People have been making yoghurt for over four thousand years. Its name comes from the Turkish word ‘yogurt’, meaning ‘curdled or thickened’. Milk (mostly cow and goats milk) is heated to about 45 degrees centigrade (112 degree F), then bacterial cultures are added and kept at this temperature for up to seven hours, so fermentation can take place.
Today in most Western cultures, most milk products use milk that is heated to about 80 degree centigrade (176 degree F), a process called pasteurization. In this process all bacteria, harmful and good, are destroyed.
A well-functioning digestion needs these ‘good bacteria cultures’ and recently yoghurt producer have created products, so called ‘probiotics’, where some of these useful strands are added to the pasturized milk products.
Here are the main health benefits:
1) Yoghurt is good for the gut and digestion: The ‘good bacteria’ such as the lactobacillus cultures have proven to help with constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease and as a preventative against colon cancer.
When buying a yoghurt, always check the label that the offered product contains these helpful bacteria, and if so in sufficient quantities. If you suffer from a digestive problem, it might be well worth adding a specific probiotic supplement, such as acidophilus to your diet. In this case pay a bit more and go for a really high content of friendly bacteria and a product that needs to be kept in the fridge.
2) Yoghurt may help with osteoporosis: Due to the high calcium content, yoghurt is good for teeth and bones. Sometimes manufactures also add Vitamin D. The combination of Vitamin D and calcium is especially helpful to prevent osteoporosis, brittle bone disease. If you are over forty years old, a daily helping of a vitamin D enriched yoghurt can be very beneficial.
3) Yoghurt helps to boost the immune system and to curb infections:
If your pH is higher than the normal 4.0 to 4.5 level, yeast infections like candida can be the consequence. Eating a probiotic yoghurt will balance the pH level and fight the yeast overgrowth. Taken on a regular basis it will help to prevent future infections and inflammations of the bowel and small intestine. Antibiotics kill all bacteria, also the ‘good ones’. When you finish a course of antibiotics, always add a probiotic to your diet to build up more resistance.
4) Yoghurt may help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure: This is a subtle benefit and also depends on other life-style factors. But recent studies in Spain showed that people who added low-fat, culture enriched yoghurts to their diet had on average a lower chance of developing high blood pressure.
5) Makes you feel fuller and builds muscle tissue: Protein together with exercise will build muscle tissue. Additionally it will give you a sense of ‘fullness’. This is the reason why many weight loss programs urge their followers to eat yoghurt.
Here are a few recipes to customize low-fat yoghurt:
Yoghurt with berries and linseeds:
Fill half of a small breakfast bowl with low fat, probiotic yoghurt and add a handful of berries (you can also use defrosted berries). Sprinkle a teaspoon of linseeds or ground flaxseed on the top. Both add a lot of fiber to your yoghurt and are rich in omega 3 oils.
Yoghurt and lemon curd desert:
Put some lemon curd into a tumbler and top up with yoghurt. In another bowl mix some chopped fruit of your choice with a small amount of icing sugar and pour the fruit on top of the yoghurt. Make as many glasses as required and then put them in the fridge. Serve with short bread on the side; this is a delicious summer pudding.
Grilled chicken with courgettes and aubergines:
Cut two chicken breast fillets into strips. Cut half an aubergine and 2 courgettes into strips. In a small bowl mix 2 tbsp. of olive oil with 1-2 gloves of freshly pressed garlic and brush this mixture onto the chicken, aubergine and courgettes strips. Then griddle these pieces in a griddling pan until golden brown. If they stick to the pan add a tiny bit of olive oil or water.
When the chicken and vegetables are done, set them aside in a serving bowl and drizzle some lemon juice over them. If you make large amounts, griddle them in batches, whilst keeping the cooked chicken warm.
Finally mix a few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with another crushed garlic clove, a few drops of olive oil and a few sprigs of fresh mint. Arrange the griddled chicken and vegetables on a plate and serve with the yoghurt and pitta bread.