter out the whey. Greek Yogurt should be creamer and thicker due to this straining process. The product may also be a little more expensive.
Greek Yogurt has recently become available in the U.S. and is selling well. It should taste less bitter therefore less sugar should be added. I looked on the store shelves and found the sugar content in Commercial Greek yogurt is still very high.
Look out for the label just because it says Greece on the label it doesn’t mean it came from Greece. You can add corn starch or other thickening agents to make it less runny you know.
Typical Greek yogurt in Greece is made either of cow, goat or sheep’s milk. Imports to the US tend to be cow’s milk since the other milks have a Tangier taste it will not pass America’s hungry sweet tooth demand.
Not to get sidetracked or anything BUT — What do you think when you hear the term Curds and Whey?????
Whey is the liquid part of the milk after the milk has been boiled and curd is the solid or chunky part. Curds and whey is also Cottage Cheese.
Now if that makes you think of the childhood poem Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.
You’e not alone — but now I am sidetracked.
What is Non-Dairy yogurt?
There are now “Non-Dairy” or “Dairy Free” Yogurts made with almond, coconut, and soy milk. The product is heated to a very high temperature then allowed to cool. The active cultures are added plus other additives like sugar. According to the website wellinessmama the additive carregeenan is also added.
“Carrageenans or carrageenins are a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from red edible seaweeds. They are widely used in the food industry, for their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties.”
“Carrageenan may not be as bad as some sources portray it, but there is evidence that it can be harmful and cause health problems, especially if consumed regularly. The additive serves no nutritional purpose only as a thickening agent.”
These products are also loaded with sugar, 19 grams in a 6 oz. container. They do contain saturated fat.
What is the History of Yogurt?
Yogurt has been a stable in diets and is one of the oldest fermented foods since the caveman found he could get milk from animals like the cow or goat. In the 1900 yogurt was a stable in the Russian Empire. The Russian Nobel laureate and biologist Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov hypothesized that regular consumption of yogurt was responsible for unusually long lifespans of Bulgarian peasants.
When Dannon first introduced its product to America attributed Russian long life to the eating of Yogurt. Of Course, his was before the Russian takeover in Georgia.
Yogurt with a vodka chaser? The world’s oldest woman may live in Georgia
Isaac Carasso industrialized the production of yogurt in 1919. Carasso started a small yogurt business in Barcelona Spain and named the business Danone (“little Dianiel”) after his son. The brand name later expanded to the United States under the Americanized version of the name Dannon.
Yogurt was first introduced in the United States in the early 1900s and settled in the New York and surrounding areas. Yogurt popularity was with immigrants and various New York, New England ethnicities. It wasn’t until Dannon introduced “Fruit on the Bottom” when sales really took off. In 1947 Dannon made a breakthrough by introducing yogurt with strawberry fruit on the bottom adding to America’s sweet tooth.
In the 1950s and 60s Yogurt was presented as a health food and by the 20th century, yogurt had become a common food item in America.
What is “Natural Flavor”?
Now what exactly is a natural flavor? Next question how do you get natural flavor from something when that something isn’t part of the product? For example, Lemon flavor but no lemon’s?
It seems whenever I am in the store reading food labels the ingredient “natural flavor” is listed. What surprises me is most is this label is on a products that don’t have a natural thing in it like cereal which is all processed or lab created goo. I should say food but I don’t have the heart.
Looking into it further it seems there isn’t any regulations. Anyone can use the label “all natural” even if the whole thing came from the lab or a machine and is made of foam. The Food and Drug Administration, who regulates food and drugs, doesn’t regulate the term “all natural”. All natural to me means you pull it out of the ground or off a tree and eat it before or after washing.
As a product label it certainly is better saying “all natural” then “all plastic” or “nothing real at all”. Some products contain aspartame (artificial sugar) and artificial coloring chemicals which is a far cry from being natural. Isn’t advertising a wonderful thing?
From the book “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser, I have found that natural flavoring is a man-made additive, and it makes processed food taste better.
Artificial “Natural Flavors”. You can buy them on Amazon.
Why Is Sugar Added to Yogurt?
Again I’m repeating myself. I know I have covered processed sugar earlier but just a few more things to say about it. The fermenting process depending on how long the milk is heated and to what degree will slowly destroy the natural sugar found in cow’s milk called lactate. As the milk is cultured acid in the live cultures destroy the natural sugars. Natural Yogurt therefore has a natural tart or sour taste. American’s have been addicted to sugar for so long manufactures have to add sugar to the product for it to sell.
I have seen from 14 to 29 grams of sugar added to a 6 ounce container that is almost 1 ounce of sugar plus the carbs which is even more sugar.
Don’t let the label “Plain Yogurt” that only means no added flavors except it still has sugar. I think it is still too much to keep the probiotic alive and contained in the stomach but I’m not the expert.
A note of warning: Light yogurt uses artificial sweeteners and artificial colors. Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be very bad for your health.
According to naturalnews “Numerous health problems have been associated with aspartame, including migraines, blurred vision, depression, gastrointestinal complications and many others.
What else is added to Yogurt?
Not to be too complex, but dairy yogurt cow’s milk protein is called casein. Yogurt cultures are
Called; L. Acidophilus, Bifious, Bifidolbacteria, Bigidolbacteria, L. Bulgaricus, L. Case, L, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, (bulgaricus), and Streptococcus thermophiles.
Ingredients also include artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, the controversial thickener carrageenan, chemical defoamers, corn starch, high-fructose corn syrup, juice concentrate, natural flavors, pectin, and synthetic preservatives.
Is Fruit on the bottom really Fruit or jelly?
In the United States the term jelly refers to a clear or translucent fruit spread (jam) made from sweetened fruit (or vegetable) juice and is set using its naturally occurring pectin. I cannot tell you if the fruit is real or not in most cases the label said fruit juice from concentrate. I am sure that means it is one of those bottle flavors pictured above but I have no proof.
Tastes created in a lab no real fruit anywhere. I bought several containers of Yogurt and found the ones labeled as having fruit, I could not find any actual fruit. I did find one blueberry the rest looked like something creative like gluey corn starch is used to make it look like pealed fruit. The color wasn’t even right for a true blueberry. The texture was like jelly soft not like the pulp of real fruit.
The best thing when you are trying to buy commercial yogurt is to read the labels and look closely at the product once you open it.
This is the end of my questions I am sure I will have more but this is just a word of warning If you are looking for probiotics better look somewhere else than commercial yogurt. May you can do what I did and find a local goat farmer.
There are people who have cut out other dairy products but still eat yogurt and consider it a healthy choice. Yogurt has been sold as a “diet” food that can help you lose weight and keep you healthy. There are many reasons why the typical yogurt brands don’t do either. Most yogurts are loaded with either sugar or artificial sweeteners. The sugar counteracts the probiotic effects of the yogurt, and the artificial sweeteners….well, take a look at our videos on artificial sweeteners for more about that. This applies to nondairy yogurts too! Do you know what you’re getting in your yogurt?