Yogurt is usually thought of in terms of its health or medicinal benefits. Many experience it as an aid to digestion. Acidophilus yogurt tends to help reimplant normal colon bacteria, which can then act more effectively in the complete digestion and utilization of high-fiber foods. Our friendly bacteria also aid in the production of many of our needed B vitamins.
Yogurt can be eaten alone as a snack or dessert, mixed with cereal, or made into sauces or dips. Lower fat yogurts are becoming more popular in recent years as people watch their fat intake. Frozen yogurt has also increased in use as a slight improvement over ice cream. Fruited and sugared yogurt is commonly available, but this is not recommended. Often, people who have a lactase deficiency do all right when eating yogurt because much of the lactose has already been acted on by the bacterial process and turned into lactic acid.
It is interesting that, on the one hand, we are trying to get rid of bacteria in milk products through pasteurization and on the other, we are trying to obtain more bacteria in yogurt and kefir. What we want to do is to keep our friendly colon bacteria L. acidophilus, L. bifidis, and Strep. faecium working for our benefit, not to obtain pathogenic organisms that can make us sick. People often eat yogurt after antibiotic therapy, which kills off some of their normal bacteria in the intestine or in a woman’s vaginal tract. This may lead to an overgrowth of yeast organisms, such as Candida albicans, which may then need treatment to clear. (See discussion in the Anti-Yeast program in Part Four.) Yogurt or acidophilus culture douches or cultures of bacteria taken orally seem to be helpful clinically to prevent these problems, though further research is needed to clarify what is really happening with this interplay of organisms. In some areas of Europe, acidophilus and vitamin B12 are prescribed together with antibiotics.
Kefir. Another soured and fermented milk product, kefir is more of a drink than yogurt. It has similar properties, though most kefir available is flavored and sweetened with fruit. It is often a good nutritious substitute for milk, especially for children.
Buttermilk. Basically soured milk, buttermilk provides good nourishment with a reduced fat content while remaining high in calcium and protein, though its vitamin A content is lower (unless added) than that of whole milk. Buttermilk may be helpful for digestion, as are the other soured products, for those people who tolerate its fairly strong taste.
Cheeses. Cheeses have been made for centuries worldwide, directly from milk, by separating the curd, or milk solids, from the whey and then aging the curd. Cheese is a concentrated food; it takes about one gallon of milk to make a pound of cheese. In general, cheese is a high-protein, high-calcium food with good levels of vitamin A and an assortment of various vitamins and minerals.
Cheese has some of the problems of milk products in general—it is high in fats, mainly saturated fats, and high in cholesterol, and too much of it can cause the many problems that come from high-fat diets. Cheese is even more commonly abused in our adult population than milk. Sodium content is also usually higher in cheeses than in milk. There are some lower-fat cheeses available, such as mozzarella, farmer cheese, and cheeses made from skim milk. Recently, goat’s milk cheese and fetas made from sheep or goats have become available, particularly helpful for people avoiding cow’s milk products.