Yogurt: properties, benefits and how to choose it

Yogurt: properties, benefits and how to choose it

Yogurt is a food loved by everyone, young and old. Sweet or sour, with fruit or creamy, enriched with oats or biscuits, it is a product that should never be missing in the refrigerator and is ideal for breakfast and snacks.

Yogurt is due to the fermentation of milk made by bacteria belonging to the genus Lactobacillus or Streptococcus.

It is a perfect food for the diet, with a rather low caloric intake but which contains proteins of high biological value, vitamins such as those of group B and mineral salts, such as calcium and phosphorus.

Since it comes from milk, yogurt contains lactose, however, in lower quantities than the starting product. This means that yogurt can also be consumed by those with a sensitivity to this milk sugar. Nonetheless, lactose-free yoghurt is also commercially available, perfect for those suffering from intolerance.

Yogurt is also easy to make at home.

But what is eating yogurt good for? Here are the properties and benefits of this healthy and genuine food.

What is yogurt

Yogurt is a food with a velvety consistency and a slightly sour taste that comes from the fermentation of milk: this is done in particular by some bacteria belonging to the genus Lactobacillus or Streptococcus. It is a derivative of milk and contains lactose, even if to a much lesser extent than the food from which it derives: it is therefore considered a dairy product.

These microorganisms make it a “live” food. For this reason it must be stored at 4°C, to keep the lactic ferments present alive. In fact, the microorganisms reproduce inside the yoghurt, remaining alive until the time of consumption.

But what are the lactic ferments of yogurt for? These bacteria are actually responsible for various beneficial effects on the body, including keeping the intestinal bacterial flora in balance and preventing gastric and intestinal disorders such as a swollen belly.

Lactic fermentation

Fermentations are a chain of more or less complex chemical reactions which are activated by yeasts, bacteria or enzymes in the absence of oxygen. There are various types of fermentations: the one that affects yogurt is lactic fermentation.

Lactic fermentation produces lactic acid, thanks to some bacteria called lactobacilli: in the specific case of yogurt, Lactobacillus delbrueckii bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius thermophilus. These “good” bacteria, once added at a certain temperature, begin to “eat” the molecules of lactose, which is a sugar, transforming them into pyruvic acid. At the end of the process, lactic acid is obtained.

The proteins contained in the milk react with the lactic acid breaking up into pieces which then recombine in a different form: therefore we pass from the liquid consistency of the milk to the creamier one of the yoghurt. However, the fermentation of milk does not only allow you to produce yoghurt, but also other interesting products such as buttermilk, sour cream, kefir and much more.

Furthermore, fermentation is the basis of various food processes: bread, wine and some cheeses such as the Swiss Emmenthaler (which benefits from propionic fermentation, the one that leaves the “big holes” on the cheese) are also based on fermentation.

Fermentations, however, are not always “good”: some types of bacteria can give rise to negative processes, exactly as happens for fruit that goes bad.


There are several ways to classify yogurt. The main one is based on the percentage of fat and therefore the level of skimming of the milk. Then there is what considers the flavor and whether there is the addition of fruit or other products such as coffee or chocolate.

Recently, however, two other distinctions are also making room: the one based on the presence or absence of added sugars and on dietary characteristics, such as lactose-free yogurt, protein yogurt, added with calcium, vitamin D, probiotics, etc.

On the other hand, they should not be included in the group of yoghurts, although they contain a percentage of them, so-called creamy yoghurts, desserts with cereals or enriched with creams, etc.

Yogurt greco

Among the various types on the market, Greek yogurt is certainly among the best known. It contains a smaller amount of whey, lactose and sugars and therefore the amount of protein is higher. Furthermore, thanks to these nutritional characteristics, this yogurt is more filling than the common ones.

But what is the difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt? The fundamental difference lies in the filtering, the production phase which serves to separate the liquid part from the solid one. Unlike traditional yoghurt, which undergoes two stages of filtering, the Greek one undergoes 3.

If you want to discover all the differences, read our in-depth study on Greek yogurt.

