Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Mar

Yogurt Mania

How did we survive all these years without functional yogurt products? If it weren’t for Yoplait and Dannon enhancing our digestive facilities, I bet we’d never get anything done in the bathroom. I, for one, can’t recall the last time I had a satisfying bowel movement without concurrently sucking on an extra large Purple Gogurt as I sat astride the toilet.

Yoplait and Dannon are responsible for injecting more culture into our lives than Warhol, The Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and ancient Athens combined. I love the way those two superpowers ultra-pasteurize their yogurt so as to rid it of any naturally-occurring, unpredictable, rogue probiotic cultures (unfettered bacterial growth? – no thanks) before supplanting them with nice, orderly probiotic cultures (and not too much of them, thanks). Mother nature? Natural selection? Ha! As if natural foods could improve my immunity and digestive health better than multi-national corporations. You think sauerkraut has your best interests in mind?

There are downsides to the addiction, though. And it is an addiction. Make no mistake about that. The cravings can hit me hard, fast, and without warning. My blood sugar drops, my knees weaken. Visions of Danimals dance about my tormented psyche, laughing and pointing and beckoning. Normally, I rush to the nearest grocer, head straight to the healthy dairy section, and thrust my probing tongue through the foil seal and into the soothing bath of HFCS, whipped skim froth, carrageenan, and single-file probiotic formations. Normally, all is well, but I’m not always within range of a Dannon/Yoplait distributor. Like last week.

I was driving through LA, just south of Hollywood, when I got the cravings. It wasn’t pretty, and my options were extremely limited. Check cashing places and carnicerias abounded, but there were no grocery stores. I needed my Activia, and I needed it immediately. My wild eyes betrayed my intent; even the fidgeting methamphetamine enthusiast (with whom I sensed a strange sort of community) gave a wide berth. Next thing I knew, I was across the street, apparently having successfully navigated traffic. A Greek market lay before me, a small, unassuming ethnic grocer full of olive oils, labna and mediocre red wine. I entered, approached the counter, and inquired as to their yogurt selection. Greeks are supposed to make yogurt, right? (In the Yoplait online forums, the “Upcoming Product rumors” thread made mention of a “non-fat, Greek-style yogurt coming soon,” so I knew there was some precedent.) They did, and the clerk produced a small nondescript tub of white yogurt, which I immediately purchased. Don’t worry – I made sure to ask if it was low-fat. The clerk, a stout man with an impressive white mustache, just laughed off my silly question. What was I thinking? No one makes full-fat (ugh, the thought just makes me sick) yogurt, I told myself. He was right to laugh at me.

So I popped the top and grabbed a spoon. It smelled pretty sour, and it didn’t even smell like vanilla (but what other flavor could white yogurt be?), but I was desperate. I was about to take a massive spoonful of the stuff when, luckily, the clerk chimed in once again.

“Best yogurt in all of Los Angeles! It’s made from raw sheep and cow milk in Greece, then shipped directly to us! You will like!” I just looked at his bristly ‘stache.

Raw milk? This stuff wasn’t ultra-pasteurized. It was probably teeming with barbarian hordes of probiotic cultures. Ferocious little milky versions of Gauls, Thracians, Ostro-goths, and Visi-goths running rampant over the pristine splendor of Rome, with Yoplait Caesar’s mighty praetorian guard nowhere to be found. I was at an impasse. I needed yogurt in my body, but I didn’t want to face the uncertainty of consuming rogue probiotic cultures. What was I to do?!

Then I remembered my recent pharmacy pick-up: antibiotics. (I’d gone in for a nasty cold; the doctor really didn’t want to write the prescription, citing some nonsense about the cold being a virus and therefore unaffected by antibiotics, but I just slipped him my favorite malpractice lawyer’s card, and he got the idea). I figured antibiotics could counteract the nasty probiotics in the dangerous Greek yogurt, so I tossed a handful of pills down on the counter, crushed them with my Purell aerosol canister, and immediately insufflated the powder. Once I could feel the tell-tale signs of antibiotic powder penetrating my nasal membrane and reaching my blood stream, I tossed down the yogurt. I distinctively heard several dozen death knells signifying the probiotic cultures’ complete assimilation into my body. Sure, it may not technically be assimilation if they’re dead, but this ain’t no melting pot.

