Home Made Yoghurt Has Gravitas!
Cultured dairy foods have been around since about 10,000 BC. To the ancient Assyrians, yoghurt was known as lebney or ‘life’. Its beneficial medicinal properties were prized in ancient cultures and in contemporary cultures we’re catching up with ancient food wisdom. Yoghurt is credited with healing everything from gastrointestinal complaints to eczema.
What’s so hot about cultured dairy?
Cultured dairy (yoghurt, cultured cream, clabbered milk, labneh (labne), kefir, cheese) is a fermented food. The are many other classes of fermented foods – vegetable ferments like sauerkraut and kimchi; soya ferments like tempeh and miso; fruit ferments; raw honey; raw apple cider vinegar; kombucha tea; and grains and seeds like authentic sourdough bread, dark chocolate, coffee, salami and a variety of other preserved meats.
As a group, fermented foods are teaming with live, probiotic, lactic-acid producing, ‘pro-biotic’ bacteria vital for our digestive health and proper immune function.
Culture Your Health Workshop was awesome! I learnt SO much about probiotics and it’s so easy! Always wanted to make my own yoghurt and much more. Isabel, thanks for a wonderful day. Sabrina Zeif.
Yes, bacteria – we’re covered in it! In fact we humans have TEN times more microbial cells than we have human cells … and most of them live in our gut!! The human microbiome is the composition of the multitude of various strains of bacteria and yeasts that reside on the surface and in deep layers of our skin, saliva, mouth, inside of our eyelids. and in the gastrointestinal tracts.
In fact, around 80% of our immune system resides in our gut and our gut lining forms the first line of defence against invading pathogens and other external ‘threats’. Our gut bacteria (our micro-flora) work hard for us: they compete with invading and endogenous pathogens; modulate gene expression; influence immune responses throughout the body; busy themselves pre-digesting our food; restoring live enzymes, making some nutrients from scratch and making others more bio-available; detoxify pesticides; remove anti-nutrients in grains, legumes, seeds and nuts; and even play a fundamental part in our emotional and mental health. In fact, they’re pretty much involved in just about every aspect of our health and healing.
So how does yoghurt fit into the picture?
In the process of culturing (lacto-fermenting) dairy, beneficial bacteria (in this case, usually lactobacillus bulgaris and streptococcus thermophilus) digesting the milk sugar (lactose), producing lactic acid. This fermentation restores many of the enzymes which are destroyed during pasteurisation, but which we need to absorb calcium and other minerals from the dairy.
The process also breaks down the milk protein casein – one of the most difficult proteins to digest and restores the enzyme lactase, which helps us to digest the milk sugar lactose, so that many, who are lactose intolerant, can better tolerate lacto-fermented foods.
Cultures vs Wild Ferments
Incidentally, the term ‘cultured’ in relation to fermented foods relates to the fact that a ‘starter’ containing specific strains of lactic acid forming bacteria, is used to initiate the fermentation process. So for instance, in yoghurt-making the milk is ‘cultured’ by adding a small amount of ‘live’ probiotic yoghurt from a previous batch.
But the process of fermentation can happily proceed un-aided: the (now) old fashioned ‘clabbered milk’ which our grannies used to make, is simply raw milk left out on a counter top exposed to the ambient microbes in the environment. After a couple of days, the microbes have worked away on the milk – which sours and ‘clabbers’. This type of fermentation is known as ‘wild fermentation’ since it utilises the ambient bacteria all around us. It’s this process that underlies traditional methods of fermenting vegetables and other foods where no ‘starter culture’ is used.
Authentic sourdough bread-making utilises both methods: the wild fermentation of flour and water creates the ‘starter’, which then then added to fresh flour and water and left to slowly ferment – by consuming the sugars in the grain and producing carbon dioxide bubbles which make the dough rise. Clever critters, eh?
Wow, what a fabulous, well-thought out training [workshop] on probiotics – I loved the whole format & experience, and will be back for the bread and broth session. Thank you for such a lovely day! Marina Cleland.
Our gut ‘bugs’ need a little help from their friends
All sustainable life is about maintaining balance and our internal environment, largely regulated by the composition of our gut bacteria, is no different.
In a healthy gut, beneficial bacteria live alongside pathogenic mirocobes, keeping them in check. However a wide variety of modern ‘lifestyle’ factors (antibiotics, ant-inflammatory medication, the contraceptive pill, processed foods, mal-digestion, stress, toxic personal and home care products, environmental toxins) damage and can completely wipe out our beneficial bacteria. A state of intestinal ‘dysbiosis’ can ultimately allow the pathogenic microbes to play their part in laying the foundations for chronic disease.
Given their pervasive role, eating probiotic foods, like cultured dairy regularly, is important in helping us to maintain (and even restore) the balance between ‘good’ guys and ‘bad’ guys. Indeed, probiotic therapy is an important element in treating many digestive disorders and it’s crucially important if antibiotics are prescribed.
Cultured dairy – food of the gods!
Did you know that cultured dairy has been around since about 10,000 BC? It’s pedigree is evident in almost all culinary traditions, for example, in the ancient cultures of Iran and India (around 500 BC) the combination of yoghurt and honey was prized as “the food of the gods”.
- The Pharohs reputedly feasted on it
- Persian traditions believe that Abraham owed his longevity to eating yoghurt regularly
- Present day Hindus offer and consume ‘curds’ (cultured milk) – along with milk, sugar, ghee and honey – as gifts to the gods in their ancient ritual of Panchamitra (the Five Elixirs of Life)
- Yoghurt is the key ingredient in the longevity-promoting diet of the growing number of Bulgaria’s centenarians
Research shows that a regular diet of ‘cultured’ dairy:
- lowers cholesterol
- protects against bone loss
- populates the digestive tract with beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to help ‘crowd out’ pathogens at bay
- guarding against infectious illnesses, and
- enables us to fully digest our food.
So, yoghurt certainly does have gravitas and it’s well worth making your own.
Home-made yoghurt is the real deal
Good quality, organic, commercially made yoghurt is expensive – and even the top brands contain thickening, emulsifying and stabilising ingredients (as they’re deemed ‘processing aids’ they’re not on the label). Home-made is far cheaper, far more delicious and far, far more beneficial than anything you’ll buy – at any price.
We encourage you to ‘have a go’ and discover how simple the process of home-made yoghurt can be and this recipe for Natural Home-Made Yoghurt with Raw Honey Drizzle is a delicious and out-of-orbit nutritious way to start!
Nature: Gut bacteria gene complement dwarfs human genome
You Tube: The Invisible Universe of the Human Microbiome
Natasha Campbell-McBride (2010): Gut and Psychology Syndrome
Sandor Katz (2003): Wild Fermentation: The Flavour, Nutrition and Craft of Wild-Cultured Foods
Sandor Katz (2012): The Art of Wild Fermentation