The magic of fermentation
Timothy Hennessy, RHN, RNCP
More than just a flavourful treat, yogurt is considered to be a healthy superfood with definite benefts for our health and wellness.
The word yogourt comes from the Turkish word yoghurmak, which means “to thicken.” Yogourt is a fermented dairy product made thick by adding bacterial cultures to milk, thus changing the sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. It’s this increase in acidity that gives yogourt its distinctive tangy flavour.
More than just a flavourful treat, yogourt is considered to be a healthy superfood with definite benefits for our health and wellness. The root of this claim lies in the amount of beneficial bacteria living in the yogourt we consume.
Bacteria and yeasts populate our digestive system; some bacteria are considered friendly and others are considered unfriendly. A good-for-you yogourt will contain a vast number of friendly bacteria that can help boost the entire digestive system.
A healthy digestive system allows us to process and absorb the nutrients we require from the foods we eat. It keeps unfriendly bacteria and yeasts from overpopulating our intestinal tract and producing toxins that diminish our health and well-being.
While foods that have gone through a fermentation process are more easily digested, they also introduce important, healthy lactobacilli bacteria into our intestinal system. Such foods have existed in all cultures around the world for centuries, and yogourt is an excellent example.
Along with being a good source of calcium, recent studies show that yogourt has a host of other health benefits to offer. It can reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol while boosting the good HDL. Fermented milk products such as yogourt also contain lactoferrin, a protein that boosts the growth and activity of osteoblast cells that help build bones.
Healthy lactobacillus found in fermented milk not only helps to fight inflammation in the intestinal walls, but it also aids in reducing the inflammation associated with arthritic conditions. Even H. pylori, the bacteria involved in most ulcers, can be shut down by acidophilus and bifido bacterium. These probiotics are commonly added to pasteurized yogourt, and that fact is usually displayed on the label.
Several studies also point to an increased intake of calcium as helping to reduce our fat cells’ ability to store fat, thus causing them to burn more for body energy requirements. A study published in Obesity Research showed that eating calcium-rich foods such as plain low-fat yogourt helped in body-fat loss, especially around the midsection.
Would you like a simple solution to bad breath? Daily consumption of unsweetened yogourt has been shown to reduce levels of sulphide compounds in the mouth that cause halitosis. Daily consumption can also aid in reducing the risk of gingivitis.
A strong-functioning immune system is crucial for our ability to fight disease and infection. Yogourt has been shown to fortify the immune system and increase immune response to particular disease microbes.
There are many yogourt products available. Choose a plain regular or low-fat organic yogourt with probiotics added. Avoid fruit-on-the-bottom or fruit-flavoured products because of their added sugar content. Add your own fresh fruit instead.
Use caution with frozen yogourt. While it has been promoted as a healthy alternative to ice cream, it is often just ice milk with a small amount of yogourt added. Homemade frozen yogourt is easy to create by simply blending your favourite frozen fruit with plain yogourt and a touch of honey. Once mixed, pop it back in the freezer for a couple of hours, then serve.
Delicious, distinctive, and tangy on its own, yogourt is also a great addition to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.