Yogurt

A True Super Food

yogurtYogurt is a true “superfood” indeed, it is also known as sour milk is the result from the fermentation of milk. Yogurt is very much a a pro-biotic food which means food that contains plenty of beneficial bacteria. Based on research, yogurt has many benefits for human health. The history of yogurt as healthy drink began when E. Metchnikoff made a hypothesis. He found that there is a relationship between the longevity and the habit of consuming fermented milk in Bulgaria mountain society.

An Ancient Past

While it is unclear exactly when and where yogurt was developed, fermented dairy products were probably consumed for thousands and thousands of years, ever since the beginning of the domestication of cows. One of the first records of yogurt consumption comes from the Middle East during the times of the Genghis Khan in the 13th century, whose armies were sustained by a food similar to yogurt. Yogurt and other fermented dairy products such as kefir have long been a staple in the diets of cultures of the Middle East, Asia, Russia and Eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria. Yet, the recognition of yogurt’s special health benefits did not become apparent in Western Europe and North America until the 20th century, as a result of research done by Dr. Elie Metchnikoff. Dr. Metchnikoff conducted research on the health benefits of lactic acid-producing bacteria and postulated that the longevity of peoples of certain cultures, such as the Bulgarians, was related to their high consumption of yogurt and fermented dairy products.

Why Is Yogurt So Good?

The nutrient rich content  found in yogurt is the reason why we need to consume yogurt. Yogurt contains B complex vitamins and a higher percentage of vitamins A + D than milk. Yogurt is a natural and powerful antibiotic, helps to prevent cancer and has been found beneficial in colds and upper respiratory complaints, high cholesterol levels, constipation and diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, diverticulitis, diarrhoea, gallstones, osteoporosis, kidney disorders, many cancers of the digestive tract, thrush, hepatitis and various skin complaints.
Like the milk it’s made from, yogurt is a very good source of calcium, phosphorus, and protein. During the fermentation, there is a synthesis process of vitamin B complex, especially thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2), and also amino acids.
Yogurt is not only a good source of protein, it is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B2 and iodine, vitamin B12, vitamin B5, zinc, potassium, and molybdenum. These several nutrients alone surely qualify yogurt as a superfood. But probably the most important aspect of this food is the inclusion of live bacteri
Unlike milk, real yogurt also contains pro-biotics, the good bacteria your digestive system needs to process and benefit from all the other things you eat. The most common pro-biotic in yogurt is lactic acid bacteria including Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus themophilus, and Lactobacillus casei.
If you really want the best health benefits you can obtain, use raw cow’s milk and then add top quality pro-botics to the yogurt as you make it, this is the secret. This finished product will be in a league of its own and a store-bought equivalent can never compare or come even close to your home-made product.

Selecting and storing yogurt

Here is an important point you may not of though about when buying yogurt. Did you know that some manufacturers actually pasteurise their product? Some do and some don’t, and what you need to look for are products which feature “live active cultures” or “living cultures” on their labels. This is especially important if you want to not only enjoy yogurt as a tasty food, but to gain the pro-biotic benefits as well. The problem with pasteurisation is that it basically kills off the beneficial lactic acid and the good bacteria, rendering the food useless in terms of its ability to be a true superfood.

I always recommend people to avoid those small containers of yogurt which contain artificial sweeteners (like aspartame, yikes!) colours and additives. Avoid those “fruity” yogurts which taste sickly sweet because they often are laden with sugars. And of course you always check the expiry dates on the side of the yogurt container to make sure that they are still fresh, don’t you?

A good tip is to look out for yogurt made from organic milk. Organic dairy products are becoming more widely available in an array of sizes, flavours and varieties. Make sure you store your yogurt in the refrigerator in its original container. If unopened, it will stay fresh for about one week past the expiration date.

But I am allergic to milk. Does this mean I am allergic to yogurt?

There is no doubt, cow’s milk is probably the most allergenic food I have come across in my clinic with patients over the years. And although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others.