This definitely wasn’t vanilla. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they forgot to add the flavoring. But, I’ve gotta say – it was the best damn non-fat yogurt I’ve ever had. It was so rich, so creamy, and so filling. I’ve never had a full-fat item in my life – I avoid direct eye-contact with cartons of whole milk and I’ll spend as long as it takes to whip enough air into skim milk to get it to stand up on its own and solidify into cream (1:1:1 ratio of skim milk to powdered sugar to cornstarch) – but if they taste as good as this yogurt did, I think I understand why people are willing to risk obesity, heart disease, and diabetes just for a shot of half-and-half in the morning coffee…

In case it isn’t abundantly clear to my regular readers (or if you’re new here and your worried about my sanity) I’m just having a little fun with this article. Functional yogurt fans may not be quite that crazy, but you wouldn’t know it by the sales figures of these probiotic-enhanced brands of sugar slurry. They’re billed as the healthiest, simplest choice for people on the go, growing children, women interested in slimming down, and folks with digestive troubles. The kids love it because it’s got funny cartoons on the carton and it’s loaded with sugar. Hell, everyone loves the sugar. And because it’s “healthy,” low-fat, and “packed with probiotics,” people don’t feel bad slurping down all the sugar.

It’s nonsense, people. Probiotics are indeed healthy and helpful members of any digestive system, and consuming them in supplement or fermented food form is a good move with many potential benefits, but wasting your money on fortified processed food (food should never require “fortification”) and its obscene packaging and advertising campaign is silly. Those probiotic-enchanced sugary yogurts are stripped of their natural bacteria via pasteurization. Even the “natural” full-fat yogurts, however delicious they are and whatever other benefits they confer, are usually pasteurized with probiotic cultures added afterward. There’s nothing magical about Yoplait or Dannon.

Regular yogurt has probiotics, too. The clinical doses of probiotics – the amounts that have shown promise in trials – are far higher than anything you’ll get in a tiny 80 calorie container of Key Lime Yoplait yogurt. I’m talking at least 20 billion cfu (colony forming units). If you want the real benefits of probiotics, make fermented foods a regular part of your daily diet. Eat sauerkraut, kimchee, full-fat Greek yogurt (Fage is a good one, or look for a local Greek market), or kefir (if you tolerate dairy). Naturally fermented foods will have good levels of bacteria. You may not get a label listing all the strains, but you’ll know that they’re the same probiotics people have been consuming for thousands of years. Obtaining probiotics this way is generally safe, but if you want a bit more precision, a good supplement will have a label listing the specific strains (and in greater numbers). I regularly use this method for a number of reasons: for its convenience, because I don’t generally do dairy, and to ensure I’m getting precise amounts of certain strains in my system. As my upcoming Primal Flora supplement (30 billion cfu) nears release, I’ll discuss this more at length. Whatever you do, just don’t rely on sugar-filled functional yogurt products to get your probiotics.

What about you guys? Any ridiculous yogurt hyperbole sightings in the wild? Share in the comments section.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. The first time I ever really checked what I was eating happened when I was on holiday in LA years ago. I bought a huge tub of low fat yogurt to eat in my hotel room. I started eating it and boy it was sooo creamy and delicious and I thought god the Americans are fantastic at food – I wonder how they get this low fat product so creamy. Well I looked at the contents and saw about 15 ingredients I didn’t recognize and couldn’t even pronounce. It was my white light moment about the food industry. I threw it away (it was hard because the stuff was so good!) and from them on have always read the labels.

    Jason wrote on March 18th, 2010
  2. I have the same problem I see others reporting. I love Fage yogurt- have been a fan since I discovered it years ago. But these days I have a harder and harder time finding the full-fat version. It’s all the 0% and 2%. Even took a trip to Trader Joe’s last night (30 minutes from home) and that was all they had too.

