Yogurt is milk that has been fermented with the lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These live microorganisms feed on the sugars found in milk, called lactose and convert it into lactic acid, which gives the end product, yogurt its unique and tangy taste.
It is reported that when goats were first domesticated in Mesopotamia about 5000 B.C. nomadic tribes stored milk in goat skin bags for transportation later to find the milk converted to a custard like product by natural wild bacteria. This is perhaps the first ever mention of yogurt in history and we have come a long way since. In the 1940’s yogurt was introduced by the US as a diet food, but today that image has changed considerably and yogurt has become a dessert vying for a place amongst the numerous varieties of ice creams and other frozen delicacies.
Yogurt Nutrition Facts:
Yogurt along with milk is one of the healthiest foods, having a perfect balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats and has an abundance of healthy fatty acids. Low in cholesterol, high in calcium, proteins and vitamin A, yogurt contains no saturated fats, and, combined with the presence of healthy pro biotic bacteria makes yogurt the ‘healing super food’. A serving of about 170 grams of light or low fat yogurt contains the following nutrients:
Total Fat 5 gms
Cholesterol 5 mg
Sodium 68 mg
Carbohydrates 5.5 gms
Protein 5.5 gms
Vitamin A 27 mcg
Calcium 207 mg
Health Benefits of Yogurt:
Yogurt is a good source of protein. After culture, yogurt contains more protein than milk itself. It is also an excellent source of calcium, containing about 35% of daily recommended intake. Yogurt is Low in fat and high in certain minerals and essential vitamins including Riboflavin B2, Vitamin B12, phosphorous and potassium. According to the National yogurt Association, “Besides these important nutrition basics, scientific research shows that the live and active cultures found in yogurt may offer many more health attributes.”
- Aids in Digestion: Yogurt is easier to digest than milk due the presence of live active cultures which create an enzyme called lactase. Lactase helps in the absorption of lactose in lactose intolerant people. The lactic acid in yogurt also aids in better digestion of the mineral calcium found in milk, making it easier to absorb.
- Decreases Yeast Infections: Research indicates that having a cup of yogurt containing live active cultures everyday helps to decrease the growth of yeast in the vagina and gets rid of vaginal yeast infections.
- Yogurt can Lower Cholesterol: According to studies conducted, the live cultures are capable of reducing blood cholesterol.
- An ideal “Grow Food”: Proteins found in yogurt are easier to digest and the lactic acid found in yogurt benefits in better absorption of minerals. This aids growth in children who are prone to intestinal mal-absorption.
- The “Healing Food” for Diarrhea: Milk is generally avoided when we have diarrhea, since some viral infections and gastrointestinal disorders injure the lining of the intestines, especially the cells that produce lactose. This prevents lactose from being absorbed by the body. However, yogurt is considered safe since it contains less of lactose and more of lactase. Research also recommends eating yogurt while taking antibiotics as yogurt benefits to minimize the effects of antibiotics on the friendly bacteria in the intestines. Antibiotics destroy not only the harmful bacteria but they also kill the good bacteria lining the walls of the intestine. The live bacterial cultures in yogurt offset this problem by helping to replenish the intestines with the good bacteria.
- The Immune Booster: Research studies show that the live cultures in yogurt helps to produce higher levels of interferon, a chemical known to boost immune reactions, and these stimulate infection fighting cells in the blood stream.
Yogurt prepared out of Tulsi leaves, milk and sugar crystals/misri or black salt is an excellent immune booster.
- Colon Care: Yogurt contains lactobacteria that promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon which deactivates the harmful substances in the colon before they can become carcinogenic. Yogurt being a rich source of calcium discourages the uncontrolled growth of cells lining the colon thereby reducing the risk of colon cancer.
- Good for Young and Old: Yogurt is a healthy combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and minerals, making it an ideal food for both infants and senior citizens who have more sensitive colons.
- Oral Care: Yogurt helps combat bacterial problems in your mouth and prevents growth of tartar and bacteria which is the main cause for oral infections.
- An effective solution for Weight Gain: Yogurt taken with jaggery is an effective way to put on weight.
- Good for Bone and Teeth: Being a rich source of calcium, yogurt helps fight osteoporosis in women and also strengthens bones and teeth.
