Yogurt, the versatile dairy product made by fermenting milk with bacteria (AKA yogurt cultures) has a number of applications aside from the morning meal. It has a whole host of uses for health issues and can be employed in a few beauty formulas as well. Yogurt. It’s not just for breakfast anymore. (That was painfully cliché, I know, but it’s true!)
Fermentation of lactose by one or more varieties of bacteria (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Enterococcus faecium, Streptococcus thermophilus, and others) produces lactic acid which turns milk into yogurt and gives it its texture and tangy taste. Those cultures also give yogurt its health-boosting qualities.
Look for yogurt labeled with a “Live and Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association, indicating the product reliably contains at least 100 million active cultures per gram of yogurt. Opt for organic if you can afford it and it’s available–and buy it in large containers to save on packaging, or make your own.
1. Lower cholesterol
Taking yogurt that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus and a combination of Enterococcus faecium and Streptococcus thermophilus seems to lower cholesterol for people with borderline to moderate high cholesterol levels. This type of yogurt is thought to lower total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol but does not raise “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
For lowering cholesterol, according to WebMD: Several different doses have been tried depending on the preparation. A typical dose of 200 mL of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus per day has been used. A combination product of 125 mL (approximately 4 ounces) Lactobacillus acidophilus yogurt with 2.5% fructo-oligosaccharides three times daily has also been used. A dose of 450 mL daily of yogurt containing the Causido culture (which contains Enterococcus faecium and two strains of Streptococcus bacteria) has also been used.
2. Help with lactose intolerance
As an alternative to milk, eating yogurt with live cultures seems to improve lactose tolerance in children and adults who cannot absorb lactose.
3. Enhance your immune system
According to the International Journal of Immunotherapy, yogurt with active cultures enhances the body’s immune system by increasing the production of gamma interferons, which play a key role in fighting certain allergies and viral infections. Other studies indicate that yogurt can help prevent gastrointestinal infections (lactic acid helps inhibit the growth of food-borne pathogens, and yogurt cultures produce bacteriocins which restore natural intestinal cultures).
4. Relieve diarrhea
Antibiotics may kill good bacteria in addition to the ones they’re meant to kill, leading to stomach discomfort and diarrhea–but the Lactobacillus acidophilus in yogurt produce bacteriocins which restore natural intestinal culture. Which is why yogurt is used for restoring normal bacteria in the intestine after antibiotics and for treating antibiotic-related diarrhea and acute diarrhea in children. Yogurt formula given as a replacement for milk formula in infants and young children seems to relieve persistent diarrhea.
For preventing diarrhea due to treatment with antibiotics, WebMD recommends: 125 mL (approximately 4 ounces) of yogurt containing Lactobacillus GG taken twice daily throughout the antibiotic treatment course. Some researchers recommend taking 240 mL (8 ounces) of other yogurt preparations twice daily. Take yogurt at least 2 hours before or 2 hours after antibiotics.
5. Treat yeast Infections
Along with the healthful bacteria which may help restore the normal bacteria in the digestive tract, the same can work for vagina yeast infections. Yogurt is used for treating and preventing vaginal yeast as well as bacteria infections, and for preventing urinary tract infections.
Some women use yogurt inside the vagina for treating yeast infections and bacterial infections in pregnancy, but most studies have looked at consuming yogurt orally for this purpose. The March 1992 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that daily consumption of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus cultures results in a three-fold decrease in the incidence of candida vaginitis (yeast infections).
For preventing vaginal yeast or bacterial infections WebMD recommends a typical dose of 150 mL Lactobacillus acidophilus yogurt by mouth per day.
6. Use for a DIY facial
Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, using it on your face as yogurt is so mild that even highly sensitive skin can take it. Yogurt can even out skin tone, fade freckles over time, and do a wonderful job to tighten pores and cleanse skin. Clean your face, apply a thin layer of plain yogurt to face, throat, and chest, and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. You can use this treatment every day.
7. Soothe canker sores
Eat two servings of yogurt a day until the sores clear.
8. Soothe sunburn pain
To soothe sunburn pain, spread yogurt on affected area and let sit for twenty minutes–then rinse clean with lukewarm warm water.
9. Make yogurt cheese
Yogurt cheese has a consistency similar to cream cheese, but is lower in fat and has all that healthy bacteria. It is used as a spread for bagels, toast, and crackers, or as a healthy substitute for cream cheese in many recipes calling for cream cheese, even cheesecake. To make yogurt cheese, empty a pint of yogurt into a large, fine-meshed strainer or colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth, a coffee filter, or yogurt strainer. Place a bowl under the strainer to catch the liquid (whey) that drains from the yogurt. Cover the remaining yogurt and refrigerate for eight to 24 hours (texture will vary depending on how long it drains). (Save the calcium-rich whey, it’s a health bonanza: read The Healing Properties of Whey.) Makes about one cup of yogurt cheese.
You can also use yogurt cheese to make a great and healthy pie crust: Yogurt Cheese Piecrust
10. Make your french toast healthier
Here’s a surprising way to make french toast that is quite clever and tasty. By replacing whole milk and whole eggs with low-fat yogurt and egg whites, you remove much of the fat and swap in a little extra life. Hurray.
6 ounces low-fat yogurt (plain, or any flavor)
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
6 slices day-old multigrain bread (or 12 slices if you are using a skinnier baguette)
3 teaspoons olive oil
Fresh fruit (optional)
Mint for garnish (optional)
1. If yogurt has chunks of fruit in it, blend with water in a blender.
2. In a pie pan or other shallow pan, whisk together yogurt, water, and egg whites; dip bread on both side in the yogurt mixture.
3. Heat a small frying pan to medium-high heat and spread 1/2 teaspoon of olive in the pan.
4. Cover and cook soaked bread in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes on both sides, or until lightly browned.
5. Continue with each bead slice, adding 1/2 teaspoon olive oil per slice.
6. To make a quick fresh fruit “compote,” toss together mixed berries or fruit of your choice with a small splash of maple syrup and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fruit will soften slightly and begin to make a juicy syrup that is prefect with the french toast. Garnish with mint if you have a pinch on hand.
11. Make a super soothing smoothie
In her book, The Spice of Vegetarian Cooking, Martha Rose Shulman offers a recipe for an unusual minty yogurt drink that is refreshing and combines both mint , cumin, and yogurt for a superb tonic. Here’s how:
1 cup yogurt
½ cup water
12 mint leaves
½ teaspoon cumin
8 ice cubes
Whole fresh mint leaves for garnish
1. Blend together all the ingredients except the ice cubes and whole mint leaves for the garnish until smooth in a blender.
2. Add the ice cubes and continue to blend another 20 to 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and garnish with the mint leaves. Serve.
More yogurt recipes: