In the Caucasus, kefir, fermented by a combination of bacteria and yeasts, is preferred. Inkefir, the presence of yeasts results in a small amount of alcohol. Kumiss, also fermented by a combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, has a higher alcohol content than kefir.Because there are no yeasts involved in the production of yogurt, it contains no alcohol.
Considered a gift from God, kefir, along with yogurt, spread from the Caucasus to Russia and Scandinavia. Scientific research on the milk fermentation process began in the 19th century. French scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-90) identified the role of bacteria in the fermentation of milk. When German doctor R. Koch suggested that several diseases were caused by bacteria, people began to fear microbes. Pasteur found that heating beer and wine to 60C (140 F) killed pathogenic bacteria. This discovery led to the “pasteurization” technique of preserving food.
Along with this finding, it was discovered that in addition to the harmful bacteria which were killed by pasteurization, there were also beneficial bacteria that were left unharmed. These began to be raised as yogurt culture. The Russian scientist Metchnikof (1845-1916, Director of the Pasteur Institute in Paris conducted research in the Caucasus. Based on his findings, he announced that the bacteria present in yogurt were beneficial to the digestive system, and was awarded the Nobel Prize. This information laid the foundations for the establishment of laboratories in France, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries as well as the rest of Europe and America which produced yogurt culture, the development of the yogurt making industry and the spread of yogurt’s consumption. The development of refrigeration technology made it easier to store yogurt culture by freezing, as well as facilitating distribution.
Today, ready-made lactic acid bacteria culture is generally used in commercial yogurt production. The chief bacteria in this culture is Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
From Damazlık to Protobiotics
Recent years have seen even more intense research on yogurt, especially on certain microorganisms more important in yogurt making than Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Recent studies have shown that yogurt made from several instead of a single bacteria is more beneficial. Traditional homemade yogurt contains more than one bacteria, including Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus johnsonii and Streptococcus lactis. Today yogurt has begun to be produced by major international companies, which produce yogurt according to varying tastes. As a result, yogurt consumption is growing and becoming more widespread by the day. In this way, yogurt, invented by the Turks, has become a globalizing foodstuff.
Yogurt’s Importance in Terms of Nutrition and Health
Yogurt is based on milk which, in addition to iron and vitamin C, contains all the elements needed by the human body. In Turkey, nutrition is largely grain-based. The proteins in grains are low in quality. Milk protein is one of the most effective and relatively inexpensive nutrients which improve the quality of grain proteins. Milk is also the best source of calcium, a basic nutrient important for bone development and good growth, as well as prevention of osteoporosis, which is caused by loss of calcium from bones and lowers the quality of life in the aged. Meat, which is commonly considered the best source of nutrition, contains very little calcium. The calcium contained in legumes, vegetables and fruits cannot completely met calcium requirements.
Milk is rich in B vitamins including riboflavin (vitamin B2) and A vitamins, which account for the most commonly observed nutritional deficiencies in Turkey. For this reason, milk and dairy products comprise one of the four main food groups.
In terms of nutrition, the superiority of yogurt over milk has to do with milk sugar, known as lactose. Some people, especially those of African and Arab descent, are unable to sufficiently digest lactose. When these people drink milk, they suffer stomach pains, gas and bloating. In Turkey, nearly one person in three is lactose intolerant. As lactic acid bacteria convert a portion of the lactose in milk into acid and aid digestion in the intestine, those who cannot tolerate milk can eat yogurt without problems.
Today, in addition to its nutritional value, yogurt is also considered to have other positive effects on health. Yogurt is effective in the treatment of diarrhea. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt prevent diarrhea-causing bacteria in the intestine from thriving and multiplying. Saltedayran consumed in the event of diarrhea both replaces lost water and salt as well as reduces the effects of harmful bacteria. A soup of soft-cooked rice and yogurt, yogurt-potato puree and yogurt-carrot puree are the best foods for those suffering from diarrhea.