Contributed by Chloe Pieters
What is Yoghurt ?
Yoghurt is a cultured milk product, made by introducing bacteria to milk. The fermentation process coagulates the milk and creates yoghurt’s delicate, creamy structure. It can be made from sheep, goat or cow’s milk; less commonly, it is also made from buffalo or water buffalo milk in some parts of the world.
The culturing process means that yoghurt is easier to digest than milk, so those who are lactose intolerant may still be able to eat yoghurt.
Types of Yoghurt
A Balkan yoghurt drink, mixed with water, sometimes flavoured with salt and mint. Similar to doogh (see below), except that it is not carbonated.
A Middle Eastern carbonated yoghurt drink, often flavoured with salt, pepper and mint. Chopped cucumber is sometimes added. Served chilled.
Dadih / Dadiah
A yoghurt made from water buffalo milk by the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia.
Greek or Greek-style yoghurt
Plain, tangy and thicker than ordinary yoghurt. Sometimes requires straining before use. Obviously, Greek yoghurt originates from Greece, whereas Greek-style yoghurt is made in a similar way but hails from elsewhere.
A fermented milk drink from the Caucasus, which can be used as a substitute for buttermilk.
Labneh / Labaneh
A Middle Eastern yoghurt cheese, similar to cream cheese in texture but lower in fat.
An Indian yoghurt drink mixed with water, which is available either sweet or salty. Sweet lassis are flavoured with sugar, rosewater and fruit juice, whereas salty lassis are flavoured with salt and spices.
Yoghurt is a rich source of calcium, which helps build healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also protects against osteoporosis, which affects one in three women and one in twelve men over 50 years of age. Girls going through puberty also meed more calcium to build their bones. The Amercian Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that girls who ate dairy products were able to build bone better than girls taking calcium supplements.
Yoghurt is very rich in iodine, which is necessary to the proper production of thyroid hormones. Insufficient iodine intake may lead to goiter (swelling of the thyroid gland) and iodine deficiency is the leading cause of mental retardation.
Yoghurt contains B vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12, which help the body produce energy (and so prevents energy deficiencies), regulate the mood and appetite and protect against a variety of nerve disorders.
Yoghurt is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which helps the body produce serotonin, regulating the mood and sleep cycle (see Benefits and Uses, below, for more information).
Bulgarian yoghurt is often sold as Greek yoghurt, especially in Britain and America.
In Britain, if a yoghurt contains real fruit, it is labelled (for example) ‘raspberry (or whatever) yoghurt’. If a yoghurt has no fruit but its flavour is derived from fruit, it would be labelled ‘raspberry-flavoured yoghurt’. If real fruit has not been used to flavour the yoghurt, it is labelled ‘raspberry-flavour yoghurt’.
In the USA, non-pasteurised yoghurt is labelled as being ‘live’ or containing a ‘live active culture’.
In Spain ‘yogur’ refers to ‘live yoghurt’ and ‘yogur pasteurizado’ refers to pasteurised yoghurt.
Manufacturing cheap yoghurts in factories damages the structure of yoghurt. The delicate structure of the yoghurt cannot survive the pumping procedure, which is carried out by high-speed machinery along miles of pipe. As such, gums are added at the beginning of manufacturing to protect the yoghurt from the manufacturing process. Traditionally-made yoghurts do not undergo the pumping procedure, but they are more expensive than those which are factory-made.
Benefits and uses
Dairy products such as yoghurts help neutralise capsaicin (which gives chillis that hot, stinging sensation). So, adding yoghurt to a dish containing chillis can help soften some of their sting. If you get chilli juice on your skin and it’s irritating you, wiping the area with a little yoghurt may also help.
The lactobactilli in live yoghurt rebalances gut flora, which makes it helpful for people suffering from yeast infections or cystitis (bladder infections). For those suffering from yeast infections, it is recommended that you eat yoghurt at least once a day, as live yoghurt also displaces candida organisms. Cystitis sufferers may also benefit from eating yoghurt, particularly if their cystitis is being treated with antibiotics, as yoghurt protects against bacterial infections, particularly those in the urinary tract.*
Yoghurt can benefit those who suffer from stomach ulcers. The cultures in live yoghurt may help destroy the bacteria which cause stomach ulcers.
The ‘friendly bacteria’ in yoghurt aids digestion. Because of this, eating yoghurt while taking antibiotics may be important. Antibiotics disrupt the balance of bacteria in the intestines, and eating yoghurt can restore this balance.
Yoghurt may help in dealing with mild depression, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Yoghurt is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid which produces serotonin, a hormone. Eating tryptophan-rich foods helps the body produce more serotonin, and serotonin helps people feel relaxed and regulates the mood. Serotonin also regulates the sleep cycle, so people suffering from insomnia may benefit from introducing yoghurt into their diet.*
Eating yoghurt may help with weight loss, especially around the stomach, as yoghurt speeds up the body’s metabolism and aids in burning fat. A study in Obesity Research found that people who ate dairy products as part of a reduced-calorie diet lost more weight than people who used supplements to provide their calcium needs. There seems to be a relationship between greater consumption of yoghurt and less body fat, particularly in children.
