Yogurt is milk with added friendly bacteria that digest milk sugar (lactose) to produce lactic acid, a natural preservative that gives the flavor of yogurt its pleasant bite. Yogurt is definitely magical for people who are lactase deficient (meaning they don't produce enough lactase to digest milk sugar so that they get gassy whenever they drink milk).

Tracking the terrible ten

In 2003, while others whistled a happy tune about good foods, the worrywarts at Men's Health magazine compiled a list of the ten foods most likely to make you feel absolutely awful — mostly due to their tendency to harbor organisms that can seriously upset your intestinal tract. The top troublemakers are undercooked chicken, ground beef, ground turkey, oysters, and eggs, followed by unheated cold cuts, raw scallions, peaches, cantaloupe, and packaged salad greens. Luckily, thorough cooking (or reheating) can make the first seven safe to eat. As for peaches, the guys say, peel 'em to eliminate pesticides stuck in the fuzz. Scrub your bumpy cantaloupe before slicing to dislodge bacteria in the rind that may otherwise be transferred to the fruit. And rinse your packaged salad greens. Then rinse again. Even if the packaged says "washed." Splash.

But there's no evidence to show that yogurt is a longevity tonic, a claim traced back to Ilya Ilyich Metchnikoff, a Russian Nobel Prize winner (1908; Physiology/Medicine) who believed that people die prematurely entirely because of the action of "putrefying bacteria" in the intestines. Searching for a way to disarm the putrefiers, Metchnikoff ended up in Bulgaria, a place where many people lived past 50 and a significant percentage made it into their late 80s.

Historians may argue that the only way to live that long in Bulgaria was to avoid Bulgarian politics, but Metchnikoff credited the organisms used to make Bulgarian cultured milk. He was wrong. The bugs, christened L. bulgari-cus, make nice yogurt but don't take up residence in the human gut. This hardly mattered to Metchnikoff, who died in Paris in 1916, at the relatively young age of 71. His faith in yogurt, however, continues to cycle in and out of fashion.

354 Part v|: The Part of Tens

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