Yogurt is one of the oldest and most consumed popular fermented foods in the world. It is thought to have originated many centuries ago in Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
The word “yogurt” comes from Turkish word “yoğurmak“, which means “knead” or “thicken”. Yogurt is made by fermenting milk with live and active cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. This fermentation process will produce lactic acid, a compound that is responsible for the yogurt’s tart flavor, thick consistency, and healthful attributes. The lactic acid produced by the fermentation process also acts as a preservative, helping the cultured milk stay fresh longer.
Yogurt can be made from any variety of animal milk but it is often made from cow or goat milk. It can also be made from soy, coconut, or almond milk. Yogurt is simple to make and is tasty when consumed on its own, but it also can be used to make salad dressings or added to smoothies.
In addition to the delicious taste, yogurt is highly nutritious, especially because it has probiotics. These beneficial bacteria have been shown to provide numerous health benefits, including immune support, cancer prevention, fight infection, weight loss, etc.
Apart from that, yogurt is also loaded with a variety of important nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin D, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Nutritional Content of Yogurt
Nutritional content of 6 ounces of plain yogurt.
Health Benefits of Yogurt
1. Support overall digestive health
Due to the presence of probiotics in yogurt, it can benefit those suffering from different gastrointestinal conditions like constipation, diarrhea and stomach aches.
A study published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Digestive Diseases found that probiotics help improve lactose digestion, prevent constipation, and may have healing effects on the intestinal tract.
To reap the benefits, make sure your favorite yogurt contains at least one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of live bacteria.
2. Good for bones
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are essential nutrients for maintaining the bone health. One serving (about 6-oz) of yogurt is said to have 300 mg of calcium. So, if you are worried about your risk of developing osteoporosis, it’s always good to add yogurt to your diet.
3. Strengthen immune system
The probiotics found in yogurt can strengthen the gut mucosal immune system by increasing cytokine producing cells in the intestine.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming yogurt on a regular basis can reduce the incidence of infections, allergies, and inflammatory diseases.
4. Aid weight loss
The probiotic bacteria in yogurt help improve metabolism and digestion, helping in burning fat at a faster speed. Also, the high amount of calcium in yogurt signals your fat cells to pump out less cortisol, making it easier for you to lose weight.
5. Prevent colon cancer
Numerous research conclude that yogurt has a protective effect against colon cancer. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt kill the harmful microorganisms in the colon before they become carcinogenic. Moreover, the high calcium content in the yogurt binds cancer-producing bile acids and keeps them away from the colon walls – all of which can reduce the risks of colon cancer.
6. Control blood pressure
Eating too much salt is the biggest cause of high blood pressure (hypertension). The potassium present in yogurt helps absorb and flush out sodium from the body.
According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) Epidemiology/Lifestyle 2016, women who consumed five or more servings of yogurt a week had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure than women who ate fewer yogurt.
They found that compared with women who ate less than one serving per month, women who ate five or more yogurt servings per week had a 20 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.
7. Prevent yeast infection
Yogurt contains the active strain of bacteria Lactobacillus which may help to prevent the occurrence of vaginal yeast infection. It also helps balance the pH inside the vagina and thus provided a natural defense against irritations, soreness and infection.
If you have a vaginal yeast infection, dip a tampon in plain yogurt and insert it in the vagina for two hours daily for several weeks.
8. Reduce LDL cholesterol
Several studies have shown that yogurt can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. This may be due to the live and active cultures in yogurt can decrease cholesterol synthesis in the liver and bind bile acids, which in turn helps lower cholesterol levels.
Those who have high cholesterol must eat two cups of yogurt with live and active cultures daily. Other types of yogurt are less effective in lowering cholesterol levels.
9. Support oral health
Some studies suggested that consuming yogurt might be beneficial for the oral health as well. This is mainly due to the lactic acid in yogurt that protects your teeth and gums. Also, yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein, two important nutrients that promote oral health.
10. Skin care
Yogurt has an excellent skin-hydrating agent that can help fight dryness. The lactic acid in yogurt acts as an exfoliator which remove dry skin and leave your skin moisturized. The lactic acid in it also helps get rid of any germs or bacteria that may cause itchiness and acne.
11. Hair care
Due to the presence of vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, Greek yogurt can help promote hair growth by nourishing the hair follicles. Yogurt also has anti-fungal properties that can help get rid of dandruff.
How to Select Yogurt
When selecting yogurt, make sure to choose plain, unsweetened varieties because flavored is typically filled with artificial sweeteners. You can add healthier sweeteners like fresh fruit or honey instead.
For optimal health benefits, choose a low-fat or fat-free product that is contain ‘live and active cultures.’ These are good bacteria that help keep your intestinal tract healthy.
For individuals who are lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy yogurt because the live cultures in yogurt help to break down the lactose.