Live yogurt, Greek yogurt, skyr, kefir, drinkable yogurt, the list goes on…But what exactly is yogurt, why are they healthy and why are there so many variations? Don’t worry, this article’s got you covered! Read on for Yogurt: 5 Different Types & Their 3 Main Health Benefits!
Yogurt is essentially a fermented milk product made through the use of yogurt cultures, which are bacteria. It is defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a fermented dairy product derived from the fermentation of milk by two species of bacterial cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
Recent research has shown benefits of Bifidobacterium sp and so its addition in yogurts has increased. The fermentation of milk sugar (lactose) by these bacteria produces lactic acid which causes the milk protein to coagulate, giving yogurt its texture, as well as acting as a preservative.
Since it is made from milk, it contains several nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other vitamins and minerals. Due to its fermentation, it is much more digestible than milk, making it more nutritious as the nutrients are more easily absorbed into the body.
The 3 Main Health Benefits of Yogurt Consumption
1. Bone Health
Bones are made of living tissues that are continuously renewing themselves. New tissues are built over old bone mass which is lost. This mechanism deteriorates as we age, therefore it is important to develop strong and healthy bones whilst young. Calcium, vitamin D and protein have been shown to be essential for bone health and in reducing risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption too.
2. Immune Health
Yogurt is a source of probiotics because it contains beneficial strains of microbes. The bacteria species used for yogurt production are lactic acid bacteria (LAB) which is the reason behind its immunostimulatory effect. LAB induce changes in the gastrointestinal microbiome as they suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria, hence, reducing infection.
3. Gut Health
There is evidence showing that yogurt with bacterial cultures can ease gastrointestinal conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease and others. Similar to how it can bring about immune system benefits, the positive effects are mediated through changes in the gut microflora. LAB binds to the intestinal wall tissues, preventing harmful pathogens from entering.
Types of Yogurt & their Nutrition
Low-fat is made through skimmed milk instead of the usual full fat milk, however they generally have a higher amount of sugar.The variation of yogurt is fundamentally due to difference in production as they are all made from fermented milk.
N.B. The nutrition content varies significantly between brands – please do check the nutrition label before purchasing!
Greek yogurt is plain yogurt that is further strained to remove the whey and other liquids, thus resulting in a thicker texture and tangier flavour. It also has a higher protein content because of the absence of whey, making it more concentrated.
Skyr is an Icelandic dairy product which has a Greek-yogurt consistency but a higher protein content. It is fermented through using previous batches of Skyr added into boiling skimmed milk, then strained to remove the whey.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink made through the fermentation of milk with kefir grains (microbial culture) – typically fermented at ambient temperatures.