It is important to realisz that the frequency of food allergy problems can vary widely from country to country and can change significantly along with changes in the food supply or with other manufacturing practices. For example, in several part of the world such as North and South America you will find corn and maize allergies to be more common than other parts of the world. In Canada, Japan, and Israel, sesame seed allergy has risen to a level of major concern over the past several years, and in many Western countries countless folk now have gluten allergies. But why would this be so? This can be easily explained due to the fact that people in these countries eat more of these foods.

These potentially allergenic foods do not need to be eaten in their absolute pure, isolated form in order to trigger an immune mediated reaction. For example, yogurt made from cow’s milk is also a common allergenic food, even though the cow’s milk has been processed and fermented in order to make the yogurt. Ice cream made from cow’s milk would be an equally good example, and so is cream. Butter on the other hand will be found to be far less problematic as far as allergies is concerned. In most cases, when I recommend a temporary cessation of cow’s milk I generally mean cow’s yogurt as well. You can try sheep’s cheese or goat’s cheese like Feta, however.

You can read a lot more on the following page about food allergies and food in-tolerances. Food allergy symptoms may sometimes be immediate and specific (a Type 1 allergy, IgE mediated), and can include skin rash, hives, itching, and eczema; swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat; tingling in the mouth; wheezing or nasal congestion; trouble breathing; and dizziness or lightheadedness. But food allergy symptoms may also be much more general and delayed (Type 3 allergy, IgG mediated), and can include fatigue, depression, chronic headache, chronic bowel problems (such as diarrhoea or constipation), and insomnia. Because most food allergy symptoms can be caused by a variety of other health problems, it makes good sense to seek my help if you want to evaluate the role of food allergies in your health.

Some of the Many Health Benefits of Yogurt

1. Helping people with lactose intolerance.

Fermented milk drinks such as yogurt are recommended for the enzyme deficiency. Lactic acid bacteria can ferment lactose in milk into glucose and galactose, and stimulate the secretion of the enzyme lactase in the digestive tract. Those suffering from lactose intolerance can generally safely eat yogurt, even the 3 ½% fat from the full-cream milk becomes defatted and soured and more easily digested. This is good information for those who are conscious of animal fat intake in the diet. However, you may suffer from casein intolerance. Be careful if you have dairy allergies, many people do.

2. Yogurt has anti-diarrhea properties and improves constipation.

Yogurt may prevent the activity and the growth of pathogenic bacteria that causing diarrhoea. Lactobacillus bulgaricus (a bacterium that plays a
role in the formation of yogurt) can produce bulgarican (an effective antimicrobial to inhibit pathogenic organisms).

3. Yogurt helps inhibit the growth of pathogenic (bad) bacteria.

Lactic acid can reduce or kill the bacterial pathogens (disease-causing bacteria) and suppress the production of dangerous compounds, such as amin, phenol, skatol, and H2S which produced by bacterial pathogens. Lactic acid-producing bacteria also produce antibiotics that can inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Therefore, the yogurt has a value of treatment of stomach and intestinal injury.

4. Yogurt can confer anti-cancer benefits.

Research on rats showed a doubling of cancer cells in mice that were fed with yogurt is more constrained than mice without the yogurt. The bacteria that involved in fermentation of milk may change pre-cancerous substances that are present in the digestive tract, thus the bacteria can inhibit the occurrence of cancer. Yogurt that contains live, or active cultures like L. casei may have cancer prevention benefits. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), live cultures can reduce the risk of cancer recurrences. Pro-biotics are healthy bacteria that can significantly boost the immune system and promote digestive regularity and therefore can have a most beneficial effect in terms of helping to prevent cancer. The University of Michigan Health System’s (UMHS) nutritional charts regarding calcium lists yogurt at the top of the lists, with a 1 cup serving containing 415 mg. The high calcium count of yogurt, like milk, may keep people from developing other forms of cancer as well as bladder cancer.

