Research has shown that women who regularly consume yoghurt tend to make many “other” healthier eating choices, suggesting that eating yoghurt is a gateway to a better quality diet and a more optimal lifestyle.
This is according to registered dietician Maretha Vermaak, who says that yoghurt is a nutrient-dense food with high amounts of quality protein and bone-building calcium as well as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and vitamins B12 and B2.
The bacteria used to make yoghurt are called “yoghurt cultures”, which ferment lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. This process produces lactic acid, a substance that causes milk proteins to curdle, giving yoghurt its unique flavour and texture. Yoghurt can be made from all types of milk.
Vermaak is a dietician with Rediscover Dairy, an education project affiliated with Milk SA.
More yoghurt, better choices
For many women, the sheer versatility of yoghurt is a great advantage. While it works well added to morning oats, cereals and fruits, it is far from limited to just a breakfast food, says Vermaak. “There’s an array of research that shows that the healthy bacteria, called probiotics, in fermented foods like yoghurt, improve the community of microbes in the gut, known as the gut microbiota.”
It is ideal on its own as a quick, satisfying morning or afternoon snack, perfect for all-day smoothies on the go, and delicious in a dip or as a spread or topping.
Yoghurt is also a common ingredient in main dishes from a variety of international cuisines and can be added to soups, stews, wraps, stir-fries, vegetable dishes and even home-baked goods.
What are the benefits?
According to a 2013 Nutrition Research study, women who regularly consume yoghurt tend towards healthier eating in general and experience specific benefits including:
Lower risk of disease: Eating yoghurt often is associated with lower blood glucose and lower blood pressure, reducing the risks of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Filling the nutrient gaps: Daily consumption of yoghurt helps women to achieve their required protein intake, which increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Women who eat yoghurt regularly are also less likely to develop deficiencies in potassium, calcium, zinc and the B vitamins.
Weight maintenance and appetite control: Due to its quality protein, including yoghurt in meals and especially as snacks helps you to feel fuller for longer and can help to manage weight and to control appetite.
Worth it to make your own
Store-bought yogurt may be convenient, but it can’t compare to the mild creaminess of your own home-made yoghurt. The Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has some tips to help you make your own yoghurt at home. And get this, it is not as difficult or industrial as you might think.
How to make your own yoghurt:
- Heat 2,2 litres of milk (may be skim, 2%, or whole). Pour the milk into a 3-litre saucepan and set over medium heat. Warm the milk until almost boiling when small bubbles appear; stir the milk periodically to prevent scorching.
- Cool the milk to a warm temperature of about 43°-46° C and transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl. A higher temperature can destroy the bacteria, while a cooler temperature can prevent fermentation.
- Whisk into the milk ½ cup plain yoghurt with live cultures or a yoghurt starter package. Cover the bowl with a lid or clean plate. Wrap the bowl in a towel.
- Heat oven to warm setting for 1-2 minutes and turn on oven light. Turn off the oven (leave light on) and place yogurt into oven. Let sit for at least 4 hours but may be left overnight. The oven temperature should be about 43°C.
- The yogurt is then ready to use. If you prefer a thinner consistency, refrigerate for a few hours before eating. If you wish for a thicker Greek-style yoghurt, strain the yoghurt. Place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and line with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and refrigerate for several hours, which will strain out the liquid whey and excess water. The yoghurt may be stored in the refrigerator for about 7 days.