Yogurt is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as yogurt cultures. Fermentation of sugars in the milk by these bacteria produces lactic acid, which acts on milk protein to give yogurt its texture and characteristic tart flavor. Cow’s milk is the milk most commonly used to make yogurt. Milk from water buffalo, goats, ewes, mares, camels, and yaks are also used to produce yogurt. The milk used may be homogenized or not. It may be pasteurized or raw. Each type of milk produces substantially different results.
Yogurt offers several important nutrients including protein and calcium. However, much of the research on yogurt’s health benefits centers on its live bacterial content, which is also present in other fermented foods like kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. It has been proposed that a lower number of some bacterial strains in the body may influence risk of certain disease conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. A plant-based diet is associated with supporting a diverse and probably healthier gut microbiota more than a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in meat, and yogurt consumption may also help to increase microbiota diversity in the gut.
- France: France leads in yogurt consumption globally, with a long history traced back to Francis I. The presence of major yogurt company Danone underlines its dominant position.
- Ireland: Securing the second spot on the list, Ireland enjoys a wide variety of yogurts, including the creamier, churn-made type.
- Canada: Canada, home to a Danone branch, offers a vast range of yogurts catering to a steady demand.
- United Kingdom: In the UK, sweetened or flavored yogurts are favored, despite growing concerns over high sugar content in some products.
- Australia: Australia harbors a diverse yogurt market, including frozen and Greek yogurt, supported by several popular local producers.
- Brazil: Brazil’s emerging yogurt market leans towards strained “Greek yogurt,” available in various flavors and presentations.
- United States: The US largely prefers yogurt as a sweet, flavored dessert, with frozen yogurt being notably popular.
- Russia: Traditional yogurt, including a special variant called Matsoni found in the Caucasian region, holds a firm place in Russian cuisine, reputed for promoting longevity.
- China: Despite initial lactose intolerance hurdles, China’s yogurt market is booming thanks to new easily digestible products.
- India: India, where cows are revered, offers a rich yogurt culture, prominently featuring a variety known as “dahi,” available in both savory and sweet preparations.
- Low fat or non-fat: Low-fat yogurt is made with 2-percent milk, while non-fat yogurt utilizes skim milk.
- Kefir: Kefir is a type of liquid yogurt that contains probiotics and can be homemade by fermenting milk with kefir grains for 12 to 24 hours.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt, characterized by its thick and creamy texture, is created by straining regular yogurt to remove liquid whey, resulting in higher protein but lower calcium content. It is versatile in cooking, including in hot dishes and dips, and comes in full fat, low fat, and non-fat varieties.
- Skyr: Skyr is an Icelandic yogurt that is creamy and protein-rich, requiring four times the milk used in regular yogurt production and offering two to three times more protein.
- Frozen yogurt: Despite being perceived as a healthier alternative to ice cream, many frozen yogurts have sugar content equal to or exceeding that of ice cream. Moreover, not all contain live and active cultures, with some using heat-treated yogurts.
- Non-dairy yogurt: Non-dairy yogurt alternatives encompass products made from soy and coconut milk.