What Is Yoghurt?

Yoghurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk. The bacterial cultures cause the transformation of the milk, sugar and lactose into lactic acid. This process gives yoghurt its refreshingly tart flavour and unique pudding-like texture. Hence the original Turkish name for yoghurt, Yogurmak, which means ‘to thicken’. Many of yoghurt's health benefits come from the lactic acid bacteria that are traditionally used to make yoghurt: Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus. Yoghurt is available in a variety of different flavours, although plain yoghurt is the simplest, most wholesome and most versatile. Certain varieties of yoghurt feature yoghurt and a mixture of fruit.

The History of Yoghurt

While it is unclear when and where yoghourt 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 yoghourt consumption came from the Middle East during the time of the conqueror Genghis Khan in the 13th century, whose armies were sustained by this healthful food. Yoghurt and other fermented dairy products 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 yoghurt's special health benefits did not become apparent in Western Europe and North America until the 20th century, as a result of research carried out by Dr Elie Metchnikoff.

Dr Metchnikoff conducted research on the health benefits of lactic acid-producing bacteria and suggested that the longevity of peoples of certain cultures, such as the Bulgarians, was related to their high consumption of yoghurt and fermented dairy products. Today, yoghurt plays an important role in many different world cuisines, including those of Turkey, Greece, India, and other countries in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia. Some yoghurt manufacturers pasteurise their yoghurt products, while others do not. Although the aim of pasteurisation is to kill any harmful bacteria, it also kills the beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the yoghurt, substantially reducing its health benefits. Therefore, to enjoy the benefits of yoghurt fully, look for those that feature ‘live active cultures’ or ‘living yoghurt cultures’ on the label.


Nutritional Profile

Yoghurt is a very good source of iodine, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin B2. It is also a good source of protein, vitamin B12, potassium, molybdenum, zinc and pantothenic acid. These ten nutrients alone would make yoghurt a health-supportive food. However, some of the most interesting health information about yoghurt comes from a different context: its potential inclusion of live bacteria.

Yoghurt, Bacteria with Antibiotic Powers

Dr David B. Sabine of the US Vitamins and Pharmaceutical Corporation has stated that Lactobacillus, the yoghourt bacteria, has antibiotic powers. In his laboratory, he grew certain bacteria, including staphylococcus and E. coli, both extremely dangerous to human beings. He added the beneficial bacteria to the growth and noted that the harmful bacteria began to disappear. He believes that a continual germ-killing substance is produced by the milk bacteria, and as it grows rapidly, this substance is strong enough to overwhelm the harmful germs.

Yoghurt and the Friendly Bacteria (Lactobacillus)

For thousands of years and in many countries, people have known of the healing effectiveness of the friendly Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Acidophilus bacteria, which are found in yoghurt. In a British Medical Journal, a physician suggested that during typhoid epidemics, everyone should be given regular doses of yoghurt.

Yoghurt and Antibiotics

Physician Dr A. Kraus refers to the fact that when antibiotics are given by mouth for any reason, helpful as well as harmful bacteria in the intestinal tract are destroyed. To re-establish these helpful bacteria, one needs large amounts of the beneficial ones (Lactobacillus). Therefore, anyone who has been taking antibiotics would do well to fortify themselves with some of the helpful bacteria found in yoghurt. It is important to eat yoghurt every day, to re-establish Lactobacillus after they have been destroyed.

Yoghurt and Resistance to Disease

Some experiments were performed at the Rockefeller Institute and reported in the American Journal of Medical Science. Two colonies of mice were studied. The intestinal tract of one contained the usual bacteria found in mice. The other colony was carefully fed so that their digestive tracts contained large numbers of Lactobacillus. The scientists reported that they found profound biological differences between the two groups of mice. The second group (with the special intestinal bacteria) had lower infant mortality, more rapid weight gain and ability to thrive on diets short on certain protein. It does seem that these bacteria may be responsible for creating resistance to disease.

Yoghurt as a Preventive Agent

Yoghurt is particularly beneficial in diseases produced by intoxication, and in diabetes, rheumatism and boils. It is an excellent nutrient for sufferers and convalescents. It is a hygienic and preventive agent in connection with many diseases.

