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Friday, August 21, 2009

Yogurt and Soy Milk in Cuba

Yogurt wouldn't seem to be part of the Cuban culinary tradition. Historically, it wasn't. That began to change after the revolution, when the island cut ties with the U.S. and Soviets and Eastern Europeans became the source of influences. The unusual story is told in the Havana Times.

With the Cuban Revolution in 1959, yogurt began to be widely distributed and went from being a barely consumed product to an indispensable supplement in university cafeterias and boarding school dorms that started to spread across the island in the 1970s.

Eventually, production was carried out throughout the nation and yogurt became a regular Cuban food item offered in a wide range off flavors of domestically grown fruits such as orange, banana and mango, and even imported fruits such as strawberry, one of the most popular flavors.

Cuban’s consumption of yogurt no doubt grew as the island developed strong ties and scientific exchanges with Eastern Europe.

The large number of Eastern European technicians and consultants who arrived to Cuba brought with them their dietary habits, including a love for yogurt, and this became an important source of nutrition for Cubans and the favorite dairy product for many.

Beginning in the 1970s, yogurt became recognized as a good substitute for milk for segments of the population who were lactose intolerant and as a remedy, as the bacterium in yogurt breaks down lactose.

The 1970s also saw the creation of the Research Institute for the National Food Industry, sponsored by the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Institute took the next step for those who couldn't drink cow's milk and introduced soy milk into the culture.
The widespread introduction of soy milk first for the lactose intolerant segment of the population and then as a regular product for all Cubans was one of the important achievements of this institute.

In the 1990s, the island was sent into a full-on crisis with the disintegration of the Eastern European Socialist Camp and a hardening of the decades-long US blockade. The Cuban government responded with a series of measures during what was called the Special Period. The Ministry of Food and Health began to produce soy yogurt on an industrial scale, especially for children and teenagers, as it became harder and harder to import powdered milk.

Despite the huge cultural differences, this progression is oddly parallel to the adoption of yogurt and soy by increasingly mainstream audiences in the U.S. Solutions know no bounds when problems are universal.

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1 comment:

arthritis said...

Soymilk is an important soyfood and offers many of the health benefits of soy foods. Research has shown potential health benefits of soy in preventing breast cancer, preventing and slowing prostate cancer, and fighting heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and kidney disease. Soyfoods, including soymilk, are also thought to alleviate symptoms of menopause and to promote eye health.

Soymilk may carry risks for the few who are allergic to soy and some who may have certain conditions. Research has, so far, shown conflicting results in these areas.