Packed with protein, calcium, and probiotics, yogurt has been extremely popular in the health world. It tastes fantastic, and it offers amazing benefits, so the world has tried its hand to produce several types and overwhelming flavoured varieties.
If you knew yogurt is healthy, healthy enough that you must not exclude it from your diet, you must have been scouring supermarket aisles looking for the best buy among the enormous options. On the other hand, if you didn’t know the benefits yet, you might not have included this delicious food in your diet.
Both sections of people, we have got you covered. Read on to know more about yogurt, its types, benefits, and ways to include it in your diet.
The history and the process of making yogurt
Yogurt or Yoghurt means curdled or thickened milk. It is produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The practice of fermenting milk has been around for ages, dating back to prehistoric times. When humans started domesticating animals, they looked for ways to preserve the milk from cows, sheep, camels, etc.; and thus, yogurt came as the solution.
The bacteria, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus used to make yogurt are called yogurt cultures. The bacteria act on the sugars present in milk to form lactic acid. The lactic acid produced acts on the milk proteins to bring the characteristic thickness and sour flavour of yoghurt.
Additional fact: There are different strains of bacteria other than the microbes mentioned above. In fact, yoghurt makers have their own formula of microbe culture and depending on the combination of bacteria used, the texture and sourness will vary. A few other strains used are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidus regularis, and Lactobacillus casei.
Nutrients in Yogurt:
Yoghurt is rich in protein and calcium. It is also an excellent source of vitamins B12 and riboflavin, and minerals calcium and phosphorus.
The following are the nutrients in a cup of plain, whole milk yoghurt (about 250g).
- Protein: 8.5g
- Vitamin B12: 2 micrograms
- Riboflavin: 0.34mg
- Calcium: 300mg
- Phosphorous: 235mg
Yogurt also has other minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Want to assess yourself how much you know about your body and nutrition?
Types of yogurt
Yogurt has a long history and is almost found in all cultures of the world under various names. Though fermentation of milk is the basic process, the type of milk and the way it is fermented has given us different types.
Straggisto in Greece, Kefir in Russia, Amasi in South Africa, Kumis in Central Asia, Lassi in India, Nai Lao in China, Laban in Lebanon, Skyr in Iceland, and Aryan in Turkey are a few versions of Yogurt.
Apart from this, you can find other types of yogurt such as those made from pasteurised milk, non-pasteurised milk, whole milk, skimmed milk, low-fat milk, etc., frozen yogurt, Greek yogurt, and Icelandic yogurt.
The bacterial cultures used also vary widely, and specific bacteria offer you specific benefits. Thus, depending on which animal’s milk yogurt is made of and the kind of culture (bacteria) used, the nutritional benefits can vary widely as well.
Protein-rich foods will be highly satiating. Hence, yoghurt is a popular breakfast option. Besides, the creamy, thick consistency makes it a great snack too!
Hence, several commercialised brands offer numerous flavoured options, such as strawberry, vanilla, raspberry, blueberry, peach, etc. Though offering you yogurt’s nutritional benefits, these flavoured ones might have added sugars for a sweetened taste. So, look into the label before you buy to avoid extra calories and sugar.
Instead, you can get creative and try your choice of fresh fruits and prepare a healthy snack at home!
Seven great benefits of yogurt
There are several benefits of yogurt; here, we are listing seven important few.
1. Great for your gut:
Yogurt is rich in probiotics, which helps maintain the compositions of “good bacteria” in our gut. This aspect is related to a wide range of benefits, including better digestion, which means better absorption of nutrients, enhanced immunity, and also improved mental well-being. You can get relief from both constipation and diarrhoea symptoms with the help of the friendly gut bacteria present in yoghurt.
Interesting fact: In the early 14th century, when a French King suffered from diarrhoea, it is said that the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent him a miracle cure “Yogurt”!
2. Improved immunity means less allergic
When you consume probiotic yoghurt regularly, your digestion improves, thereby improving the absorption of nutrients. Thus your immune system improves that will reduce your body’s allergic responses.
3. Helps preserve bone health
Yogurt contains calcium, the mineral essential for preserving bone health and preventing osteoporosis. A cup of yogurt can satisfy as much as 1/3rd of your daily calcium requirement!
4. Aids weight management
Foods that are rich in protein can help you feel full. So, eating a cup of yogurt as a snack can help keep those hunger pangs between meals at bay and enable you to manage/lose weight effectively. Excellent news for vegetarians here- A cup of yoghurt can satisfy as much as 20% of your daily protein requirement!
Extra tip: Choose low-fat, greek yogurt that has more protein and less fat than its regular counterpart.
5. Your heart will thank you
Studies show that yogurt can increase your HDL, aka “good” cholesterol levels, and lower blood pressure, reducing the overall risk of heart diseases.
6. Prevents vaginal yeast infections
Some women are prone to frequent vaginal yeast infections. Live bacteria in probiotic yoghurt helps control yeast growth and hence might prevent such vaginal yeast infection. Also, a mixture of yogurt and honey topically applied on the vulva soothes the inflammation caused due to vaginal infection.
7. Yogurt is great for your skin
You can easily make DIY face masks with this simple, readily available ingredient to switch to a natural skin care regimen. Go ahead and add other healthful ingredients such as honey, turmeric, or lemon juice to achieve clear, glowing skin naturally. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients to find the right mix that works best for you!
Are you lactose intolerant? Can you take yogurt?
Probiotic yogurt encourages the production of lactase enzymes that aids in digesting lactose. Also, during the process of fermentation, most of the lactose is converted to lactic acid. Hence, yoghurt is natural low-lactose food. Thus, lactose-intolerant people might well tolerate yogurt. You may also try lactose-free options to be safe.
How to include yogurt in your daily diet?
Looking at the benefits of yogurt, it is good to have it every day. Topping it with cereals or fruits is a popular option. Following are a few more ways to make this wonder food exciting:
- On your salad: Replace sour cream with yogurt to top your salad.
- Spread on cakes and cookies: Whip up a cup of yoghurt with a spoonful of sugar. Spread it on top of cookies and cakes.
- Smoothies: Do you prefer a smoothie in the morning? Very well, make your favourite fruit smoothie and add a cup of yogurt.
- Protein-rich dip: Snacking with chips, breadsticks, or veggie slices get complete with a dip. Mix onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, and a cup of yogurt. Yummy and healthy dip for your snack! Alternatively, mix some honey and cinnamon powder to make it a dip for your fruit snack.
- Make veggies more delicious: Add a cup full of cut vegetables with 2 cups of yoghurt. Add a pinch of rock salt or black salt. Enjoy it with your staple or just as a snack. Cucumber is a great option. You can try other options such as broccoli, spinach, carrot, radish, beet (grated) etc. Also, a dash of mint or other culinary herbs will enhance the flavour.
- Top it with savoury: Not a fan of sweet toppings? Add chopped cucumber, smoked cumin, chopped fresh parsley/coriander, and a bit of black salt.
- Buttermilk: A well-diluted version of yogurt, buttermilk is made by blending yogurt with water and salt. The drink can be made more healthy by adding banana stem juice or amla juice.
Yogurt is a fantastic food choice to maintain your gut health, heart health, skin health, and immune health. Even the lactose-intolerant people who cannot include milk in their diet can tolerate yogurt. Rich in protein, calcium, and probiotics, yogurt is ideal for the young and the elderly alike.