What are the health benefits of yogurt?
Yogurt is a high-quality, low-fat, easily-absorbed protein source. (Try saying that three times fast!) Additionally, yogurt is a good source of calcium and active cultures (probiotics) that can promote a healthy gut. Individuals with lactose intolerance often can consume yogurt without gastrointestinal distress. The translation of yogurt “yoghurt” means “dense and thick”. Yogurt is made by the fermentation of milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. This thicker substance is tangier in taste when compared to milk.
With so many yogurt varieties, is there any difference between them?
Not all yogurts contain live active cultures. The term “made with live/active cultures” is somewhat deceiving because all yogurts are made with live cultures; but live cultures do not survive heat treatment/pasteurization. Look for phrases like “active yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures” to identify the yogurt varieties that contain the probiotic benefits. Dr. Ted Paradowski, Springfield Clinic Gastroenterologist recommends patients choose Activia yogurt for its probiotic benefits.
One of the main nutritional differences between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is the protein content. A standard-size container (5.3-6.0 oz) of Greek yogurt contains anywhere from 10-20 grams of protein while the same serving of regular yogurt contains only 5-6 grams of protein. Unsweetened yogurt (both Greek and regular) will contain the lowest amounts of sugars; however, most people prefer the sweetened/flavored varieties. Try to find the yogurts with the least amount of ingredients for increased nutritional value. Be careful of kid-friendly varieties such as Go-Gurt. This type of yogurt contains the highest amount of added sugars and is also lowest in protein content. Basically, your kids are getting more calories from the added sweeteners than they are from the yogurt itself. Watch the calcium content difference. In many cases, Greek yogurt contains less calcium than normal yogurt.
To Greek or not to Greek?
Greek yogurt has been a hot trend to take grocery store shelves by storm these past couple years. One thing I’ve noticed at my local supermarket is that the yogurt section appears to be phasing out regular yogurt options to make room for more Greek yogurt brands and varieties.
Many will argue that the term “Greek” is being used too loosely. Typically, Greek yogurt has gone through an extra straining process that removes the liquid whey and milk sugars. This is the reason why this type of yogurt is much thicker and tangier in taste. However, some brands simply add a thickening agent and protein concentrate to their regular yogurt and call it “Greek”.
This year especially, we have seen Greek yogurt products popping up everywhere from cereal to granola bars to veggie dips. Greek yogurt is most notable for its lean protein content, but do all these additional products retain the same benefits or are they just a marketing gimmick?
Most of the time, the term “made with Greek yogurt” on food items is simply a way to get consumers to buy that product thinking it’s going to be healthier than the item sitting next to it on the shelf. For example, Post has recently come out with Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch cereal. Compared to their standard variety, Honey Bunches of Oats Honey Roasted cereal, the “Greek” variety contains more calories, more carbs and added sugars with just a minimal increase in protein content. Don’t be fooled by frozen Greek yogurt either. Often, these substitutions are simply sweet treats disguised as health foods.
How creative are you with using yogurt?
It’s thick, creamy texture makes it a great base for smoothies or an excellent swap for mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes. Whether you use regular or Greek yogurt, these healthy recipe substitutions will add more nutrients to your everyday favorites!
- Try mixing yogurt with herbs and spices to make a protein-packed veggie dip.
- Add a dollop on potatoes or tacos instead of sour cream.
- Substitute yogurt for some of the mayonnaise when making tuna, chicken or potato salad.
- For additional ideas, download this handout: http://oldwayspt.org/sites/default/files/12ways_yogurt.pdf