How much yogurt do you eat?
Too many people forgo this tasty and healthy dairy product in favour of sweeter and more fattening treats, but if you don't already, you should be incorporating more yogurt into your diet.
More importantly, you should be trying to make homemade yogurt from time to time in addition to store bought yogurt.
It's possible that you've tried yogurt in the past and disliked its sour taste or strange texture, but we want to talk about why you should give it another try. Whether you like thick greek yogurt or thin and creamy dessert yogurt, there are plenty of reasons to add it to a balanced diet.
Keep reading to learn all about the benefits of yogurt, how to use it in your diet, and even how to make it at home.
The Benefits of Yogurt
While yogurt may seem like a close cousin to pudding, custard, and sour cream, it actually has some unique benefits that these other tasty products don't offer.
These yogurt benefits will vary depending on the type of yogurt that you eat. Sugary yogurt isn't often as good as plain yogurt, and thicker yogurts (like Greek yogurt) offer extra benefits still.
We're going to discuss the benefits of the more nutritious forms of yogurt, but make sure to read nutrition labels when you're buying store-bought yogurt.
One of the best things about yogurt, in comparison to other healthy foods, is the probiotics that it offers.
Probiotics are good for your gut. They help to balance out the bacteria in your digestive system. This may help with bloating, weight loss, and even mental health.
Certain strains of probiotics may even reduce cholesterol levels.
If you've been dealing with digestive issues, try adding probiotic yogurt to your diet to see if it improves the balance in your gut.
Did you know that some forms of yogurt are rich in protein? While this isn't true of the thinner yogurts often used as snacks, thicker yogurts pack a protein punch.
Protein helps you build muscle, stay full, and grow healthy hair and nails. Your body requires protein for all of its essential functions.
While there are plenty of sources of protein, yogurt is acceptable for a vegetarian diet (though not a vegan diet) that often lacks protein.
If you choose low-fat yogurt, it's great diet-friendly food. While it varies by brand, a single serving of low-fat Greek yogurt can contain up to 20 grams of protein in under 150 calories.
This makes it a protein-dense food. It's also easy to add to any other meal, improving the overall nutritional content.
You can add it as a snack to lunches, use it as the base of breakfast bowls or smoothies, or even add it to sauces. It even makes a great replacement for sour cream.
Add extra protein to your meals the easy way by incorporating thick yogurts.
Do you get enough calcium in your diet? While this isn't true of all yogurts, many of them are a great source of calcium. But why does your body need calcium at all?
Calcium is one of the most important things that your body needs to maintain the health of your bones and teeth. By supporting bone health, you're also supporting the rest of your body.
If you don't like dairy milk for cereal or coffee, adding yogurt to your diet can add that extra boost of calcium that you're missing out on.
Why Homemade Yogurt Is Better
As we mentioned before, it might be even better for you to incorporate homemade yogurt into your diet.
The homemade yogurt benefits outweigh the benefits of some store-bought yogurts (though, as always, it's up to you to determine what kinds of benefits yogurt will offer. You're in charge).
Store-bought yogurts are often full of sugars and preservatives. Many yogurts that are marketed toward children don't have many (if any) helpful probiotics and they function more like desserts than healthy snacks.
When you make yogurt at home, you get to decide all of the ingredients that go into it. There are no mysteries.
Even if you decide to have sweet yogurts or turn your yogurt into frozen yogurt, these are choices that you get to make. Your options are limitless.
Do you want yogurt with honey and peaches? What about cocoa and coconut? When you're making yogurt at home, the sky is the limit.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt
Making yogurt at home might seem scary. It seems like one of those things that only professionals can do. That said, remember that most foods were originally made by home cooks.
You don't need anything special to make yogurt. We've compiled a few methods for making yogurt at home (as well as a few ways that you can incorporate this yogurt into your diet).
If you have a stove, you can make yogurt at home. For basic yogurt (we'll discuss add-ins later) you need milk and a yogurt starter. It might sound simple, but yogurt is just cultured milk.
You can buy freeze-dried yogurt cultures at many health food stores. If you've already made yogurt in the past, you can also use that as a starter. When in doubt, use store-bought yogurt for your first batch.
For the stovetop method, add a half-gallon of milk to a large saucepan or pot. Heat it until it reaches 85C. You don't want to boil the milk.
Cool the yogurt until it reaches a temperature that allows you to dip your finger into it without burning yourself. This is around 37C.
Whisk in your yogurt culture (if you're using yogurt, a half-cup will do). If you're using yogurt, add the milk to the yogurt in a small dish and then add the dish to the pot.
Cover the pot and wrap it with a towel, being careful to avoid putting the fabric on the burner. Keep the burner on its lowest setting and let the yogurt sit for 24 hours.
If you want standard yogurt, simply put the yogurt in glass jars and allow it to cool overnight in the fridge. For Greek yogurt, strain the yogurt through a nut-milk bag or cheesecloth. Allow it to sit overnight (or for 8 hours).
With an Instant Pot
Pressure cookers make yogurt easier than ever. Most Instant Pots even have a yogurt setting.
Pour your milk into the pot and hit the "yogurt" button on boil mode. When the heating cycle is finished, let it cool to the same temperature as the yogurt in the stovetop method.
Add the culture as you did in the stovetop method and put the pot back on yogurt mode. Set the time to 24 hours and let it ferment. The pot will alert you when the yogurt is done.
After this, either allow the yogurt to sit or use the straining method for greek yogurt.
Alternative Option: Dairy-Free Yogurt
Making dairy-free yogurt is easiest when you use the Instant Pot method above. Follow all of those steps with a few changes in ingredients.
Instead of using dairy milk, use one gallon of full-fat coconut milk. You can experiment with other plant milk, but milk without fat or protein won't yield good results.
Add your yogurt culture as you would with the previous method. You can still use store-bought yogurt culture, but you can also use pre-made vegan yogurts.
When you add the culture, sprinkle in a small amount of agar-agar (about a teaspoon). This is optional, but it will add thickness to the yogurt. It's the best way to get Greek-style vegan yogurt.
After you've finished the 24-hour fermenting process, allow your yogurt to cool. Don't strain it.
How to Use Homemade Yogurt
You can use homemade yogurt as you would any other yogurt.
If you want to eat it alone, add in some sweet fruits, honey, or even peanut butter for extra protein. A great way to make a yogurt snack more nutritious is by adding in a spoonful of protein powder and mixing it well.
You can add yogurt to any smoothie as a thickener. If you freeze the yogurt first, it gives the smoothie a milkshake texture.
You can also use yogurt as an alternative to other products. It's a great replacement for mayonnaise in pasta salad. It makes a great sour cream substitute if you use thicker yogurt, and you can add it to many sauces.
Incorporate Homemade Yogurt into Your Diet Today
With all of the benefits of homemade yogurt (and all of the ways to use it), why not try making it and incorporating it into your diet?
This is going to be a trial and error process, but soon you'll be a yogurt-making expert. Save money and know what's going into your yogurt by making it at home.
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