Yogurt is a fermented milk product that is a great source of protein, calcium, and probiotics.  Yogurt has long been identified as a “health food,” but not all yogurts are healthy.  Some processed yogurts contain more sugar in that little cup than a candy bar!  Excessive added sugar and artificial flavorings are not part of a nourishing diet.  Here are some guidelines for avoiding the junk and finding a wholesome yogurt:

Buy plain yogurt.  Because so many flavored yogurts contain a large amount of added sugar, it’s best to buy plain yogurt.  You can flavor and sweeten yogurt on your own by adding fresh fruit, or maybe a touch of honey.

Check the ingredient list.  Yogurt is pretty easy to make (as we’ll discuss below), so it shouldn’t have a very long ingredient list.  Ideally your yogurt will only contain milk, milk powder, and active bacteria.  The bacteria names will be spelled with a large capital letter, followed by a period and a lower case word.  As an example a common bacterium found in yogurt is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which would appear on a nutrition label as L. acidophilus.

Look for the words “live and active cultures.”  Speaking of bacteria, these words on a yogurt label let you know that the healthy bacteria inside are still alive.  They have to be alive to be helpful!  Beneficial bacteria, also called probiotics, help keep your gut functional and strong.

If you want to avoid the label game altogether, make your own yogurt!  All you need is milk and a yogurt starter culture.  You only need to buy the culture once (or get one from a neighbor), after that you can make new yogurt using a small amount from your previous batch.

Cultures for Health is a great place to mail order starter cultures, as well as find tips and instructions.

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