Yogurt can help reduce your risk of bowel cancer

If you think that high-fat dairy products are not good for your health, you may want to think again. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has discovered that eating full-fat yogurt and other full-fat dairy foods, such as whole milk, kefir, cheese, cream, sour cream and butter, may significantly reduce your risk for bowel cancer. Over 60,000 women aged 40-76 years were followed during an average of 14.8 years. Those who consumed at least 4 servings of high-fat dairy foods each day were found to have a 41% lower risk of bowel cancer compared to women eating less than one serving of high-fat dairy foods daily.

Although these foods are high in saturated fat, high fat dairy foods contain a number of potentially cancer-preventive factors such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has also been shown to be protective of heart and circulatory disease. We do know that research has confirmed that it is wise to limit your intake of saturated animal fat by cutting back on servings of high-fat red and processed meats in particular, but that enjoying full-fat versions of yogurt and other dairy products may actually be cancer and cardio-protective.

5. Yogurt is excellent for your digestive tract.

Live yogurt has many beneficial effects on your digestive system. Lactic acid from the yogurt may stimulate the peristaltic movement in nearly all parts of the digestive tract. Stimulation of the peristaltic movements can maintain the body’s health through improved digestion, absorption, faeces disposal, and disposal of pathogenic (bad) bacteria from the digestive tract. It is a well known and scientifically established fact that pro-biotics in yogurt helps to restore the balance of bacteria and can eliminate the abdominal pain, gas or constipation.

6. Yogurt is protective against Helicobacter Pylori

An interesting study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that Helicobater pylori,  the bacterium responsible for most ulcers, can be effectively inhibited by yogurt. Ingestion of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis significantly decreases activity of Helicobacter pylori after six weeks, according to the results of a placebo-controlled intervention study published in the September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

7. Consuming yogurt can lower blood cholesterol levels.

Do you have high cholesterol levels? Did you know by adding a daily cup of yogurt with pro-biotic bacteria-to your healthy way of eating is an easy way to improve your cholesterol profile? Yogurt contains factors that can inhibit the formation of cholesterol so that cholesterol levels dropped and prevents clogging of atherosclerosis blood vessels that causing coronary heart disease. Yogurt helps to lower your LDL level (“bad” cholesterol) and assist in raising your HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels.l

Daily consumption of 100 g of a good pro-biotic yogurt (like Eric’s yogurt recipe teeming with health-promoting bacteria) has shown to significantly improved the cholesterol profile in women volunteers. In this study, (Fabian E, Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism), one group of 17 women consumed 3 ounces (100 g) a day of pro-biotic yogurt, while a second group of 16 women were given 3 ounces of conventional yogurt daily for 2 weeks. Then both groups were given 6 ounces (200 g) of the type of yogurt they had been consuming for 2 more weeks. The study ended with a final 2 weeks during which both groups of women ate no yogurt.

In the women consuming pro-biotic yogurt, not only did levels of LDL decrease significantly, but their HDL substantially increased. Women consuming conventional yogurt also experienced a significant drop in LDL cholesterol, although their HDL did not rise. This tells you that it is important to avoid those commercial yogurts and make your own, adding good pro-biotics.

8. Yogurt can significantly boost your immune function.

Yogurt is an ancient wonder food, strongly antibacterial and anti-cancer. A cup or two of yogurt a day boosts immune functioning by stimulating production of gamma interferon. A study authored by Georges Halpern MD PhD, professor emeritus in the department of internal medicine at the University of California, discovered that people who 2 cups of yogurt a day for 4 months increased the level of gamma interferon, a protein that helps the white blood cells fight off disease. Gamma interferon is one of the best defences your body has against viruses. In addition, yogurt spurs activity of natural killer cells that attack viruses and tumours. An interesting study published in the Journal of Nutrition has shown that Lactobacillus species found in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir, significantly improved the immune response and ability to fight off pneumonia.

9. Consuming yogurt can increase your chances of a long healthy life

Research has consistently found that people with the highest life expectancies are often people who consume fermented and cultured foods such as yogurt. The highest quality yogurt in your health food shop or supermarket contains live bacteria that provides a host of health benefits, as previously mentioned. Yogurt that contains live bacterial cultures may help you to live longer, and may well fortify your immune system. Research studies have shown that increased yogurt consumption, particularly in immuno-compromised people such as the elderly, may enhance the immune response, which would in turn increase resistance to immune-related diseases. Immune function declines with age, so eating a small amount of yogurt daily is a great way to ensure you keep your immune system “topped up”.

