Live yogurt contains cultures, i.e. beneficial bacteria which aid the digestive system and help to improve the body's inner workings and balance of natural bacteria. These beneficial bacteria are known as 'probiotics'. Yogurt is the product of probiotics absorbing milk sugars and fermenting milk, turning it slightly sour and acidic, producing yogurt. There are various ways to add probiotics to a yogurt to produce live yogurt. One way is to use a portion of pre-made live yogurt as a starter, while another is to use dried bacteria or probiotic powder.
Traditionally speaking, a live yogurt starter is a balanced blend of bacteria that consumes the sugars that naturally occur in milk. Such bacteria turns lactose that is present in the milk to lactic acid, which changes the texture and taste of the milk. The milk turns sour with a more tangy taste, and becomes thicker and creamier in consistency. Many yogurts made from animal milk are made using starter cultures that consist of bacteria such as Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus, Lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Such bacteria-based starters are carefully blended so that the balance of bacteria is just right. Different combinations of bacteria produce different textures and flavours of live yogurt. Flavour will also depend on the amount of time that the live yogurt has had to ferment – from slightly sour, to really tangy. Live yogurt consistency will also depend on the type of milk being used to make the yogurt. Live yogurt made from goat milk will be more runny, whereas yogurt made from cow milk will be much thicker and can even be used to ferment cream.
When you read a yogurt's label, if the terms 'live cultures' or 'active cultures' are used, this means that gut-friendly bacteria are used to convert the milk to yogurt during fermentation. Check to see whether the yogurt has been heat treated, as this can kill the good bacteria and change the flavour of the yogurt. Most yogurts on the market however are not heat treated. Eating a live yogurt means that you will be consuming live and active cultures that help your body's natural gut bacteria balance.
Live yogurts contain plenty of calcium and protein, but also live bacterial cultures that are great for the gut and lower the risk of certain conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, Crohn's Disease, rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis (according to the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health).
The probiotics in live yogurt consist of yeasts and bacteria that benefit the digestive system. Some people take such probiotics to help ease symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions, therefore including live yogurt in your diet on a regular basis can be a great way to keep your gut healthy. Always check the types of probiotic and how much sugar is in a live yogurt. Some yogurts can contain far too much sugar and sweetener, which can cause stomach upsets if consumed in larger amounts.
It is a myth that frozen yogurt contains the same amount of live yogurt cultures than an unfrozen yogurt. Sometimes in fact, frozen yogurt isn't actually yogurt at all. Freezing live yogurt makes the good bacteria inside dormant. The cultures wake up from this state after they have thawed inside your body, but may not be as effective due to the freezing process. Sometimes, frozen yogurt doesn't contain any live cultures at all and is heat treated before freezing, killing the bacteria inside. Always check the label carefully so you know what's inside your frozen yogurt.
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