Yogurt is a fermented milk product, made by controlled fermentation with special cultures. The cultures contain selected bacteria, that produce lactic acid giving the milk the sour taste. The bacteria also modify the milk's texture, giving it the specific thickness that is very prized. Although there is an increased interest in vegan yogurt, we are not discussing vegan yogurt here.
The cultures that are used to ferment milk into yogurt are Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, Streptococcus Thermophilus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria as the most common, with some producers using also Lactobacillus casei. Yogurt is one of the most known, most sold and most consumed fermented foods in the Western hemisphere. The relatively recent discoveries about the beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, has increased the interest for authentic yogurt, based on the original recipe. There are a variety of so called yogurt products on the market, that are just milk products artificially thickened. These don't carry any of the health benefits of the real yogurt.
Health Benefits of Yogurt
The benefits of yogurt stem from the probiotics present in it content. The probiotics, (good bacteria), are needed by humans for a healthy gut, and strong immunity. The bacteria live in symbiosis with us, boosting our immunity, and taking in exchange foods that we cannot digest.
Among the benefits of yogurt we should mention the following:
- Yogurt has a great nutritional value, and it's loaded with important vitamins, like B6, B2 and B12, that are in a highly bioavailable form.
- It also has a high content of Calcium, that is also in a bioavailable form.
- The bioavailable calcium, combined with bacteria's specific activity in your intestines, makes yogurt a great way to prevent osteoporosis.
- The proteins in yogurt are digested and absorbed in a higher percentage than in "fresh milk". 9 grams of protein per serving, (6 ounce), makes it an important source of healthy protein.
- Because of the special ratio of protein to carbs, yogurt helps you recover easier and faster after workout, or any strenuous physical activity.
- The bacteria in yogurt promote a healthy gut, regulating bowel movements, and many other gut related health issues like: colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, H. pylori infection, lactose intolerance.
- Because our gut has the main role in our immunity, a healthy gut results in an increased immunity. This article suggests that regular consumption of yogurt increases the overall immunity.
- Yogurt reduces high blood pressure, according to this study, although the study wasn't conclusive for African-Americans.
- Help you regulate food intake, by making you feel full faster.
- Certain types of yogurt can reduce Candida infections. The right yogurt for fighting Candida is the longer fermented types, that has many of the sugars in milk broken down, it is often referred to as SCD yogurt.
- It can also help your body fight many other yeast infections. The probiotics in yogurt fight the yeast, eliminating it from your body.
- Yogurt can help you burn fat, and lose weight, according to a study of the University of Tennessee.
- Your dental health can also benefit from yogurt. The specific chemical structure of yogurt helps with both enamel protection, and gums strengthening.
- Yogurt is almost a must while on antibiotics, or after. Yogurt will help you maintain and regenerate a healthy intestinal micro flora, when you take antibiotics.
- It is a great food for all children, and it is great for picky eaters.
- Yogurt lowers cholesterol. The reason is not yet clear, but it is believed that the cultures in yogurt can assimilate cholesterol. The other theory is that yogurt binds bile fluid, and bile acids lower cholesterol.
Nonconventional Uses and Benefits of Yogurt
- Yogurt can be used as a face mask. The probiotics will fight bad bacteria on your skin, lactic acid will help with gentle exfoliation. If you add a little honey to yogurt, it will boost the efficacy of the yogurt mask.
- Can be used to appease sun burn. When I was a kid, my mom always treated us with yogurt, or sour cream. They both worked great, and appeased our burns within minutes of the application on the skin.