Dairy Products

A bowl of yogurt

Yogurt

Regarded as the world’s first ‘health food’, yogurt has been consumed by humans for centuries. Ancient cultures originally used it as a way to preserve the goodness of milk. Today it is enjoyed as the perfect snack straight from the tub or used in dips, sauces, marinades and desserts.

Yogurt, a type of fermented dairy food, is made by the addition of live bacterial cultures to milk, known as probiotics or ‘friendly ‘ bacteria. These live cultures help break down some of the lactose in yogurt, making it easier to digest for people with lactose intolerance.  Yogurt is naturally high in calcium and contains over ten other essential nutrients including protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and Riboflavin.

The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines state that consumption of yogurt (as well as milk and cheese) can protect us against heart disease and stroke, and can reduce our risk of high blood pressure and some cancers, may reduce our risk of Type 2 diabetes and may contribute to stronger bones.

Types of yogurt

There are several styles of yogurt. Some may be presented as natural or with added fruit or flavouring. For added health benefits, live probiotic bacteria can be added to any type of yogurt.

Natural yogurt

If you want to enjoy the pure taste of yogurt, natural yogurt has no added flavours or sweeteners. Natural yogurt has a clean, slightly acidic, tart flavour that combines well with a variety of foods.

Flavoured yogurt

Yogurts are now available in a huge range of imaginative flavours. Fruit, vanilla and honey are all popular. Most have added sugar or artificial sweeteners to enhance the flavours.

Greek and Greek-style yogurt

Greek and Greek-style yogurts are gaining popularity around the world and particularly in Australia. Their deliciously thick and creamy texture sets them apart from regular natural yogurt. There are two ways of obtaining this characteristic texture. Traditional Greek yogurt is made through a straining process, where natural yogurt is strained of its whey, leaving a thick and luscious product, somewhere between the texture of yogurt and labne (yogurt cheese). Greek-style yogurt is not strained, but thickened through the addition of milk solids (like cream) and stabilisers, which produce a rich, creamy and silky texture.

If you’re into sport and exercise, you’ll be happy to know that traditional strained Greek yogurt is naturally higher in protein than other yogurts, making it a great post-exercise snack.

Set yogurts

Set yogurts are fermented in tubs. They are fairly thick and characteristically have a flat surface with any fruit or flavourings at the base. Stirred yogurt however, is fermented in bulk with the fruit or flavouring stirred in and then placed in individual containers.

Stirred yogurt

Stirred yogurt is made when fermentation is carried out in bulk and not in individual containers. Once the fermentation reaches the desired level, the yogurt is pumped through a cooler to stop fermentation. Only then is any added fruit or flavouring stirred in.

Drinking yogurt

Drinking yogurt is produced in a similar way to stirred yogurt. The body is then diluted and mixed with a blend of flavours, fruit or berry juices to provide a delicious, nutritious drink.

Frozen yogurt

Frozen yogurt results is made when a blend of sugars, stabilisers, emulsifiers and flavours are added to natural stirred yogurt. It isIt’s ideal as a frozen dessert as it maintains a smooth texture upon freezing.

Labna

Labna is yogurt that has been drained of whey to form a fresh yogurt ‘cheese’. Add a pinch of salt to natural set yogurt before placing it in a double thickness of muslin cloth and suspending over a bowl or placing in a strainer over a bowl to catch the excess whey. Drain for a minimum of 36 hours. Use wet or lightly oiled hands to roll Labna into balls. Once drained, flavourings can be added to the yogurt before or after being rolled into balls.

How is yogurt made?

Yogurt, a type of fermented dairy food, is made by the addition of live bacterial cultures to milk. There are five steps in the yogurt making process:

  1. Skim milk powder is added to milk. This increases the protein content and helps produce the smooth texture and characteristics of yogurt.
  2. The milk is then homogenised and pasteurised.
  3. Bacterial starter cultures are added. These convert the milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid which aids the setting of the yogurt.
  4. The yogurt is stored in controlled temperatures (42ºC to 43ºC) for an incubation period of between four and six hours.
  5. Sometimes, fruit or flavourings are added to enhance the taste and provide a wider range of products for consumers.

In addition to the bacterial starter cultures, other bacterial cultures, known as probiotics, may be added to yogurt for their health benefits.

Nutrition Information

Highly nutritious and easily digested, yogurt is a rich source of over 10 essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and riboflavin.

The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines state that ‘consumption of yogurt (as well as milk and cheese) can protect us against heart disease and stroke, and can reduce our risk of high blood pressure and some cancers, may reduce our risk of Type 2 diabetes and may contribute to stronger bones.

