Dairy products form an integral part of daily dietary intake in the whole of all cycles of life, from infancy to old age. As part of a healthy, balanced diet, dairy, consisting of milk, cheese and yoghurt, is a food group on its own, providing essential protein, minerals, vitamins and probiotics. On the downside, dairy has borne the brunt of much debate and controversy, mainly because of sugar and calorie content, milk allergies and lactose intolerance. Let’s explore the facts.
Yoghurt, also spelled “yogurt” or “yoghourt” is a dairy food formed by the bacterial fermentation of milk. In recent years a wide variety of different types of yoghurts have appeared on supermarket refrigerator shelves meaning a larger variety is now available. Consumers have a choice between plain or flavoured, full cream or low fat or fat free, sugar free or sweetened, and a lactose free choice, as well as soya milk based yoghurt.
Misconceptions exist regarding the calcium, protein and carbohydrate or sugar content of different types of yoghurt. Low fat and fat free yoghurts are ideal for those limiting their saturated fat intake for health reasons or weight control or who need to cut down due to high cholesterol levels. See below a table containing a comparison of certain nutrients present in different types of yoghurt.
Yoghurt contains probiotics that are used in the formation and manufacturing process, during which the milk is fermented by the probiotic or beneficial bacteria that is added to it, eventually creating yoghurt. The main probiotics or cultures that are used are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidus. Probiotics have been shown to play beneficial roles in gastrointestinal health and the immune system.
HOWARU™ Bifido (HN019) probiotic cultures have been added to a certain brand of yoghurt to the amount of 1 billion being present in 100 gram of yoghurt. As a regular part of a balanced diet these probiotic cultures can keep the body in balance by helping the digestive system function normally by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria. Good news for lactose intolerance sufferers is that these probiotic cultures also assist in lactose digestion, which means a small amount of this specific yoghurt would be tolerated and even beneficial. Yoghurt as a dairy product is often tolerated by sufferers of lactose intolerance.
To reap the maximum benefit of probiotics it is best to eat plain, unsweetened yoghurt without additives like colourants, flavourings, sweeteners and preservatives. Only a few brands are available that contain no added preservatives. It remains imperative to check food labels and ingredients.
It is important to note that it is not true that fat free or low fat PLAIN yoghurt contain more sugar. If you look at yoghurt labels carefully, fat free plain yoghurt contains the same amount of carbohydrate or total sugar as full cream yoghurt, and fat free artificially sweetened yoghurt contains only slightly more carbohydrate than plain yoghurt. The carbohydrate or total sugar content increases significantly once sugar or sucrose is used as sweetener. It is best to avoid these yoghurt if you are cutting down on sugar.
What’s the deal with kefir?
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir "grains" and has its origins in the north Caucasus Mountains. Kefir’s flavour is similar to a drinking-style yoghurt, but it contains beneficial yeasts such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. It also contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yoghurt, namely Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. These probiotics and beneficial yeasts strengthen the intestinal lining, hence the body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.
Yoghurt as part of daily dietary dairy intake can be enjoyable, versatile and beneficial to health. Therefore, make the best and most delicious but also healthy choice!
Here is a delicious recipe to prepare at home, using yoghurt, to have as part of a healthy and nutritious breakfast or as a boosting snack during the day.
Breakfast Yoghurt Mixture
1 cup low fat plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
½ cup any desired fresh fruit, sliced or chopped (peaches or strawberries or kiwi or pear etc.)
½ banana, sliced
Raw honey or Xylitol to taste
Dash of cinnamon (optional)
Mix ingredients together.
It could also be blended for a smoothie or drinkable yoghurt.