What is meant by "live" yogurt?

Can you confirm whether "live" yogurt is okay to eat or not. I assume that "live" means it's unpasteurized and therefore not a good idea at all, but I wanted to double check.

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Dear Nicky,

Live yogurt means that the 'friendly' bacteria that is used to make yogurt are still alive and in the product. This is a positive thing, because the bacteria that milk is cultured with to turn it into yogurt are helpful in our own GI system. The bacteria may help to restore the "friendly" bacteria in the intestines, after the bacterial balance of the digestive system has been upset from a GI bug or from the use of antibiotics.

Yogurt is made with milk that has been pasteurized, and so is very safe to eat. Yogurt is made by curdling milk with purified bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which causes the lactose (milk sugar) to turn into lactic acid. The process starts with pasteurized, homogenized milk which is first inoculated with the bacteria cultures and then warmed in an incubator for several hours where is becomes thick and tart. You can even make your own yogurt. Yogurt makers are available in many kitchen and health food stores.

Yogurt that has been pasteurized after culturing and incubating should be labeled as such: "heat-treated after culturing". Pasteurizing after incubation will kill the 'friendly' bacteria. In order to get the most health benefits from yogurt, look for those that say "contains active (or live) yogurt cultures".

Thanks for visiting the web site and thank you for your question.

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