    Debbie wrote on March 18th, 2010
  3. For those that may have Indian (like in East India) Food stores around, you can get a 5Lb tub of yougurt (Desi Natural Dahi) for about 6/7 dollars. Whole milk only, and only ingredients listed are Cultured pasturised milk,nonfat milk solids (not sure what these are)and yogurt cultutres.

    has 3.3 % milkfat

    Pretty yummy too

    GP wrote on March 18th, 2010
  4. Funny article. The low fat – high sugar thing cracks me up. I spent a month in Greece and ate Greek Yogurt for breakfast each morning. Wow, it is amazing! So rich and creamy because it is high in fat, and you don’t have to sweeten it!

    Now I only buy Greek yogurt instead of the “regular” stuff.

    Isn’t it funny how North American food is such crap compared to the original European versions?

    nathan wrote on May 30th, 2010
  5. Don’t be fooled, European food is crap compared to original European versions, too.

    My girlfriend is from Europe and says that we can find as many quality items here as there (and just as much crap), it’s just that we each have different things that we care enough about to keep purist.

    Roland wrote on May 30th, 2010
  6. I love how FAGE is so sought after in the States. It’s a Greek yogurt and here in Greece it’s just there. All the time! I can’t quite remember a time when we didn’t have FAGE yogurt in our fridge. However, it’s always been of the 2% fat variety. Should I look for a higher percentage? Maybe it will taste better and help me overcome the overwhelming bitterness of it…

    Bill Pairaktaridis wrote on July 16th, 2010
    • make Greek yogurt at home right in your clay pot. the micro-pores of the clay draw out the water and thicken the yogurt naturally. i use MEC’s pure-clay yogurt making pots to make my Greek yogurt. its so thick & silky, i can use it for making icing on cakes too… love the taste of yogurt that’s made in clay, no taste of metals.

      Andria wrote on January 31st, 2014
  7. When I was little, my mom used to make home-made yogurt. She’d scald a gallon of milk and put it in a tub with some culture to ferment every other day because the whole family couldn’t keep their hands off it! I fondly remember early mornings with my dad, scooping up a bowl of this rich, creamy, smooth yogurt (that was not sour) and sprinkling rye-bread crumbs just like my Farmor (Danish for Grandmother) used to do for him.

    I still do this to this day, 30 years later. It is SO easy to make your own homemade yogurt, doesn’t take much time, and it will be far superior and cheaper to anything you buy. I highly recommend folks here look up how to do it. :)

    Lori B. wrote on August 6th, 2010
    • Yogurt is simply milk or cream that is cultured with active live cultures. These cultures are the key to many of yogurt’s health benefits. Active live cultures are basically good bacteria that are necessary for the body to function at its best. These good bacteria prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that cause bacterial infections and diseases.

      gynecologist maricopa wrote on February 1st, 2011
  8. I’m curious, what was the name of the store where you got the yogurt?

    Drew wrote on February 11th, 2011
    • Yogurt is also a good source of protein, which helps give the body energy to keep you going throughout the day.

      vigilon security wrote on February 16th, 2011
    • Drew, try Papa Cristo’s Greek Market on Pico and Normandie.

      Erik Cisler wrote on March 20th, 2011
  9. where in LA is this market I go to Hollywood all the time

    Andy wrote on April 12th, 2011
  10. My favorite words on my container of greek yogurt are “10% milk fat”. Makes me giddy every time.

    Keet wrote on May 31st, 2011
  11. I’m living in the middle east and sometimes we can find Fage but often it is low/non fat.

    What are the thoughts on “Labna”? I can’t find a product label although the taste is quite similar to good greek yogurt.

    Appreciate any input.

    Tank wrote on June 23rd, 2011
  12. I know I’m a bit late to this post, however, I thought it was interesting you didn’t mention anything about Making your own yogurt.