Yogurt is also generally well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance, as the probiotics added to yogurt helps digest the lactose in milk.

Probiotics are special ‘friendly’ bacteria that can promote intestinal health by restoring the balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the human gut.  Yogurts that contain probiotic cultures have a number of other potential health benefits. While more research is still required, current evidence suggests that specific probiotic strains can play a role in:

  • reducing the risk of certain cancers
  • enhancing immunity
  • treating irritable bowel syndrome
  • preventing food allergy symptoms
  • protecting against vaginal and urinary tract infections
  • treating gastric ulcers.

There are a range of probiotic strains added to yogurt, the most commonly used are from the Lactobacillus (e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus GG) and Bifidobacterium species. The type of probiotic strain added will be listed on the food label.

For more information on dairy foods and health visit our Health pages.

Nutrient content

Type per 100g
Protein 
(g) 
Fat 
(g) 
Carbohydrate 
(g) 
Energy 
(kJ) 
Calcium
(mg) 
Natural 
Regular 6.0  4.4  5.0  367  193 
Low-Fat  6.8  0.3  6.2  249  244 
Flavoured 
Vanilla Regular  5.1  3.0  10.2  404  177 
Vanilla Low-Fat  6.1  0.5  14.5  382  174 
Fruit - Strawberry 
Strawberry Regular  4.8  3.2  12.1  417  164 
Strawberry Low-Fat 5.4  0.3  13.5  341  168 
Frozen Yogurt 
Regular  6.3  6.0  33.9  871  214 

Source: NUTTAB 2010 – Australian Food Composition Tables: Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Canberra

For more information on the health and nutrition benefits of dairy visit our Health pages.

Using Yogurt

Yogurt is the perfect high protein snack straight from the tub, but it can be so much more! A cooling accompaniment to curries and chilli dishes or an integral ingredient in Middle Eastern recipes, yogurt is extremely versatile and makes a delicious addition to so many meals!

Natural Yogurt

Natural yogurt has a clean, slightly acidic, tart flavour that combines well with a variety of foods. Like cream, yogurt can curdle if overheated. Simply stir it in just before serving or mix in a little cornflour before adding it to a hot dish.

  • Add as an accompaniment or ingredient to spicy foods such as curries and chilli dishes.
  • Combine with spices such as cumin, coriander or chilli and use as a tenderising marinade for chicken, lamb or fish.
  • Toss into dips, cold sauces and salad dressings.
  • Try as a low-kilojoule alternative to cream, sour cream or mayonnaise.
  • Include on nachos, baked potatoes and wedges.
  • Serve with chargrilled meats, kebabs or souvlaki.
  • Combine with tahini and cumin for a Middle Eastern-style dip or sauce.
  • Combine with chopped fresh coriander and sweet chilli sauce for dipping potato wedges.
  • Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and add seasonal or dried fruit cooked in a sticky syrup. 
  • Drizzle with honey and eat as is with fresh or liqueur-soaked fruit.

Flavoured yogurt

  • Add fruit or flavoured yogurts to cereals, fruit smoothies, milkshakes or mocktails.
  • Use instead of milk for pancakes, scones, muffins and cakes to give extra tang.
  • Blend with berries, banana, mango and milk to create smoothies.
  • Pour or dollop over muesli or fruit or add to Bircher muesli.

Labna

Labna is yogurt that has been drained of whey to form a fresh yogurt ‘cheese’. Add a pinch of salt to natural set yogurt before placing it in a double thickness of muslin cloth and suspending over a bowl or placing in a strainer over a bowl to catch the excess whey. Drain for a minimum of 36 hours. Use wet or lightly oiled hands to roll Labna into balls. Once drained, flavourings can be added to the yogurt before or after being rolled into balls.

Why not try savoury Labna?

  • Add crushed garlic and chopped fresh herbs before rolling.
  • Roll in dukkah and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with black sesame seeds and chopped fresh coriander.
  • Store in a jar with fresh herbs and garlic and cover with olive oil.

Or sweet Labna?

  • Flavour with sweet ingredients like vanilla, crushed hazelnuts and cinnamon sugar to create an unusual dessert.
  • Great served with compote of fruit or poached quinces.
For more recipe ideas featuring yogurt, visit The Dairy Kitchen.

Storing Yogurt

Yogurt can be stored chilled at around 4°C for 7-10 days before the build-up of acidity affects its flavour, making it sour to taste. Keep it well covered to avoid tainting from other food products and always use a clean spoon to remove yogurt from the tub.

Freezing yogurt is not recommended unless it’s a manufactured frozen yogurt product. The ice crystals that form when freezing tend to break the curd and alter the texture of the product.

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