The live cultures in yoghurt may benefit the innume system, particularly in those who are more at risk of infection, e.g. the elderly. The lactobacillus found in yoghurt fortifies the immune system and improves immune response, which helps ward off diseases such as pneumonia and infections. Increased resistance to diseases that attack the immune system lengthens the lifespan.
Eating yoghurt (though not other dairy products such as milk) may prevent arthritis and, furthermore, may reduce inflammation in those already suffering from arthritis. This indicates that the lactobacillus in yoghurt has an effect on arthritis.
Eating full-fat dairy products such as yoghurt may reduce the risk of contracting colorectal cancer due to the presence of cancer-preventing fats within the food.
Incorporating Yoghurt into your Daily Life
Replace the milk in your morning cereal with plain or Greek yoghurt. You can also replace the milk in fruit smoothies with plain yoghurt.
A bowl of berries (fresh or frozen) and some plain yoghurt makes a light refreshing breakfast or snack.
Snack on yoghurt-covered raisins, pretzels or breakfast bars (make sure the coating is real yoghurt, not just milk powder and glucose).
Note that sheep’s milk yoghurt is higher in fat than yoghurt made from other animals’ milk.
RECIPES – BREAKFAST
YOGHURT AND HONEY WHOLEMEAL MUFFINS
Wholesome and filling.
Photographed on Moemoe’s (Viviane’s grandmother) cake stand
50 g butter
75 ml(5 tablespoons) clear honey
250 ml (1 cup) plain yoghurt (note:we used Greek-style yoghurt, which worked fine)
1 large egg, at room temperature
grated rind of 1 lemon
50ml lemon juice
150 g plain flour
175 g wholemeal flour
1 and a half teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (note: we omitted this)
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C (375F) Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or use paper cases
In a saucepan, melt the butter and honey. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly
In a bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, egg, lemon rind and juice. Add the butter and honey mixture. Set aside.
In another bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Fold them into the yoghurt mixture to blend.
Fill the prepared cups two-thirds full. Bake until the tops spring back when touched lightly, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out. Serve warm or at room temperate (note: we ate them cold too!)
RECIPES – LUNCH
TZATZIKI / CACIK
Similar to raita, this cooling Middle Eastern cucumber salad is a refreshing accompaniment to lentils, lamb, or just some pita bread and hummus.
- 2 Japanese or 1 telegraph cucumber, diced
- 1 – 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
- a cup of Greek-style yoghurt
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- salt to taste
- Combine the ingredients and stir together.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
RECIPES – DINNER
COLD YOGHURT SOUP WITH CHICKPEAS AND BULGUR (aka Yogurtlu Nohut Corbasi)
From ‘Arabesque‘ by Claudia Roden
150 g bulgur
1 kg natural (full-fat) yoghurt
2 tablespoons crushed dried mint
2 garlic cloves, crushed (optional)
1 x 400 g chickpeas, drained (note: if you want to use home-cooked chickpeas, boil about 150 g dried chickpeas before starting this recipe)
- Put the bulgur into a pan with 250 ml water and a little salt. Bring to the boil and cook, covered, over a very low heat for about ten minutes until the water has been absorbed and the grain is tender.
- Pour the yoghurt into a serving bowl, beat in a further 250 ml cold water, add the mint and garlic (if using), season with salt, and mix well. Stir in the drained checkpeas and bulgur and serve.
RECIPES – DESSERT
From ‘Top 200 Low Fat Recipes‘ by Judith Wills
- 250 g strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 dessertspoon (note: about 2 teaspoons) icing sugar
- 1 vanillapod
- 400 ml Greek Yoghurt
- 100 g caster sugar
- Arrange the strawberries in the base of four ramekin dishes and sprinkle evenly with icing sugar
- Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and stir into the yoghurt, then spread the mixture evenly over the fruit in the ramekins and chill for two hours
- Preheat the grill to high. Sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the top of the yoghurt so that it is well covered
- Place the ramekins on a baking tray and flash under the grill – near the heat – for a few minutes until the sugar has melted and is golden and bubbling. Remove and serve (the top will set almost straight away).
RECIPES – DRINK
From Tessa Kiros’ ‘Falling Cloudberries‘
Cooling and refreshing – in a word, ideal for the hot, humid wether Singapore’s been having lately!
- 185 g not-too-thick plain yoghurt
- 125 ml ice-cold water
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- about 1/2 teaspoon salt
- crushed ice
Mix together the yoghurt, water and mint, and season with the salt, checking for flavour and adjusting the salt to your taste. Scatter the crushed ice over the top and serve.
* We do not recommend that eating yoghurt be used as a substitute for the advice of a doctor or therapist, although it can complement other treatments.