What to know about yogurt

Yogurt is a dairy product made from fermenting milk with a tradition of yogurt. It provides protein and calcium, and can improve healthy bacteria in the gut.

Health benefits vary from defending against osteoporosis to alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and helping with digestion, but all are dependent on the form of yogurt used.

Many yogurt products can be unsafe with added sugar and processing.

Yogurt starts in the form of fresh milk or cream. This is also first pasteurized, then fermented with different cultures of live bacteria, and incubated at a particular temperature to facilitate growth of bacteria.

The lactose, the natural sugar contained in milk, is fermented by culture. This produces lactic acid, giving yogurt a distinctive flavour.

Fast facts about yogurt

  • The yogurt is made by fermenting a yogurt culture with milk.
  • Health benefits may include encouraging health in the bone and helping with digestion.
  • Some yogurts contain active, living bacteria known as probiotics, which can help maintain healthy intestines.
  • Yogurt products which undergo heat treatment do not have any active bacteria, reducing the health benefits. A case in point are yogurt-covered raisins.
  • Calcium, vitamins B6 and B12, riboflavin, potassium and magnesium are in the yogurts. The quantities are dependent upon form.

Nutrition

A lady licking yogurt
Yogurt can be a delicious and nutritious complement to any diet. There are plenty of different yogurts though, and some are safer than others.

There are many types of yogurt that provide varying levels of nutritional benefit.

When is yogurt good for you?

Whether yogurt is a healthy option depends on the person who consumes it, and the yogurt form.

Yogurts can be rich in protein, calcium, vitamins, and live culture, or probiotics that can improve the gut microbiota.

This can give bone and teeth protection and help prevent digestive problems.

Low fat yogurt on a weight-loss diet can be a good source of protein.

Probiotics can help to improve the immune system.

Some suggest that they too may have an effect on brain functioning, but further study is needed to validate some of these arguments.

Researchers found in 2014 that yogurt consumption can help protect against type 2 diabetes. Certain forms of dairy product did not appear to influence the risk of the condition developing.

Other scientists also indicated that yogurt with probiotic bacteria effectively protects children and pregnant women from the effects of exposure to heavy metals.

It’s also a safe choice when people have difficulty chewing their food.

Non-milk yogurts offer an option for people who do not eat meat or animal products or who have allergies or intolerances.

Yogurt contains less lactose than milk, since the fermentation process requires lactose.

When is yogurt bad for you?

The yogurts are not all safe. Products without added sugar or excessive additives can be a safe addition to the diet but other foods have large levels of added sugar and other ingredients which may not be helpful.

Natural yogurt can be a low-calorie, high-nutrient, protein packed snack.

However, several manufacturers add sugar, artificial sweeteners and other not safe ingredients.

There are some natural sugars in all yogurts, but consumers are advised to look for a product with less than 15 grams of sugar per serving. The lower the sugar, the better, because there are no artificial sweeteners in it.

Some studies have debunked the perception that yogurt intake is related to good health, prompting authorities to doubt whether commercial health claims can be made. People who eat yogurt, however, are more likely to get a balanced diet otherwise.

Yogurt-flavored products

Packaged products such as cereals and bars which claim to be “made with real yogurt,” yogurt-covered raisins, and other yogurt-coated products contain only a small amount of yogurt powder.

Yogurt powder is heat treated, and the beneficial bacteria are destroyed by fire. Cream coatings are made from powdered sugar, butter, whey, and cream.

Types

There are different types of yogurt.

Low fat or non-fat

Low fat yogurt, or low fat yogurt, is made with 2% milk. Non-fat yogurt is made using zero percent or skim milk.

Kefir

Kefir is a drinkable liquid yoghurt. It contains probiotics and is simple to make at home by adding kefir grains to the milk and leaving it for 12 to 24 hours to stand for.

Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt has a higher protein content but less calcium than other yogurts

Greek yogurt is smooth, and thick. It can withstand heat better than normal yogurt, and is mostly used for cooking and dipping in Mediterranean style.

This is designed for extracting the liquid whey by more straining of normal yogurt.

