Cultured milk refers to several dairy food fermented with good bacteria. Let’s look at how they’re made and what their health benefits are.
Fermented Dairy Products
There are a lot of cultured milk products found all over the world. Humans have been using such products for thousands of years. The most well-known of these products are cheese and yogurt. Fermented milk products are known to have health benefits and can be stored for a long time.
The fermenting process involves the use of microorganisms that produce lactic acid. These microorganisms process the milk sugar or lactose in the milk. The lactic acid is the waste product of the process, that is why yogurt tastes slightly acidic. The changes in the pH level causes the proteins of the milk to set and thicken.
You might be confused with the terms pasteurized and cultured. Pasteurized milk undergoes heat treatment to kill all the bacteria. It is only after the pasteurization that flavors are added or the milk is curdled and then aged. Unpasteurized milk skips the heat treatment.
Most of the cultured dairy products undergo pasteurization. Then live microorganisms are added after heating. The term culturization refers to the process of turning the milk into cheese , yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk and other products.
You will also find these types of products on the shelves usually next to cultured milk products. Probiotic drinks are also dairy-based beverages which contain live microorganisms. These bacteria are identical to those already found in our bodies especially in our digestive tract.
They are not so different from other cultured milk products because they contain almost the similar microorganisms. The only thing you should be worried about is the milk source used in such drinks such as skimmed milk.
What Makes Up Yogurt
Yogurt has been consumed for thousands of years in the Middle East. Most of the yogurt is made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk. Yogurt needs a heat source unlike most other yogurt-like types of fermented dairy products. The most common thermophilic bacteria used for making yogurt is Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Thermophilic means it needs a constant source of heat, preferably around 110 degrees F.
Another type of yogurt can be made at room temperature. This is called mesophilic yogurt. Some food experts, however, refer to this product as kefir and not yogurt. Some countries like the US, will not consider yogurt-like products as yogurt and instead label them culture dairy blend to distinguish the slight differences. It can only be considered yogurt if it contains either of these two bacteria: Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Cultured milk products contain the same benefits as other dairy products. They are rich in calcium, protein, essential vitamins, as well as tummy-friendly bacteria that can help with digestion. Some products are low in lactose although lactose-intolerant individuals should still avoid cultured milk. Overall, they help improve the immune system and keep the skin hydrated.