In a word chain game, if somebody tells you yogurt, the word that immediately comes up to your mind may be natural or milk. Nevertheless, even if it may seem a paradox to you, milk and nature are almost never taken into account in the majority of yogurts we eat.

Another word that would occur in quite a lot of cases would be health. The powerful “healthy” image built by advertising around this interesting food mixes up several aspects.

To separate the wheat from the chaff seems important; it is equally important to know the importance of the wheat and the chaff, as well as the soy or the grass eaten by cows.

In the Mediterranean:

  • Yogurt is deeply rooted in the Mediterranean world. In fact it comes from Turkey and Lebanon besides Bulgaria and Romania. The word yogurt comes from the Turkish language. Those who promote the generalized consumption of yogurt in the western world assure that there exists a relationship between the high life expectancies of some Balkan zones and the fact that fermented milk was part of the common diet. In Turkey it is the most consumed lactic.
  • In several Mediterranean countries local varieties of yogurt are made, such asjameed in Jordan or zabady in Egypt. Many of them are “pressed”: the whey is taken out and thus, the yogurt is thicker. In those yogurts no live bacteria are left. Some examples are strangisto in Greece, labne in the Arab countries (mainly in the Near East) or shanklich in Lebanon.
  • Other fermented milks made with other bacteria also have a Mediterranean taste: kiselo mleko and pavlaka in Serbia, mileram in Croatia, jameed in Jordan (they are typically made by Bedouins in the desert with ewe or goat milk), leben in Morocco orraibb in Tunisia.
  • The yogurt is quite present in the Mediterranean gastronomy, as well as in other ones, such as the Indian one. These are quite famous, the Greek tzatziki or ayran, a drink made of yogurt and salt which is popular in Macedonia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and countries in central Asia. Less known are the cold soups such as taratorand cacik which are made in Macedonia and Turkey.
  • The founder of the brand Danone was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, and he founded his company in Barcelona, Spain, in 1919.

Milk turnes into yogurt through the action of two bacteria, (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus), which provoke a fermentation that turns up lactose into lactic acid, more easily digestible by adults than lactose. Yogurt contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, trace elements… Advertising often shows us how necessary it is for the health of the intestinal flora, but in fact, our flora can remain perfectly healthy without taking yogurt. It is true that yogurt (like probiotic food) help it to regenerate after it has been out of balance due for example to some diarrhoeas, such as the ones that can be produced by some antibiotics. The healthier for digestion and for all the body is to be properly fed.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us have a varied diet that includes fibre and balanced all basic nutrients (vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, sugars) and few industrially processed foods.
  • Referring to the intake of calcium, if we adults do not feel in taking milk or if we have got intolerance to it, we can choose fermented lactic (yogurt, cheese, kefir…)
  • Other sources of calcium, nuts and dried fruit, legumes, parsley, spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli, leeks, sardines…

The quantity and quality of the yogurt nutrients depends essentially of the quality of the milk. We choose yogurts made with quality milk.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us have a look at the following tab.

For the yogurt to keep its beneficial properties, the bacteria that it contains have to be alive in the moment of eating them, which does not happen if the yogurt is pasteurized. Furthermore, in the production of yogurt is sought to attract the consumer by offering a variety of tastes and textures (mousse, creamy custards, yogurt shake…), colours, the container (such as the cup) or ingredients to “enrich” it. Let us learn to distinguish the nutritive quality of the yogurt.

How can we go about it:

  • In some countries like Spain, law establishes that the yogurts in which it cannot be guaranteed that the bacteria remain alive should be labeled yogurt pasteurized after fermentation.
  • It is difficult for the extra ingredients that “enrich” the yogurt (and other food) as supplementary calcium, vitamins or Omega-3, to provide us with anything adequate to a good nutrition, keeping in mind that they have been taken out of their original food and handled industrially.
  • The natural yogurt never has additive but may have chemical sweeteners, solid lactic and added milk proteins.
  • As a general rule, the fruit yogurts contain a small quantity of fruit, as jam or puree and preservatives.
  • The flavoured yogurts don’t contain any fruit, only flavours.
  • The use of additives and extra ingredients is more restraint in ecological yogurts.

The quality of the milk is determined by the lifestyle of cows. In the yogurts of industrial production, milk is obtained mostly from intensive farming, and is dealt (is standardised) in a way that makes it lose the nutritional quality that it might have. In the ecological and artisan production it is used milk coming from extensive or ecological farming, where cows graze and eat less feed which makes that their milk have a proportion of saturate vs. unsaturated fat that is healthier for our diet (more information here). Furthermore, these farms help to maintaining rural environment healthy and lively (a study about the case of Spain is here). They are a minority in European countries, but not all over the Mediterranean area. Let us promote them, looking for yogurts made with milk of organic or ecological farming.

How can we go about it:

  • The ecological yogurts are made with milk of cows bred in ecological farms. We can find them in shops and cooperatives of ecological products.
  • Some enterprises producing yogurt explain us where their milk comes from.

The individual yogurt containers entail a high consumption of packaging. The plastic containers are recyclable, but few are being recycled, thus promoting the culture of throwaway. Let us look for less extravagant options.

How can we go about it:

  • We prefer glass and big containers, if possible returnable.

Good yogurts have to keep bacteria alive.

How can we go about it:
  • We keep them at the fridge, or at a cool place of the house.
  • If the container is big, we put the top on and we keep it immediately after we have taken some yogurt.
  • The fewer days elapsed after having been elaborated, the bigger will be the quantity of live bacteria…

Savour it the way we like it more.

How can we go about it:
  • If we like the combination of yogurt and fruit, the most nutritive way is to mix it up withcut up fresh fruit.
  • If we like it sweet, we put in raw unrefined sugar or a good honey.
  • We can also mix therein dried fruit, wheat germ…
  • It can also be an ingredient for salads, cakes, soups, drinks as ayran, summer dishes as tzatziki…

To be sure of the milk contained by the yogurt, so that it has not preservatives nor additives, to avoid the energy transport in cold and packs, to enjoy it at the kitchen, to save money, to eat it just after making it… the best is to make the yogurt ourselves.

How can we go about it:
  • It is a very simple process that we can share with the kids, and that does not even require a yogurt maker. Some recipes, here and here.