One study tracked a population of 162 very elderly people for a five year period, and it was discovered that the incidence of death for those subjects who ate yogurt and milk more than three times per week was 38% lower than the incidence of death those subjects who ate yogurt and other dairy foods less than once a week. You may be interested to know that those who consumed citrus (especially limes and lemons) twice a week and a low consumption of red meat were also associated with decreased incidence of premature death.

10. Eating yogurt reduces chances of candida yeast and thrush infections

Eating yogurt may help to prevent vaginal yeast infections. In one study, women who had frequent yeast infections ate 200 grams of yogurt daily for 6 months. Researchers reported that a 75% reduction in infections was seen in these women.

11. Yogurt helps to boost bone health significantly

Yogurt and kefir are a lot more than just a calcium and “friendly bacteria” health food, they also contain lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein that boosts the growth and activity of cells which boost bone production – the osteoblasts.

Not only does lactoferrin increase osteoblast activity, it also reduces the formation of osteoclasts, and these bone cells help to increase bone turn-over or bone loss. Lactoferrin has been shown to reduce osteoclast activity by an amazing 50-70%, thus helping to prevent or even reverse osteoporosis. But wait, there’s more – lactoferrin also increases the proliferation of cells that build cartilage called chondocytes. I cannot recommend a high-quality organic yogurt enough for your health, so it pays to enjoy yoghurt because  lactoferrin’s effects were found to be dose-dependent, stimulating an up to a 5-fold increase in osteoblasts at higher doses consumed.

12. Yogurt can help significantly with weight loss

You wouldn’t think of yogurt as a “weight-loss food”, but it can help you loose weight a lot. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity revealed that in just 12 weeks, 16 obese men and women on a calorie restricted diet that included three portions of yogurt a day lost an amazing 61% more fat and 81% more abdominal fat than 18 obese subjects assigned to a diet with the same number of calories but who consumed little or no high fat and calcium dairy foods like yogurt. Not only did those in the yogurt group lose more body fat, especially around their waist, but they also retained more lean, muscle tissue than those people who were on the yogurt-free diet. The study,  indicated that adding one or two servings of yogurt to your daily diet can help you maximize your fat-loss and minimize loss of lean muscle.

13. Eating calcium-rich foods has been linked to lower body fat

It is interesting how rapidly our children are becoming obese, and this has been in part linked with low calcium diets. Australia leads the world in childhood obesity, and New Zealand is not far behind. It is good news for parents to hear about a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association which revealed that calcium-rich foods were found to be negatively correlated with body fat in both children and adults. Last century, diets with calcium levels as high as 4000mg daily were not unheard of, and today an adult is lucky to get 1500mg from his or her daily diet. I America, childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past ten years according to the New England Journal of Medicine, and the International Obesity Task Force recently reported that childhood obesity in England is already three times higher in 2011 than it was in the year 2000.

14. Yogurt consumption for fresh breath

Consuming just 90 grams of yogurt twice a day helps to eliminate those tongue-coating bacteria and helps to reduce dental plaque formation, cavities, and even the risk for gingivitis. Regular yogurt consumption also helps to lower levels of hydrogen sulfide and other volatile sulfide compounds responsible for that bad breath. Make sure you select yoghurt’s that contain those live cultures, I have found that the highest quality products will often indicate exactly how many live bacteria are contained in their product.

19 Different Ways To Enjoy Yogurt

Yogurt has been enjoyed in much of the world for over 4,000 years. Originating from central parts of Asia and India, and southern and central Europe, it is now eaten almost everywhere in the world. Probably no other food product apart from yogurt can claim such an amazing history while being healthy and nutritious as well as cheap to buy or so easy to make at home!Yet there is an incredible difference between a shop bought, pasteurised, over- (read artificially) sweetened and artificially coloured yogurt, and a fresh, natural yogurt – preferably made at home. The taste of unsweetened yogurt can take some getting used to, I have found that many patients find it too bitter or “acidic” at first. Even natural yogurt is more commonly eaten with lots of fruit and even sugar added, or as part of a multitude of other recipes – from Indian curries to stir fry dishes and all manner of savoury or sweet dips.

