Yogurt: The Original Health Food

IMAGE No one knows for sure when yogurt first appeared on the culinary scene, but estimations date its arrival back to the beginning of agriculture. The first record of possible health benefits from yogurt was in the 1500s. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent his doctor with a satchel of yogurt to Francois I, the King of France, to cure his intestinal disorder. It worked and yogurt's reputation as a health food was born. Soon after, people began praising the health benefits of yogurt by claiming it cured many different illnesses.

The Culturing of Yogurt

Yogurt is made from milk—whole, low-fat, or skim milk can be used. Live bacteria, also known as cultures, are added to the milk. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are the two cultures required for a product to meet the legal definition of yogurt. Some manufacturers add other bacteria as well. The mixture is then incubated—time and temperature will determine the flavor, consistency, and acidity. The bacteria in yogurt are commonly known as probiotics or friendly bacteria. Studies suggest that these probiotics can provide a variety of benefits, including preventing traveler's diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and other forms of digestive infection, and possibly strengthening the immune system against respiratory infections.

Yogurt Packs a Nutritional Punch

Yogurt is high in calcium—a mineral essential for strong bones. For adults, the recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000-1,200 mg (milligrams), depending on your age, sex, and pregnancy status. The recommendations vary by age for children, starting at 200 mg for newborns up to 1,300 mg for teens. An 8-ounce cup of yogurt can supply 42% of your daily need. Yogurt is a great way to get protein. Protein is made up of amino acids—9 of which are essential. Essential means that your body cannot synthesize the amino acid; therefore, it must be in the food you eat. The protein in yogurt is complete—meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids.Additionally, yogurt is an excellent source of riboflavin, potassium, and vitamin B12. Depending on the type of yogurt you choose, you can reap the nutritional benefits without a lot of fat, calories, and cholesterol.
Yogurt (1 cup) Plain,
Calories 110 170 220
Total fat (g) 0 2 8
Saturated fat (g) 0 1.5 4.5
Cholesterol (mg) 0 10 30
Sodium (mg) 160 130 120
Potassium (mg) 510 440 390
Carbohydrates (g) 16 30 31
Protein (g) 10 9 8
Calcium (%) 35% 55% 30%
g=grams; mg=milligramsPercent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.Source: Stonyfield Farm website

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