Naureen Aqueel

Y for Yoghurt

Posted on: July 20, 2008

An edited version of this article was published in Dawn, Magazine, July 20, 2008.

You have it as a refreshing sweet drink; you dip your chapatti in its spicy variant; and you drown your rice in its thinner flavoured form—yes, yoghurt is one of the most popular dairy products present on our tables during almost all meals. And for those tables that are deprived of its presence there is much reason why it must become an essential part of daily meals.

Yoghurt is a fermented dairy product containing live bacterial cultures that have proven to be very beneficial for health. In addition to this, yoghurt is rich in calcium, iodine, phosphorous, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and protein. On average, one cup (245 grams) of yoghurt contains 58.1 % of iodine and around 44% of calcium. Anyone wanting to supplement their calcium, iodine and protein intake has a good choice in this healthy food item.

But the specialty of yoghurt nonetheless is the teeming load of healthy bacteria that is present in it. This bacteria which is abundant in yoghurt helps boost immune response and fortify the immune system. One study has found that Lactobacillus casei, a friendly bacteria found in yoghurt can help improve the body’s ability to fight off pneumonia.

The active cultures found in yoghurt encourage the right kind of bacteria to multiply in the stomach, the anti-biotic qualities of which help combat and prevent infections. Yoghurt can also prevent diarrhoea and dysentery because of the high levels of prostagladins it contains.

The health promoting bacteria in yoghurt known as probiotics not only produces cellular immunity but is also said to have an effect on metabolism. In its role of bolstering cellular immunity, some researchers have suggested yoghurt can protect against some types of cancer. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000) pointed out that the immuno-stimulatory effects of yoghurt prevent diseases such as cancer, infection, gastrointestinal disorders and asthma. The Lactobacillus in yoghurt has also been found to improve respiratory illnesses and asthma.

Probiotics found in yoghurt have proven to be particularly helpful in treating gastrointestinal problems like ulcers and inflammatory bowel diseases. Interestingly, probiotics can also help protect against food poisoning. So, it would always be a good idea to devour a healthy cup of yoghurt when you have given into your temptations and indulged in that not-so-hygienic boti roll.

Yoghurt consumption can also be a means of preventing osteoporosis on account of its high calcium content. And it is not just calcium that makes yoghurt bone-friendly. Lectoferrin, an iron building protein present in yoghurt also helps build bones.

Yoghurt has long been used as an important food item to promote health and treat many diseases. A century ago, a Russian microbiologist by the name Elie Metchnikoff put forward that the consumption of live microbes present in fermented milk products may in part be responsible for the long life of certain ethnic groups.

Yoghurt is an ideal food item for people of all ages. You can have it plain, or mix it with fruits or vegetables or top it with syrups, nuts or herbs. It can be presented and eaten in a myriad of different forms. Have it with lunch or as a dessert. And you can be sure that as you savour its smooth texture and the taste you have blended it into, it will work its way through your body improving your health in many ways.

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