Yogurt is an ideal food for athletes who eat dairy products. Calcium builds and protects bones and aids in blood clotting, protein helps repair damaged muscle tissue post-workout, and some studies show that probiotics help regulate digestion and possibly lower stress—although researchers are still trying to identify which strands are most beneficial.
Steer clear of store-bought yogurt loaded with sugar or artificial sugar substitutes. Organic, plain yogurt provides the cleanest way to enjoy the benefits described above, but it takes some time to get used to the tart, bland flavor. If you want a semi-sweet yogurt, consider making your own and sweetening it with the ingredients and amounts of your choice.
Although easy-to-make homemade yogurt requires a bit of store-bought yogurt as a starter, once you make your first batch of homemade yogurt, save 1/4 cup of it for your next batch, and you never have to buy yogurt again. The following recipe doesn't require a yogurt maker.
Homemade Yogurt Recipe
4 cups milk (whole or low-fat)
1/4 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt with live and active cultures
Heat the milk to 180 degrees F and then cool it to 110 degrees F. Stir in the yogurt, and transfer it to two mason jars or a heatproof bowl. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Heat your oven to 200 degrees F for five minutes, then turn it off. Place the loosely covered mason jars or bowl in the oven for eight hours.
When the milk has turned into yogurt, place the containers in the refrigerator until cold. If you want to make Greek yogurt, strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth before cooling in the fridge. Use the strained whey as you would buttermilk.
Save 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt to make your next batch.
Switch it up: To make vanilla yogurt, add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and four to six tablespoons of honey, agave or Sucanat.