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The Many Health Benefits of Yogurt

What do the words Mast, Laban, Matsoni, Dadiah, Yoghurmask, Taetta, and Dahi have in common? They are all names for Yogurt:a miracle food containing powerful microbes that can protect you from invasive cells, bolster you immune system, and prevent heart disease.

Mast, Dahi, Labneh, Matsoni, Dadiah, Yoghurmak: The Many Names of Yogurt and Its Health Benefits

Want to maintain a healthy weight, keep your bones strong, and ward off invasive cells? How about lowering your cholesterol, protect yourself against ulcers, and reduce your risk of colorectal cancer? Then have a daily cup of — bacteria? That’s right, I did say bacteria. It’s time to meet and make friends with these amazing microbes that work diligently to ensure optimum health. Where do you meet them? They exist in that ancient, miraculous food known as yogurt.

Did I mention the word ancient? There are many stories about yogurt, and its time line seems to run all over the map. Some food historians place its origin to the slopes of Mount Elbrus, between the Black and Caspian Sea. Other accounts of yogurt’s beginning include Palestine, Mesopotamia, or the Persian Empire. Then there is the tale of the Mongols, and how Genghis Khan and his invading armies introduced yogurt into Asia and the Middle East. Most food historians agree, however, that the beginning of fermented milk probably began as far back as 6000 BC, with the domestication of cows. From that point on, yogurt seems to travel from one geographical area to the next, with little pattern to connect the dots.

Yogurt didn’t reach American shores until the early 1900s, introduced through Turkish and Armenian immigrants. It took a few years, however, to gain popularity with the American consumer, due to the tangy, sour taste. We Americans like our milk by-products sweet, like ice-cream and pudding. This is the reason yogurt was a hard sell. It wasn’t until the late 1960s when an interest for healthy and natural foods began to grow within the counter-culture, and suddenly yogurt made its debut. Small organic outlets and nutritional stores sprouted as the baby boomers’ demand for more wholesome foods took hold. Names like Dannon, Nancy’s, Brown Cow and Stonyfield come to mind. Marketed as a healthy dairy supplement, yogurt is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

Today, yogurt takes up more space in your local supermarket than other dairy products. It’s sweetened, colored, fruited, blended, whipped and swirled. Brands like Danon, Yoplait, Tillamook, and Breyers have become very mainstream, and tailor their products to the American taste for sugar. Sure, we want the calcium, protein, and bacteria — but just like that song in Mary Poppins, we also want that “teaspoon of sugar” to help “the medicine go down.” The companies have accommodated us. Our yogurt is jam-packed with sweetener like fructose, corn syrup, and splenda. But something else has changed in the ingredient of yogurt; the main benefit, the bacteria itself, might be missing.

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