Yogurt and Hair Care:
Yogurt is an excellent home remedy to bring bounce and shine into your lustrous locks and is a good alternative to a conditioner.
- For hair fall and dandruff problem, apply a mix of curd and gram flour into the roots of your hair and wash off with a mild shampoo after an hour.
- Make a paste of curd and fenugreek (methi) powder and apply to hair. Wash with a mild shampoo after an hour to get that shine and luster to your hair.
- Apply a paste of henna, curd, and an egg white to your hair and wash off after 3 hours. An excellent way to condition your hair and leave it shining and beautiful. Know more home remedies for shining hair.
- A paste of lemon and curd and left on the scalp for 20 minutes helps get rid of dandruff.
Enjoy your Yogurt:
Yogurt is so versatile that it can be consumed in a variety of ways. It can be used as part of the main course, an appetizer or as a dessert.
As part of your breakfast:
- Punjab serves its rich creamy yogurt with sugar along with its variety of stuffed parathas like potato stuffed, cauliflower stuffed and other stuffed parathas.
- Mango Lassi: Add to yogurt some milk, honey and mango pulp. Blend and enjoy the fat free lassi.
- A great Breakfast Smoothie: Smoothies are a great way to enjoy yogurt. Easy to make, tasty and healthy, these make for a good accompaniment with any type of breakfast. To make a yummy banana strawberry smoothie, blend together, chunks of two ripe bananas, a cup of fresh strawberries, two cups of low fat yogurt and ¾ cup of milk. You could two tablespoons of honey for added flavor.
Yogurt used in main course:
Yogurt or curd is an essential part of any Indian meal, especially in South India where rice eaten with curd and a pickle accompaniment heralds the end of a three course meal. Curd is also used as a marinade in vegetarian, non vegetarian and Tandoori dishes. Raitas are served together with certain dishes like Biryani whereas plain curd and sugar are also served with meals in some parts of the country.
Yogurt as a dessert:
There are numerous ways of using yogurt in desserts. The best and most delicious way to eat your yogurt would be to add fruit of your choice and some honey to the yogurt, with nuts added as an optional flavor.
Apart from this you could even step into any mall or supermarket and select from the variety of yogurt and lassi flavors on display and enjoy the rich taste of these numerous products.
Yogurt- Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What is the difference between curd and yogurt?
In India yogurt is another name for curd. Yogurt is a dairy product of Turkish Origin which is made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. This fermentation of lactose (milk sugars) into lactic acid which is of a gel like consistency and tangy taste is called yogurt.
2. Are all yogurts healthy?
Yogurt is a healthy snack, but those yogurts that contain sweeteners and added flavors which feed on the growth of unwanted yeasts in the yogurt are best avoided. The best choice would be plain and natural yogurt to which you can add fresh fruits and nuts and a little honey to enhance their flavor.
3. Is frozen yogurt good to eat?
Some of the bacteria in the yogurt get destroyed when frozen. However since there are billions of these healthy bacteria, these cultures which get dormant when frozen, become live and active once again after they get thawed either in the fridge or inside the body after consumption.
4. Should people with lactose intolerance avoid all dairy foods?
Lactose intolerance is the inability of the body to digest the sugar found in milk, known as lactose. Yogurt is a good alternative to people having lactose intolerance.
5. Can yogurt be taken when we have a cold?
Yogurt can be eaten even when we have cold or flu as the friendly bacteria in the yogurt stimulates the production of white blood cells and also helps to absorb many nutrients which are important for our immune system.
6. What is pro biotic yogurt and why is it good for our health?
Pro biotic yogurt is yogurt that contains live, active bacterial cultures. Most natural yogurts are pro biotic and contain millions of bacteria, which can be very beneficial to us. Research has shown that pro biotic yogurt may help treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and infections of the urinary and intestinal tracts.
- The word ‘Yogurt’ is derived from the Turkish word “yogurur” which means “long life”.
- In India and Nepal, yogurt acts like a good luck charm and people consume yogurt before leaving the house for a special occasion.
- The groom is fed a dollop of yogurt by his mother prior to the wedding ceremony.
- In most parts of India yogurt, taken with sugar before exams ensures success. (Of course! You have to study too!!)
Yogurt is considered to be the lucky food for the month of May, so go ahead and enjoy your cup of yogurt with the topping of your choice.