Natural white and probiotic

Fermented milk corresponds to plain natural yoghurt, without any additions. This can be whole, partially skimmed or skimmed, depending on whether it comes from whole, partially skimmed or totally skimmed milk. If probiotics are added to the natural one, then we speak of plain or probiotic yogurt.

Contrary to what one tends to believe, in fact, normal yogurt is not a probiotic: the two bacteria usually used are inactivated in the stomach and duodenum, because they die as soon as they come into contact with human gastric juices, and do not have the ability to colonize the intestine.

Today, however, not only Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are used anymore, but probiotic bacteria are often added. These are a specific category of lactic ferments with beneficial properties for the intestine and the immune system.

Unlike Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, probiotics are able to better tolerate the acidity of gastric juices, reproducing in the gastrointestinal tract. They are bacteria generally already present in the human body and therefore manage to bring the bacterial flora back to a normal condition.

The main probiotic ferments added in the fermentation process are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus lactis, Bifidobacterium bifidum. The fermented milk obtained exclusively from their action gives rise to Kefir.

Learn all about probiotics and their benefits.

At the fruit

On the market there are “sweet” yoghurts, to which sugar and fruit are added, and sometimes also other ingredients such as biscuits, cereals or chocolate. The reason is that natural yogurt is acidic on the palate and therefore not pleasant for everyone. If you opt for this type, it is good to pay attention to the quantity and type of added sugars.

Yogurt macro

Compared to the whole one, which normally contains less sugar, even if more fat (at least 3%) and calories, in lean versions the fat content must be equal to or less than 1%. The downside is that these types may also contain artificial sweeteners, sucrose and fructose. All these substances are certainly not allies of the diet and reduce the quality of the food from a nutritional point of view.

Naturally, yogurt can also be made with other types of milk, such as goat’s milk: in this case, the product will “inherit” the nutritional characteristics of the milk with which it is made.

Properties and nutritional values ​​of yogurt

Yogurt is a milk product, therefore it retains all its nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and mineral salts. Proteins have a high biological value and a high satiating power. Vitamins and minerals, on the other hand, are excellent allies for our well-being.

Vitamin B12, for example, is found mainly in dairy products and meat, and contributes both to the normal formation of red blood cells and to maintaining the functioning of the nervous system. Calcium is also a precious mineral for the health of bones and teeth and is particularly bioavailable in dairy products. In fact, the calcium contained in a pot of yogurt covers 20% of the requirement for an adult.

Finally, it is also defined as a “high nutritional density” food, as it has many nutrients and few calories, about 66 Kcal per 100 g of whole yogurt. Obviously, the one obtained from skimmed milk is less caloric and has less fat.

It is therefore a food that can easily be part of a balanced diet, without interfering too much with the daily energy requirement.

Whole milk yogurt: nutritional values ​​per 100 g

Sodium (mg)48
Phosphorus (mg)105
Ferro (mg)0.1
Potassium (mg)170
Zinco (mg)0.41
Calcium (mg)125
Magnesio (mg)12
Selenium (µg)2
Iodine (µg)63
Tiamina (mg)0.04
Riboflavin (mg)0.19
Niacin (mg)0.11
Vitamin C (mg)1
Vitamin B6 (mg)0.10
Vitamin B12 (µg)0.2
Folate (µg)18
Vitamin E (mg)0.08
Vitamin A (µg)34
Vitamin D (µg)0.04

Source: Food Composition Database for Epidemiological Studies in America and CREA Research Center for Food and Nutrition

Chemical composition per 100 g

Water (g)87
Energy (kcal)66
Protein (g)3.8
Lipids (g)3.9
Cholesterol (mg)11
Available carbohydrates (g)4.3

Source: Food Composition Database for Epidemiological Studies in America and CREA Research Center for Food and Nutrition

Benefits of yogurt

Yogurt is a real panacea for the body, thanks above all to the lactic ferments it contains.

It is a food that satisfies nutritional needs, suitable for everyone, young and old and ideal for a healthy and balanced diet. It retains all the nutritional properties of milk, but with the advantage of being more digestible, thanks to the lower lactose content. Furthermore, beta-galactosidase, an enzyme produced by ferments…