Yoghurt is a nutritious, digestible and light food in the form of white, smooth cream. It comes from freshly fermented milk. Due to the lactic acid it contains from the fermentation of lactose, it acquires a slightly acidic, pleasant flavour. Yoghurt contains relatively few calories, but all the basic milk ingredients.
The word yoghurt derives from the Turkish yogurt. It is believed that it was made in areas of present-day Turkey and Iran in the 5th century BC.
Nowadays, in the Western world people consume mainly cow yoghurt, in Southeastern Europe sheep yoghurt is preferred, while in Egypt and India buffalo yoghurt is the best-selling.
For Greece, yoghurt is an important export product with very large domestic consumption. Recently, the Greek Government opened the process of creating an application dossier for the registration of the name "Greek Yoghurt" as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), in order to prevent counterfeiting attempts by other countries, that use the name Greek yoghurt or Greek-style yoghurt instead.
Homemade yoghurt is produced by boiling milk in open containers. After boiling, it is left to cool until it reaches the temperature it had at the time of collection. Next, prepared yoghurt is added, and the mixture is covered and placed in a relatively warm environment for several hours, where it cools gradually. In this phase, it is fermented, coagulated and prepared for consumption.
In dairies they usually add milk solids to cow's milk. Condensed and sterilised milk is inoculated and fermented with bacteria of Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacilus bulgaricus and Lactobacilus acidophilus. The resulting milk is incubated for 4-5 hours at 43-44 degrees Celsius until the gel is formed. Automated packaging and refrigeration procedures follow, before the product goes on sale. Yoghurt should be kept refrigerated. Production and expiration date should not exceed the one-month frame. Regular yoghurt is the one with the most vitamins.
Commercial yoghurt is marketed as:
- Strained yoghurt, with most of its whey removed. It contains regular cow's milk and flower milk, with fat ranging from 10% to 0% (Light).
- Classic cow or sheep yoghurt, with fat from 4% up to 0% (Light). It is made from skimmed or semi-skimmed, raw or condensed milk. Yoghurts with skin on the surface are also available in Greece. In this type of yoghurt, fat is concentrated on the skin, so by removing it, less calories are consumed. In fresh yogurt the skin is thin, smooth, white-yellow coloured and brittle.
- Yoghurt with added substances suitable for constipation problems.
- Yoghurt with the addition of fruit, honey, sugar, biscuits, cereals or caramel, suitable for use at any time of the day and quite popular amongst teenagers and kids.
In Greece yoghurt is often consumed as a dessert, mixed with honey and nuts, while it is the main ingredient in tzatziki. It is also found in kebab-giaourtlou, as an accompaniment to pilaf, kebabs, pies and salads and as a side dish to appetizers. In confectionery it is used in making cookies, cakes, and ice creams, while we also find it as an additive in margarines.
Yoghurt diluted with cold water and salt makes ariani, a drink known mainly in Macedonia and Thrace.
Yoghurt is a relatively low-fat food. In the early 20th century, Russian Nobel laureate biologist Ilya Metchnikoff concluded that yogurt is beneficial for the digestive system (thanks to the enzymes it contains) and boosts longevity. Also, its live and active bacteria have a positive effect on the intestinal microflora and the production of intestinal antibodies. It is also an ideal food for children having lactose problems, however, excessive consumption or consumption by people lactose intolerant, can cause uncontrolled bowel movements. Additionally, yoghurt helps skin health. It contains proteins, B vitamins, a sufficient amount of vitamins A and D, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and a large amount of zinc. As all products made from milk, it is rich in calcium which helps in good bone health.
Yoghurt’s other benefits:
It prevents bladder infections and cystitis.
It produces substances and natural antibiotics, capable of destroying bacteria that cause tuberculosis.
It is anti-cholesterol.
It protects the gastric mucosa.
It contains probiotic agents, which break down foreign estrogens.
Yoghurt’s lactic acid has antiseptic properties.
It strengthens the immune system and in combination with antibiotics, benefits recovery.
Traditional yogurt reduces bad breath and protects against caries.