Health benefits of yoghurt or curd!

Yoghurt in some form or other has been made since time immemorial. It's believed that the ancient Bedouin, carrying fresh milk across the desert in goatskin bags, found that the combination of heat, movement and obviously, some bacterial contamination with the right sort of bugs, resulted in a delicious food which kept much better than fresh milk.

As well as being an excellent source of calcium - one 150g carton of yoghurt provides 210mg, which is 25 percent of the daily requirement - live, or 'bio' yoghurts contain beneficial or probiotic bacteria that play a vital role in the body's defence mechanism. They produce enzymes which are absorbed directly through the gut wall and which boost immunity.

Scientific interest in probiotics was first stimulated by the Russian scientist Metchnikoff who published a book in 1908 entitled The prolongation of life. It describes his studies of Bulgarian peasants who consumed vast quantities of yoghurt made with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and who lived longer than most other Europeans. As a result of Metchnikoff's work, the rest of Europe soon acquired a taste for eating these fermented milk products.

Probiotic bacteria are also essential for good digestion. They synthesize some of the B vitamins - biotin, folic acid and B12 - increase the body's uptake of calcium and magnesium, and regulate bowel function. They're also vital to control the growth of harmful bacteria in the bowel. It's important to have a portion of live yoghurt every day whenever you have to take antibiotics since antibiotics can't tell the difference between good and bad bacteria, but just kill them all. Live yoghurt replaces the good bacteria, helps to prevent diarrhoea and helps the continuation of the synthesis of vitamin B, which avoids the depression that commonly occurs in people who are taking antibiotics.

Most commercial yoghurts, especially those with a long shelf-life, are pasteurised and so contain virtually no live probiotics. Instead they boast a host of chemicals, stabilizers, emulsifiers, artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and large amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. For your health's sake choose live or 'bio' natural yoghurts and, if liked, add your own unsweetened pureed fruit.

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