Yoghurt More Digestible than Milk

Yoghurt is more digestible than milk. People who have not ingested milk since their infancy may have trouble digesting sweet milk, since they have lost the enzyme lactase which performs this task in the digestive tract. With yoghurt, as a result of the changes that have taken place in the milk, the lactase enzyme becomes unnecessary. Yoghurt is digested easily.

Yoghurt and Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the inability to drink milk, due to allergy to lactose, which is the natural sugar in milk. People who suffer lactose intolerance lack the bacteria Lactobacillus, which is a lactose splitter. Some people have never been able to develop these bacteria, and for others, their perfectly sound set of helpful bacteria has been destroyed through the use of oral antibiotics. People who suffer from lactose intolerance can solve this problem by having yoghurt, which will establish the bacteria Lactobacillus in their intestine.

Yoghurt and Lack of Digestive Juices

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (1932), before the production of antibiotics, yoghurt was used in the treatment of conditions where the digestive juices were lacking: in stomach ulcers, gall bladder disorders and diarrhoea.

Yoghurt and Constipation

Yoghurt prevents constipation, especially when consumed with fruits and leafy vegetables. In essence, yoghurt establishes a well-balanced content for the colon so that neither diarrhoea nor constipation will prevail.

Yoghurt and the Reduction of Blood Cholesterol

When eaten in large quantities, Yoghurt reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood. This astonishing fact came to light during an experiment by Dr Mann to test the cholesterol levels of twenty-four Masai men in East Africa. The men were fed one gallon of yoghurt a day, which would provide them with 600mg of cholesterol daily. The men wanted more yoghurt and were given more. Some began to put on weight. Dr Mann knew that being overweight usually leads to higher blood cholesterol, so he began to look into the blood cholesterol levels of the blood he had drawn during the experiment. He discovered that the blood cholesterol levels of these men had been falling regularly during those weeks. What was even more surprising, was that the men who had eaten most of the yoghurt - and hence had put on more weight -had the lowest blood cholesterol of all. This shows that something in yoghurt reduces the blood levels of cholesterol - at least in these Masai men. Dr Mann thinks that this thing in the yoghurt operates by inhibiting the manufacturing of cholesterol in the liver.

Yoghurt and the Inhibition of Cancer Cells

It was reported in the journal of the America National Cancer Institute, that something in yoghurt inhibits the growth of cancer cells, in at least one kind of cancer. Investigating with laboratory mice, three scientists at the University of Nebraska gave two groups of mice regular laboratory chow to eat. One group had plain drinking water, and the other was given a bit of yoghurt in their drinking water. Both groups were infected with cancer cells. After eight days, it was found that in those who had yoghurt, 28% of the tumour cells did not grow, while in the mice that did not have yoghurt, the tumour cells continued to grow. The above findings suggest that lactobacilli cultures produce components which have anti-tumour effects.

Yoghurt against Bacteria Fermentation

In the December 1969 issue of the Journal of the America Medical Association, a physician asked about the possibility of applying dried yoghurt as hospital treatment for breast cancer. The rationale for the use of yoghurt is to fight bacteria fermentation and growth. Bacteria flourish in an alkaline medium; yoghurt produces an acid medium which prevents the growth of odour-forming bacteria. Yoghurt is in daily use at Calgary Hospital in the Bronx, New York, a facility for the care of patients with advanced cancer.

Yoghurt, the Secret Medicine

It is said that Emperor Francis I, who lived in 16th century France, had been ailing. Court doctors had exhausted their remedies. Someone at the court knew of a famous doctor in Constantinople who had a 'secret medicine'. The doctor was sent for. The medicine was yoghurt. Since that time Frenchmen have called this form of milk 'Lait de la Vie Eternelle' (milk of eternal life).

A Myth about Yoghurt and Longevity

According to Persian tradition, an angel revealed the method of preparing yoghurt to the prophet Abraham. It is said that his fertility and longevity came from this yoghurt. The Bible tells us he lived to the age of 175 years. A similar cultured milk called ‘Kefir’ or the ‘Champagne of Milk’ was known in the past as the ‘Drink of the Prophet’.

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