Fermented foods have been a part of human cultures around the world for thousands of years. Next to the once mysterious, yet by science enlightened natural process of sugars turning into alcohol (fermentation) in potent beverages like beer and wine, fermentation was used as a way to preserve foods when refrigeration was not possible as well as to enhance the flavor of foods.
Now, we all have heard that fermented foods are “good” for us, but why are the good and what in the world is a fermented food anyway? Basically, a fermented food is when bacteria converts sugars and starches into lactic acid and acetic acid.
Wait…bacteria! Gross. Well, I hate to break it to you but our bodies host 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells! Thats right, our bodies are basically walking petri dishes for microscopic organisms!
With that noted why do we want to add more bacteria to our bodies, especially our guts? Well, the intestinal bacteria or flora is said to have ”a collective metabolic activity equal to a virtual organ within an organ”. Basically, without this bacteria, our digestive systems cannot do their job properly leading us to sickness and disease. Here is where fermented foods, such as yogurt, become an integral part of our health.
When you ingest yogurt and other fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut, you add probiotics to your gut that help to keep your microbiome. Fermented foods also create enzymes that assist with breakdown of food into nutrients that your body can absorb efficiently. They also may help with detoxification as the bacteria can help to digest waste that has built up in the intestines.
So why specifically is yogurt a good choice of fermented foods?

  • Yogurt is filled with bioavailable vitamins such as B6, B12, B2, and calcium. It is a protein rich food.
  • Yogurt is shown to help in weight loss.
  • The casein phosphopeptides in yogurt can help with remineralization of tooth enamel.
  • The probiotics in yogurt can help rebuild your gut flora after a dose of antibiotics.
  • Also, yogurt helps to build your immune system.

There are, however some concerns with yogurt. First and foremost, I am not a fan of flavoured or sweetened yogurt. Anything with added sugar spikes your insulin levels and causes inflammation in the body. Thus if you choose to eat yogurt only consume plain yogurt and add your own berries or honey if you desire a bit of sweetness.
There is also a concern of eating dairy if your body has stopped producing the enzyme lactase after childhood. This is a whopping 60% of the world’s population. Without lactase, you cannot breakdown lactose found in dairy. If you drink a glass of milk or eat ice cream and you get gas, stomach bloating, or diarrhea, you most likely are not digesting lactose properly.
However, because yogurt is a fermented food, it predigests its lactose, often making it ok to eat even for some that are lactose intolerant. If you are allergic to casein or whey, then stay away from yogurt.
While plain yogurt can be a great addition to your diet and overall health, you want to make sure only eat those labeled organic. If it is not organic it could contain hormones, antibiotics, blood, pus, and all sorts of things you don’t want to put into your body. I am also a huge fan of yogurt made from raw milk as it contains more vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that haven’t been destroyed by the heat of pasteurization.
Some people even use yogurt as a face mask. It is possible that the alpha hydroxy acid found in yogurt can help in reduce wrinkles, dryness, and acne.
So overall, if your body can break it down, plain yogurt is a great way to get probiotics, vitamins, and protein and provides a variety of health benefits. But note that with any fermented foods, it is better to eat small amounts at a time.