Yoghurt: it’s a matter of culture

by Ed Halmagyi


I have something of a testy relationship with milk. Though I love what it can do in cookery, I love what it does to me significantly less.


I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) actually allergic to milk. More specifically I don’t think I’m allergic to the lactose found in milk, instead I simply find it hard to digest. A glass of cool fresh milk might taste delicious, but its effects can be rancorous.


I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised – two legs good, four legs bad. The idea of suckling on the underside of a bovine is as strange to consider as it would be to experience. So we humans have made the concept less confronting by packaging the cow’s udder in a plastic bottle. Neat, eh?


But if milk is malicious, why then am I able to eat cheese and yoghurt to my heart’s content without the digestive rumblings. The answer is in the art of fermentation. Vignerons convert fruit sugars into alcohol, distillers and brewers do the same with grains. Then there’s the cheese-makers, and blessed be the cheese-makers. They convert the lactose found in raw milk into lactic acid, giving their prized product its distinctive tang.


The yoghurt makers work in a similar way, but use only specific microbial strains that have predictable results. The most famous of these bacteria is the lactobacillus bulgaricus which, if processed correctly, can remain alive even in the completed yoghurt, making it even more healthful to eat.


Speaking of healthy, there a note of caution to be considered when eating yoghurt. It is a great way to get calcium and protein in your diet, especially for kids, but sometimes everything is not as it seems when it comes to labelling.


It seems that the trend for low-fat yoghurt has spawned a slightly tricky side to the industry. Yoghurt made with full cream milk contained 4% fat will, as a matter of simple mathematics, be 96% fat-free. Similarly, yoghurt made with 2% fat milk cannot help but be 98% fat-free. The amount of fat involved is already so small it’s not worth worrying about. The bugger issue is to do with the amount of sugar added as a sweetener especially for fruit and flavoured yoghurts. Some yoghurts will contains more calories than a chocolate bar.


So for health’s sake, check the nutritional panel and choose a yoghurt with less than 15g of total sugars per 100g. Most of these will be natural milk and fruit sugars, making is a healthier choice.


Yoghurt that’s really good for you? Not that’s a bit easier to swallow.

For a great breakfast yoghurt recipe, click here.