Because of its heavier concentration, the result is a higher protein content but the extra strain contributes to a lower calcium content.

Greek yogurt comes in full fat, medium or minimal fat, and non-fat or zero calories.

Skyr

Compared to Greek yogurt, skyr, pronounced “skeer” is a thick, smooth, high-protein, Icelandic-style yogurt. Skyr requires 4 times the amount of milk to be processed compared with standard yogurt, and contains 2 to 3 times more protein.

Frozen yogurt

Frozen yogurts are often regarded as a healthier alternative to ice cream.

Many frozen yogurts however contain the same or more sugar as standard ice cream.

But all so-called frozen yogurts do include live and active communities, according to the National Yogurt Association. Some use heat-treated yogurts which destroy the cultures that are alive and active.

Non-milk yogurt

Non- milk yogurt alternatives include soy yogurt and yogurt from the coconut milk.

Benefits

Yogurt can offer a range of important nutrients.

Probiotics

The microorganism Lactobacillus bulgaricus is used to ferment yogurt.
The microorganism Lactobacillus bulgaricus is used to ferment yogurt.

Some yogurts have added probiotics to them.

Probiotics are a form of healthy bacteria which support the intestine. They help monitor the digestive system and reduce nausea, diarrhea, constipation and bloating.

Some work has indicated that probiotics can improve the immune system, help control weight and reduce cancer risk.

The consumption of yogurt and other probiotic foods will enhance vitamin and mineral absorption.

Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophiles (S. thermophiles) are the two most popular bacteria used to ferment milk into yogurt, although several yogurts include additional bacterial strains.

The National Yogurt Association has adopted the Life & Active Cultures (LAC) seal found on the product bottle, to help customers recognize yogurts with live and active cultures.

The fresher the product often contains, the more live bacteria it contains.

A recent University of Toronto study shows that different probiotics can have different effects, and some yogurts with probiotics could be safer than others.

Calcium

In terms of bioavailability, dairy products are among the strongest dietary sources of calcium.

Calcium is important in growing and preserving healthy bones and teeth. Blood clotting, wound healing, and maintaining normal blood pressure are also significant.

Calcium-rich foods are better balanced with a source of vitamin D, since vitamin D helps to absorb calcium in the small intestine.

There are also varying levels of vitamins B6 and B12, riboflavin, potassium and magnesium in most yoghurts.

Lactose intolerance

Yogurt does have a low lactose content, therefore a person with a lactose intolerance would likely find it more tolerable than milk. It also contains bacteria that help digestion.

As a consequence, yogurt can also be tolerated without symptoms by people who experience nausea, bloating or gas after eating liquid milk or ice cream.

The person should try, say, a quarter of a cup on a small amount of yogurt to see how their body responds. This applies only to lactose sensitivity, not to milk allergy sufferers.

People with an aversion to lactose frequently lack calcium, so yogurt can be an essential part of their diet.

A individual with a milk allergy won’t benefit from the yogurt consumption.

Diet

Below are several tips to add more yogurt into a balanced, nutritious diet.

  • Start with plain, unsweetened yogurt and sweeten it yourself with fruit, unsweetened applesauce or a small amount of pure maple syrup or honey.
  • Avoid pre-made fruit and yogurt desserts, as these often contain unnecessary added sugars.
  • When baking, use yogurt instead of butter or oil.
  • Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to top baked potatoes or tacos.
  • A healthful yogurt should have more grams of protein per serving than sugar.

Recipes containing yogurt

Here are some healthful recipes that contain yogurt:

Carrot cake power smoothie

Pumpkin pie power smoothie

100-calorie cranberry dark chocolate muffins

Cranberry-maple breakfast bars

Green chile and spinach quesadillas.

The variety of choices for yoghurt can be confusing. Some of the available products have not been tested, so scientists still don’t know which probiotics do anything in the human body. Choosing yogurt which is low in sugar and additives is the best choice.

If you prefer yogurt for health purposes, experts recommend selecting the ones that have been studied scientifically.

Scientists have called for more comprehensive studies and policies on healthiness and yogurt sales to help societies optimize the profit from this potentially very valuable food that they can obtain.

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