Yoghurt- the power snack

Yoghurt is available in many varieties now. And millions are being spent on its research to make it tastier



Riya Pal, 14, looks forward to the lunch break at school because of the fruity yoghurts her mum packs for her every day.

“It’s fuss free and she loves the taste and there is a variety of flavours, which is encouraging as she used to find plain curd boring,” says her mother Veera, 42, a south Delhi-based housewife.

From being a neglected in a corner of supermarket shelves a few years ago, nutrient-dense yoghurt have fast evolved to fit into people looking for a healthy power snack on the go.

Apart from flavours, yoghurt comes in many varieties, with millions going into research to make it tastier and healthier.

“We use a combination of ferments to improve on taste and texture. In our collection there should be 4,500 different strains,” says Vanessa Coupez, public health nutrition manager, Danone Nutricia Research, Europe-based global company, which specializes in dairy and nutrition.

New research

Most new research emphasised on maintaining healthy intestinal flora to improve overall health because it increases nutrient absorption to boost immunity and health.

Yoghurt is a natural source of protein, calcium and potassium, with a single serving of yoghurt giving you significant amounts of essential vitamins and minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, vitamins B12 and B5, riboflavin, zinc and iodine.


Eating yogurt at home. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

“Yoghurt is not a solution to all your dietary needs but is a driver to propose healthier habits to be as close as possible to the need to meet essential nutrients,” says Coupez.

For people who have difficulties in digesting fresh milk products because they are lactose mal digesters, yoghurt is the best option. “Yoghurt is the safest bet among all milk products. It is rich in lactobacillus, the probiotic bacteria that work wonders for the gut, it aids digestion and lowers symptoms of diarrhoea and constipation,” says nutritionist Richa Anand, a consultant at Mumbai’s Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital. “I recommend it for kids on a regular basis.”

Anand recommends having yoghurt with every meal, particularly for pregnant women, people who exercise heavily and those recovering from diseases.

Danone’s lab in Palaiseau, France, has an intestinal-digestion simulator to test the survival of bacteria inside the digestive system.

“To check the viability of the bacteria in different stages of digestion, the simulator mimics effects of saliva in the mouth and stomach and intestinal acids, to study influencing factors for the survival of bacteria in the digestive system,” says Jean-Michel Faurie, expert probiotics, starters and fermentation, Danone.

“It takes 1.5 to 5 years from tweaking a technology to make changes to a product or create a completely new technology and product altogether,” he says.

Weightloss impact

Yoghurt is also favoured by people looking to lose weight because it’s low-fat and if unsweetened, low-calorie. “There is usually no downside to making yoghurt a staple part of your diet, but people who are obese, diabetic or have high cholesterol must go for have yoghurt made from skimmed milk,” says Anand.

Indrayani Pawar, a dietician at Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Mumbai, says that there are several myths about eating yoghurt that need to be busted. A common one is that it acts as in irritant for people with respiratory and lung problems.

“People believe the sourness in yoghurt induces cough and should be avoided by people with respiratory problems, but they are wrong. They should just have it at room temperature,” says Pawar.

Yoghurt being a great source of Class-I proteins that is found from animals, and is great for pre-workout and post-workout consumption as it is easy to digest.

“Pre-workout, have a small bowl of yoghurt with muesli and post workout, it can be incorporated into a smoothie with nuts, which gives you a great combination of proteins and complex carbohydrates,” says Pawar.

There is a word of caution for people with compromised immunity. “These are live bacteria that grow inside the gut, but if you are immune-compromised, then your body may not be able to even deal with good bacteria,” says Dr Sudeep Khanna, senior consultant, gastroenterology department, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi.

Some, like Bandra-resident Sunaina Bhagwat, 46, still prefers to set yoghurt at home. “I feel it’s way healthier than packaged products and I add it to regular dishes like a chicken curry or coconut chutney because it is healthy, tasty and gives the right consistency,” she says.

“My son loves it and I make it a point to ensure he has it daily, even when he has a cough and cold, because it does improve immunity.”

Gut glimpse

*70-80% of the body’s immune cells are concentrated in the gut

*About 100 million neurons are located along the gut, which produce various neurotransmitters that regulate mood and satiety

*95% of the body’s total serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects the mood, is located in the gut

*About 100 trillion bacteria reside in the gut

Ferments and fermentation

Fermentation: A metabolic process by which complex carbohydrates or sugars are broken down into acids, gases or alcohol

Examples

*Lactic fermentation leading to yoghurt

*Alcoholic fermentation leading to wine, beer etc

*Ascetic fermentation leading to vinegar
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