Giving up dairy doesn’t mean you have to give up delicious, creamy, probiotic-rich yogurt. Making homemade yogurt is simple, inexpensive and involves minimal tools. Not only will you skip all the weird additives in commercial dairy-free yogurt, the taste of homemade is beyond compare. Seriously, what’s the deal with all these gag-worthy, sickly sweet concoctions lining store shelves? You may as well eat a candy bar.
Yogurt is one of those super simple, yet often overlooked foods that can easily be made at home. All you need is milk, a starter culture and a thickening agent if you like it super thick. Once you have your base you can go to town tricking out your ferment with savory or sweet add-ins, to your tastes and without all the junk.
Like your yogurt nice and thick?
The problem with making non-dairy yogurt is that the bacteria need to feed on the sugars in the milk in order to multiply. Dairy milk is much higher in sugar than most non-dairy milks (12g compared to just 4g in coconut milk). To help the fermentation process, you can add a bit of maple syrup (honey actually has antimicrobial properties, so maple is a better choice).
Adding a thickener also helps create a thicker yogurt. I tested both arrowroot starch for a vegan option and grass-fed gelatin for a non-vegan version. The gelatin version turned out much thicker, similar to Greek yogurt while the arrowroot version had a smoother consistency similar to kefir. They are both delicious!
Your Belly is Teaming with Life
Our gut microbiome is a wondrous and seemingly mysterious thing. The microbes in and on our bodies outnumber our cells 10 to 1, which means that you are literally more bacteria than person! A little creepy but also kinda’ cool, right? We couldn’t survive without these little guys and nurturing them is part of taking care of ourselves.
Regularly eating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt can:
- promote regular bowl movements;
- enhance immune function (in fact, 70% of the immune system is located in the gut);
- help regulate blood sugar;
- improve digestion;
- prevent and help treat gastrointestinal, vaginal and urinary tract infections;
- help treat high cholesterol;
- aid in absorption of minerals and the manufacture of vitamin K and some B vitamins, just to name a few.
You’ve probably heard about good bacteria and bad bacteria, but the reality is that we need both to be in balance for optimal health. Unfortunately, modern life has waged a war against our little buddies (good and bad): the overuse of antibiotics, antacids, excessive alcohol consumption, excessive stress and even long-term use of oral contraceptives all affect the numbers and balance of the microbiome.
The good news is eating probiotic-rich fermented foods is an excellent way to foster a good balance of microbes in your digestive tract. Yogurt is just one of many foods: kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir are all popular examples of probiotic-rich foods. (Be careful though, store-bought ferments can be loaded with extra sugar and are often pasteurized, killing all the bacteria within.)
Another way to foster a healthy gut is to feed your little guys plenty of non-digestible carbohydrates—also called pre-biotics—found in raw fruits and veggies, legumes and whole grains.
What are your favorite homemade ferments or what ferments would you like to learn to make from scratch?
Share in the comments below!