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Yogurt: Wholesome Food for Every Body

What is Yogurt?

Yogurt is made by adding two types of cultures - Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus - to warm milk. The bacteria convert the milk's sugar to lactic acid, which gives yogurt its unique flavor. Due to the presence of the acid, the proteins change their structure, forming a delicate gel. Other type of cultures, such as L. acidophilus and Bifidus cultures, can be found in some yogurts.

According to the standard of identity finalized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1985, there are three essential criteria which define yogurt: a) the main ingredient (mammal's milk), b) the fermenting agents (by type, whether they are living and active, and the amount used) of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and c) the manufacturing process (milk fermentation).

Yogurt's image and popularity as a healthful food stems primarily from the presence of live and active cultures, specifically of S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus, in the yogurt. Numerous studies indicate that to get the potential healthful properties of these bacteria they must be live in the product at the time of consumption.

The health attributes associated with live and active culture yogurt are known worldwide. In fact, a study of manufacturers' regulations in 21 countries that produce yogurt indicates that 15, or almost three-quarters of them, require the cultures to be live and active at the time of packaging and distribution. In heat-treated yogurt, these cultures are killed during post-fermentation heating.

Variety Abounds

Yogurt is one of the most popular products in the dairy case today. According to supermarket industry sales indicators, it is the fastest growing dairy category.

The manufacturers of live and active culture yogurt have more than met this increasing demand. Consequently, consumers today have nearly 50 different flavors and a number of different textures or "styles" of live and active culture yogurt in the dairy case from which to choose. Live and active culture yogurts are clearly labeled as such with the official National Yogurt Association's Live & Active Cultures seal. The yogurt label also reflects the fat content as well as caloric content. Wholesome yogurt comes in a variety and size for almost every preference, including fruit-blended, fruit on the bottom, and those with toppings and add-ins. There are also light versions sweetened with aspartame for those preferring a lower-calorie yogurt. Some of the most interesting additions to the yogurt category are those that include cereal and novelty toppings, which are especially popular with children.