Yogurt has been consumed by people for at least 5,000 years. It was likely discovered by accident when milk, placed in animal skin bags, fermented due to bacteria in the animal skin. For centuries, yogurt was a main food product in Central and Eastern Europe and Asia. There are writings dating back to 500 BC telling of the health benefits of yogurt. There is evidence that claims that the long life spans of some of these eastern people was directly related to the consumption of large quantities of yogurt. In the 1900's yogurt came to Western Europe and the United States. Several companies began marketing yogurt products at that time.
Yogurt is made by inoculating milk at a specified temperature with the proper strains of bacteria. These bacteria consume the lactose (sugar) in the milk and produce lactic acid. The lactic acid acts on the milk proteins, coagulating them into the curd that we know as yogurt. Since fully fermented yogurt has very little lactose left, it can be eaten by those who are prone to lactose intolerance. The live bacteria in the yogurt are good for your body and are known to be of benefit to those who are taking antibiotics in preventing intestinal complications. This is because the healthy bacteria in the yogurt prevent harmful bacteria from taking hold after the antibiotics kill off the body's normal healthy bacteria. Yogurt has been found to be very healthy for the colon and even reduce the risks of colon cancer. It has also been stated that consuming yogurt is beneficial in preventing several types of yeast infections. In addition, it contains good amounts of protein and calcium.
It is important to note that these benefits of yogurt have been offset in the American market where yogurt has become tainted with unhealthy ingredients. While many of the yogurts bought from the grocery store have the live bacteria, they also contain many other ingredients that are not good for you. Better to avoid "Lite" and "Fat Free" yogurt. These titles are a misnomer because true yogurt, even with its fat, is perfectly healthy. The artificial sweeteners, sugar, artificial coloring, fillers and other chemicals placed in these store-bought brands are simply not healthy. They add calories and sugar at a minimum. "Heat treated" yogurts have killed off the good bacteria and should be avoided all together. Simply put, yogurt should have only two ingredients: milk and live cultures. Even if you don't wish to make your own yogurt, try your best to search for ones with the fewest ingredients. Buy PLAIN yogurt and add fresh fruit and/or a natural sweetener such as Stevia (if you or your children have grown accustomed to yogurt being sweet).