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Health food of the month - Yoghurt

October 2013

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Diet & Supplements Index


However you spell yoghurt or yogurt, it is undeniably a healthy food that can be a very beneficial addition to our diet.
But like so many things today, yoghurt has become complicated. No longer can we go to the store and simply buy yoghurt. Now we have to choose from naturally set yoghurt, low fat fruit yoghurt, Greek or perhaps French style yoghurt, soya yoghurt and even yoghurt with live bacteria - what does it all mean?

Natural yoghurt is really a fermented milk. It has been around for a long time - ancient Indian records write about the combination of yoghurt and honey as the food of the gods.  In the past natural bacteria probably fermented the milk but today special bacteria, or yoghurt cultures, are used.

Yoghurt can be made from any milk and while worldwide cows’ milk is the most commonly used, other yoghurts from goats, ewes, camels, even yaks are produced.

Yoghurt made from cows’ milk offers a rich source of calcium, a mineral that can help overall colon health. Calcium helps reduce the excess growth of the cells lining the colon which can put a person at higher risk of colon cancer; calcium also binds cancer-producing bile acids and keeps them from irritating the colon wall.  Yoghurt also supplies B12 and folic acid to help build a healthy blood supply.

Because of the production process, yoghurts generally will contain “friendly bacteria” (see Laterlife’s September 2013 feature on Pre and Pro Biotics) which can really help with the digestion and your overall health. Normal standard yoghurt will probably contain lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus or similar strains of bacteria which, while not living in the gut, can help stimulate the friendly bacteria already present.

Bio culture yoghurt is generally cultured with bificobacteria and lactobacillus acidophilus or slightly different strains than those used in general yoghurt. These have been prepared specifically for their health effect and include friendly bacteria which normally reside in the gut.

Yoghurt that is labelled as longlife or UHT means it has been heat treated after being made so that it will keep for longer. However, this process kills the friendly bacteria and hence it is no longer “live”.

Yoghurt does have a very individual flavour, and today it is often mixed with fruits and other items to add flavour and texture. Most fruit yoghurts will have sugar added while thick and creamy yoghurts may have been made from whole milks and contain saturated fat. French or set yoghurt contains additives to ensure it becomes thick and solid but the additives are few and the difference between set or non-set is really one of personal choice rather than health.

Soya yoghurts are becoming more popular and contain no lactose so are ideal for anyone who is lactose intolerant. Soya also contains small amounts of isoflavones, the natural plant hormones that are thought by many to help ease the symptoms of menopause.

There are many other types of yoghurts made around the world - in Northern Iran Mâst Chekide is a variety of kefir yogurt with a distinct sour taste while Tarator and Cacık are cold soups made from yogurt and particularly popular in Turkey.

From baked potatoes to curries, yoghurt can make a perfect accompaniment as well as used on its own with fruit, honey or other ideas for a lovely desert. It is good to know that such a versatile and readily available food is so healthy as well.



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