    I’m been making my own full fat Yogurt for the past two years. Using unpasteurized 1/2&1/2. We let it “cook” for 24 hours reducing the Lactose completely. Not to mention it is amazing!

    Monica wrote on July 21st, 2011
  13. You could definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

    fitness equipments wrote on August 22nd, 2011
  14. magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

    sexshop wrote on September 12th, 2011
  15. Great article!
    I now make my own yogurt and it’s so good and so cheap to make! 😀 The stuff at the shops (Yoplait etc) are just rubbish!

    Kim wrote on September 16th, 2011
  16. Wonderful article! I love my fage full fat yogurt but even better is creme fraiche(cultured cream), it’s not as tangy as yogurt but has less carbs and is soooo filling, YUM!!!

    Yolanda J wrote on October 19th, 2011
  17. One of the things I like about living in Italy is the food. For three and a half years now, I have been buying a brand of Greek yogurt actually made in Greece. I normally buy the whole milk kind, but today the only one in the store was the 2%. Oh well. A while ago, I gave in and started buying it two tubs at a time. I have just started eating paleolithically, and today for the first time checked the ingredients list on the tub: Milk. Germs. No sugar. No colour. No HFCS. No nothin’, just the moo and the goo. I might do some scouting around to find some sheep and cow milk mix yogurt now that you’ve given me the idea. There has to be a Greek deli somewhere in Rome. Italians are all insane health nuts, so there must be some awe-inspiring health food stores in the City that I haven’t looked at yet. But I’ve fallen madly in love with Greek yogurt, as is evidenced by the enormous stack of empty plastic tubs, enough to start pioneering a new recycled-plastic building material.

    Hilary wrote on March 21st, 2012
  18. Oh, and it might be interesting to hear that long before I’d ever heard of Grok, I knew about milk fat being good for you. I fell dreadfully ill some years ago, and spent a year hovering around in some netherworld between being alive and being a zombie. I had been dosed up with several different kinds of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and sleep drugs, and what no one bothered to find out was if any of it was contraindicated by my preexisting mild epilepsy. Whoops! if it has been the US, I would certainly have sued, but I’m Canadian so… Anyway, I had a long road to recovery after losing 60 pounds and being at death’s door. One of the first things I did was swear off skimmed or even 2% milk forever. I had spoken with a nurse who was a lactation consultant for new mothers, and she said that if a child isn’t lactose intolerant, he needs the fattiest kind of milk he could get. She told me that it works together with B vitamins to make an infant’s brain develop. A year later and a combination of high-fat dairy, meat, fish and fresh vegetables, a diet I instinctively created out of … oh yes, common sense, and I was back on my feet, fully functional and looking for my first job in two years. Never looked back, and even though my weight crept up to an uncomfortable level over the next ten years, I have always known that the low-fat, high carb thing was a lie. My poor old mum got hooked on those kinds of diets for most of her life, constantly yo-yoing, losing and regaining the same 20 pounds over and over, and finally dying of cancer, after nearly a lifetime of “dieting”. I looked at that, and just figured out for myself, without looking up a single research study, that the food you could catch yourself, or pluck off a tree, or fish out of the sea, was going to be better than anything that came in a package. Maybe it was my hippie upbringing.

    Hilary wrote on March 21st, 2012
  19. Tempeh is a great fermented food. You really need to challenge your assumptions about beans.

    S wrote on June 11th, 2012
  20. Paleo experts advise you to never eat yogurt.

    On a paleo diet, is there any yogurt that might be acceptable? (Chobanl?)

    Thank you immensely

    Richard wrote on June 26th, 2012
  21. I love Fage Greek yogurt but it can get a bit pricey if you eat as much as I do— so rather than go to Costco and buy greek yogurt, I go to Costco and buy 2 gallons of milk for less than the Fage costs and make my own. very easy to do and nearly foolproof. Try it, you’ll like it— and the only thing in it is milk

    ljeana wrote on August 5th, 2012

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