  • Top your daily cup of yogurt with a quarter-cup of muesli, a handful of nuts, and some frozen berries or dried fruit for a quick, delicious and sustaining breakfast.
  • Creamy yogurt, chives, and freshly ground sea salt and pepper make a great topping for baked potatoes, yams or other cooked vegetables. Good to use instead of sour cream.
  • Yogurt parfaits are a visual as well as delicious treat. In a large wine glass, alternate layers of yogurt and favourite fruits.
  • For a creamy salad dressing or vegetable dip, just mix a cup of yogurt with a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil and your favourite herbs and spices. Yogurt combines with different herbs and spices quite well.
  • Instead of using coconut cream in your curry, use yogurt instead.
  • Yogurt has a nice cooling flavour after a hot spicy meal.
  • Try yogurt on top of cooled porridge, topped with fresh fruit.
  • Make dips out of the plain yogurt and serve it with meat, chicken and rice.
  • Add chopped cucumber and dill weed to plain yogurt. Eat this delicious and cooling salad as is or use as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or lamb.
  • Try yogurt with a sprinkling of ground flax seeds, fresh blueberries and chopped raw walnuts.
  • I like plain yogurt with cinnamon and Manuka honey drizzled on top.
  • Try and put the yogurt in the freezer for about half an hour and eat like ice cream, mix berries in first.
  • Soak overnight whole rolled oats with 1/2 cup each of oats, water, and yogurt. In the morning add either fresh blueberries or a sliced banana and ground flax seed.
  • You can use yogurt in place of sour cream.
  • Dip vegetables in yogurt so you don’t have to add fattening sauces or butter.
  • Mix yogurt with cottage cheese, fruit and slivered almonds.
  • Yogurt on warmed crumpets (yes they make ‘em fat free & they rock) or in a crepe! Low fat, low cal & so delish!
  • Toss cubes of cooked eggplant with plain yogurt, chopped mint leaves, garlic and cayenne.
  • Yogurt is a great base for salad dressings. Simply place plain yogurt in the blender with enough water to achieve your desired consistency. Add to this your favorite herbs and spices.

Different Types of Lactobacillus

  • Lactobacillus casei – is a transient, anaerobic microorganism of genus Lactobacillus found in the human intestine and mouth. As a lactic acid producer, it has been found to assist in the propagation of desirable bacteria. This particular species of lactobacillus is documented to complement the growth of Lactobacillus acidophilus.
  • Lactobacillus bifidus – is a friendly bacteria that helps maintain healthy bacteria in the large intestine by increasing the acidity of the region it inhabits and making the area inhospitable to dangerous bacteria. This friendly bacteria is particularly important in the very young as well as the elderly.
  • Lactobacillus bulgaricus – is one of several bacteria used for the production of yogurt. It is also non-motile, and it does not form spores. It has complex nutritional requirements, including the inability to ferment any sugar except for lactose.
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus – is a probiotic bacterium that was originally considered to be a subspecies of Lactobacillus casei, but later genetic research found it to be a species of its own. Lactobacillus rhamnosus inhibits the growth of most harmful bacteria in the intestine. It is used as a natural preservative in yogurt and other dairy products to extend the shelf life. It has probiotic properties. When administered orally it adheres to the mucous membrane of the intestine and may help to restore the balance of the GI microflora, promote gut-barrier functions and diminish the production of carcinogenic compounds by other intestinal bacteria.
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus – Lactobacillus Acidophilus bacterium is probably the most well known and some Lactobacillus species are used industrially for the production of cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, beer, wine, cider, kimchi and other fermented foods. It is sometimes used together with Streptococcus salivarius and Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus in the production of acidophilus-type yogurt.

Last Page Update: 24 June 2011

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