Ever seen those TV commercials that say, “Milk. It does a Body Good”? Well, the same idea applies to milk products as well! Yoghurt has essentially the same nutrients as milk, and is a rich source of protein and vitamin B2. Some say yoghurt was discovered by accident; it’s often attributed to early nomads who carried bags filled with goat’s milk while migrating to Europe. Despite its origin and evolution over the years, yoghurt remains one of the most popular and healthiest milk products one can find.
The ‘Skinny’ on Yoghurt
Yoghurt is made through a natural biological process involving the bacterial fermentation of milk under controlled temperature conditions. The bacteria ingest the milk sugar (lactose) and release lactic acid. The characteristic tanginess and thick texture of yoghurt is caused by the lactic acid acting on the milk protein. And since this entire biological process is acidic, harmful bacteria does not grow during the process, making yoghurt a completely safe food.
The agent that makes yoghurt healthy is called lactobacillus bulgaricus. It contains antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, along with other health benefits.
Keep in mind that yoghurt can be made from whole or lowfat milk that may contain added sugar. However, lowfat does not necessarily mean low in calories. For those watching their diets, it’s best to stick to the ‘diet’ versions, or improvise by mixing fruit with natural, lowfat, unsweetened yoghurt.
In the 1930s, flavoured yoghurt evolved when a fruit jam was added to plain yoghurt to help prevent it from spoiling too soon. However, it’s best to be careful with flavoured yoghurt, as it’s often laden with extra sugar.
Reap the Rewards
Yoghurt is a valuable source of essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamin B2, and can provide a number of health benefits. In fact, just one cup of yoghurt has about one-third of the daily calcium requirement and roughly ten grams of protein (15-20% of the daily recommended requirement).
Eating yogurt every day supports your immune system, reducing inflammation. Studies have also revealed that yoghurt helps burn fat, thereby promoting weight loss. It helps prevent harmful bacteria from forming in your body and with regular consumption, can also help relieve or prevent irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, osteoporosis and yeast infections. Another added benefit, especially for teenagers, is that eating unsweetened yoghurt can help clear up acne.
Counting the Ways
Yoghurt can be consumed in a variety of ways, apart from eating it by itself or as an accompaniment during a meal. It can be made into a delicious smoothie by blending it with fresh fruit. Yoghurt can also be used as a natural meat tenderizer, with the acid content making it a fabulous marinade.
Yoghurt makes an excellent counterpart to baking soda for an enhanced leavening effect. In addition, yoghurt helps keeps baked goods tender and moist, especially in breads that contain dried fruits. It’s a great substitute for salad dressing, mayonnaise or sour cream in dips, which can reduce the calorie content significantly. For the health conscious, yoghurt can be substituted for sour cream in some baking recipes, saving you 48 grams of fat per cup! But be sure to avoid using aluminum pans when cooking with yoghurt, though, as the acid tends to react with the aluminum.
Tips for making the perfect cup of yoghurt
- Yoghurt made with skimmed milk powder will probably have a soft consistency. To make it thicker or creamier, you can add an additional ½ cup of milk powder to the mixture before heating.
- If you’re using store bought yoghurt as a starter, make sure it's fresh and that you check the expiry date, as yoghurt culture tends to weaken over time.
- As a starter, use only plain yoghurt, since a flavoured or sweetened variety might not allow fermentation.
- Do not heat the milk for too long or at too high a temperature, as it results in poor quality yoghurt.
- Make sure the milk is cooled to a mild temperature before adding the yoghurt starter. Yoghurt culture gets destroyed and takes longer to process if exposed to very high or very low temperatures.
- Do not disturb the yoghurt during the processing period, as this may affect its quality.
- Always keep the yoghurt refrigerated until it is used. It can be stored for up to 10-14 days, after which it tends to become tart.
- Add flavouring or sweeteners and fruit only after processing and refrigeration.
In India, of course, yoghurt is usually referred to as curd, and is a standard accompaniment to almost every meal. From the popular curd rice of South Indian origin, to the chicken curry prepared with yoghurt and red pepper, along with dahi vadas and raitas, yoghurt is a key ingredient in many Indian dishes and meals. It is also an essential part of the all-time favourite Indian snack, chaat, and is eaten at the end of many meals.
Inside and Out
Not only is yoghurt a refreshing treat to eat, but it can also help you look great in no time. Applying a simple yoghurt mask on your face for twenty minutes will help cleanse, moisturise and tighten your skin.
To treat dry, frizzy hair, applying an egg-yoghurt hair mask will help bring back its sheen, leaving it silky and more manageable. Just mix together one egg white, ¼ cup of plain organic yoghurt and ¼ cup of mayonnaise. Massage it into wet hair, leave in for thirty minutes and wash it off with a mild shampoo.
- So, whether it’s staying healthy on the inside or looking good on the outside, it’s always a good idea to keep your home well-stocked with yoghurt. Eat it, blend it, or just rub it in… you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time! - Hewasa