September 25, 2012

I would like to start off by saying that yogurt and I have had a love hate relationship, similar to my relationship with bananas. I enjoy yogurt, but for some reason, I have this habit of buying it and letting it sit in the refrigerator. I buy it because I know it is good for me. I don’t eat it because I forget that it is there. Maybe it is tucked away in a drawer at the bottom of the refrigerator, or maybe I am too lazy to spoon out a serving from the giant container I have bought. I bet I would do better if I sectioned it out into re-sealable dishes immediately after purchase. Then I can set them in the refrigerator in plain sight. It worked for the berries!

So what’s so good about yogurt?

It is evident that yogurt is a health food with staying power. Yogurt has been around for hundreds of years and has been eaten throughout the world, though it is unclear where it originated. The process for making yogurt, the ingredients, and the flavors are a bit different depending on who makes it. One of the ingredients that can be varied is the source of the milk. Yogurt can be made with cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, and several other kinds of milk. Bacteria cultures are added to the milk and the bacteria convert the milk into yogurt. Different types of yogurt contain different types of bacteria, but the bacteria are good for your gut (colon). Eating yogurt can increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut and decrease the amount of harmful bacteria in your gut. Not only can yogurt improve the health of your gut, yogurt can also help with diarrhea and aide in the prevention of stomach ulcers. Consumption of yogurt made with cow’s milk can improve lactose digestion. Additional benefits of yogurt include potential to decrease the risk of colon cancer and the ability to lower cholesterol.

Yogurt contains protein and several vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, potassium, calcium, riboflavin, selenium, zinc, biotin, and phosphorous. Yogurt comes in full fat, low fat, or fat free. Yogurt also comes in several different flavors. There is plain yogurt (which has a similar taste to sour cream), yogurt sweetened with fruit or fruit flavor (like strawberry, orange, and raspberry), and dessert flavored yogurts (such as key lime pie, and chocolate mousse). The healthiest choice is to get fat free yogurt with no added sugars or flavors.

How do you select and store yogurt?

When selecting yogurt, be sure to check the date to ensure the freshness. Refrigerate yogurt as soon as possible to decrease the risk spoilage. Re-check the expiration date prior to yogurt consumption, and observe the yogurt for discoloration or growth of organisms (such as mold). Be sure that the yogurt does not have a spoiled milk smell to it. If you want more healthy bacteria, opt for yogurts that are unpasteurized. These yogurts may be labeled with the following: “live active cultures,” or “living yogurt cultures.”

In general, yogurt is good for you, but when compared to other store bought commercial types of yogurt, I have found that Greek yogurt is the better choice. Greek yogurt will typically have more protein (almost double), and less sugar and sodium (about half). On the down side, Greek yogurt has slightly higher calories, and less calcium (about half). Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, and is fun to mix with different recipes that include yogurt. As a whole, the Greek yogurt is a better choice, but it can be more expensive.

What can you do with yogurt?

Yogurt can be eaten by itself or it can be mixed with other foods. Here are some ideas for using yogurt:
1)  use plain fat free yogurt in the place of sour cream, such as atop tacos, baked potatoes, or soup

2) mix yogurt with dill, cucumber, and onion to make a dip for veggies or chips

3) make creamy salad dressing using yogurt and herbs/spices of your choice (thin the dressing with water or fat free milk)

4) stir in honey or stevia to sweeten plain yogurt, and top with fresh fruit and seeds/nuts

5) mix yogurt  with rolled oats and honey

6) add yogurt to a fruit/veggie smoothie

7) make a creamy yogurt sauce to top meats by adding herbs and spices as desired to warmed yogurt

8) use yogurt to make a healthy white sauce for pasta

~ Cece


Total Nutrition: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need Edited by Victor Herbert, M.D., F.A.C.P. and Genell J. Subak-Sharpe, M.S.

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno N.D. with Lara Pizzorno M.A., L.M.T.

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