So what exactly is yogurt? What are it's nutritional benefits?
Before we get into the benefits of yogurt, let us find out a little about yogurt.
Yogurt or known as curd is nothing but fermented milk. It contains live bacteria mainly lactobacillus and streptococcus. These bacteria convert the lactose in the milk into lactic acid. That is why, yogurt has a thick pudding like appearance.
Making your own yogurt at home is also very easy. In fact in many Indian households, Yogurt is invariably set at home and consumed daily. All you need to do is heat the milk to little more than luke warm, I always use my finger to test the temperature. If you happen to have a Infrared Thermometer, you can use it to check the temperature of yogurt. It should be around 45°C. Add a tablespoon or if it is too sour just a teaspoon of yogurt, stir once and keep it covered in a warm undisturbed place, until it sets. Maybe 4-5 hours in very hot weather and 7-8 hours in cold weather.
If your climatic conditions are very cold, then you might want to place this in a oven (only after you have finished using it, of course) or maybe near the water boiler. This way the bacteria will get a suitable temperature to multiply. These days Yogurt Starter packs are also available in supermarkets in case you don't have existing yogurt at home. All you need to do with these is to follow the manufacturer's instructions, to make wonderful yogurt at home.
What are live cultures or good bacteria?
The live cultures i.e the good bacteria which is present in the yogurt is important for the gut. They contribute toward the 'gut flora'. What these friendly bacteria do is to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Hence they are required to avoid gastrointestinal disorders like Diarrhea, Constipation, Colon cancer, colitis and bowel inflammation.
What happens when these friendly bacteria are destroyed?
When the number of harmful bacteria supersedes the friendly bacteria in the gut, many problems related to the digestive tract can happen. For instance, the use of antibiotics can be a double edged sword. On one hand the antibiotics help you get rid of the infection but on the other hand they also disturb the gut flora, destroying some friendly bacteria.
Eating plenty of yogurt can help restore your good bacteria levels.
What if you can't take dairy products because of the lactose intolerance?
Another benefit of yogurt is that it can be taken by anyone who is lactose intolerant. It is a good dairy alternative. It will get digested easily as most of the lactose in the milk is converted into lactic acid.
Yogurt and yeast
Besides taking care of the gut and intestines, yogurt might be found useful in treating yeast infections, especially the most common vaginal infections due to the growth of Candida.
Yogurt is a good source of calcium and protein
Since, yogurt is a dairy product, it is needless to say that it is high in proteins and calcium. Not only does it energizes you but is also good for healthy skin, hands, nails, eyes, teeth and bones. Did your doctor ever suggest the use of yogurt to treat osteoporosis?
How to enjoy the benefits of yogurt to the maximum? Well, by eating it? But are you running out of ideas to consume yogurt?
Do you love to pick up a strawberry or apple or banana flavored yogurt from your supermarket? You do, don't you? And who doesn't. So what is stopping you from making nice yogurt desserts at home? I mean they will be far more healthier and you can prepare a large quantity more economically, so that your whole family can enjoy it. Flavor the yogurt with chopped up fruits of your choice. Be it strawberries, bananas, peaches, apricots or mangoes. You can top it up with a little honey, sugar or even date syrup and tada...a wonderful healthy dessert is ready. I am sure you won't think twice to eat yogurt this way.
Frozen yogurt is also a nice treat for the summers. All you need to do is, mix up the yogurt, fruit of your choice and sugar or honey, in a mixer. Pour this in kulfi molds or popsicle molds and freeze it. Enjoy the delicious flavors of frozen yogurt.
Another very easy and popular way to consume yogurt is to make
A raita is nothing but a yogurt based sauce or dip if you like.
If you are a salad and sandwich person, then also yogurt can come very handy. You can use it to make an eggless mayonnaise or as I call it a
and use however much you want as a dressing or dip.
How about some cool yogurt smoothies or shakes. In northern India it is known as 'lassi'. The basic lassi is made by blending together yogurt, sugar and ice. Variations to this basic recipe can be many. For instance, use mango (or any other fruit) to make a flavored yogurt shake. If you want to avoid sugar then you make a salty lassi by adding salt, pepper and a little bit of dry mint leaves.
I enjoy a plain bowl of chilled low fat yogurt, especially during summers. You can add a little sugar or salt to it.
In Indian cooking yogurt is used to thicken the gravy. In fact it is much healthier to replace cream with yogurt. It gives a creamier texture to your dish and at the same time is lower in fat.
Uses of curd in curing some common health disorders
Here are some health benefits of yogurt.
To treat diarrhea - Mix a teaspoon of cumin powder in a cup of yogurt and have 3 times daily or mix a teaspoon of Isabgol (Psyllium seed husks) in 1 cup yogurt and eat.
Yogurt and rice, in southern India popularly known as curd rice is an excellent way to give your stomach a break. Eat this (without adding any chilies), to restore the strength of the stomach.
To treat dysentery - Take one teaspoon of caraway seeds (kalajeera) powder mixed in a cup of yogurt. Take two times a day. Alternately, add a teaspoon of cumin powder in a cup of yogurt. Dilute it by adding 4-5 spoons of water. Eat it 4 times a day.
Got excessive gas formation? Try this - Dry roast the caraway seeds and powder them. Mix a teaspoon of this powder in a cup of yogurt along with some black salt.
Benefits of yogurt in topical applications
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Apart from the nutritional benefits of yogurt, there are some topical benefits as well. Yogurt is an excellent cleansing, exfoliating, softening and binding agent. It is suitable for all skin types. In fact yogurt, mixed with different ingredients (from the kitchen), can form excellent facial masks for different skin types.
Here is a quick reference guide
* Yogurt with tomato puree, acts as a good astringent .
* Yogurt mixed with grated cucumber, tones, soothes and freshens up the skin.
* Yogurt mixed with pureed parsley, makes a good mask for combination skin.
* Yogurt and honey are good for dry skin.
Here are a few packs that you can easily make at home for natural cleansing
Yogurt and egg mask
Beat an egg white until stiff, add 4-5 tablespoons of yogurt and mix well. Apply this on the face and neck. Leave for fifteen minutes. To wash, use a soft cloth (like a muslin cloth), dipped in warm water and wipe. Then dip the cloth in cold water and wipe.
This mask is beneficial for normal skin types.
In case you have an excessive dry skin, you can add a teaspoon of honey to this mask. Just in case your skin type is too oily, then add a teaspoon of lime juice in the mask. So what do you do for combination skin types? Well, you need to prepare both masks in small quantities and apply one on the t-zone and the other on the rest of the face.
Here is another very good cleansing mask specifically for oily skins.
Take half cup of yogurt and a quarter cup of powdered oatmeal. Mix this, along with 2 teaspoons of lime juice. Put this in the refrigerator to chill. Now apply on your face and neck. Leave it on for 30 minutes. Now wash with luke warm water, to which some lime juice is already added.
Yogurt is also a natural exfoliating agent. Dry and powder some orange peels and mix with some yogurt. Apply on face and neck. Wash with cold water.
Don't forget the magical antibacterial properties of yogurt. It will help get rid of those nasty pimples, if applied regularly.
Here is another benefit of yogurt. These days a lot of anti dandruff shampoos are available in the market. I do not dispute their efficiency at all. In fact I use some of them myself. But in case you are particular of using only natural solution to your dandruff problem, then yogurt can be the answer.
Apply it on your head and leave it on for 15-20 minutes. Use a herbal fragrant shampoo to get rid of any residual smell (it won't be a pleasant one, I can assure you).
After this lengthy article about benefits of yogurt, how about enjoying a nice bowl of chilled yogurt? :-)