Nourishments: The Goodness Of Yogurt - A Gut Feeling
By Nancy K. Crevier
It would seem that an item, at its essence simply milk and live cultures, would be an easy thing to select when shopping. As with so much else in our society, though, yogurt has morphed into a product with a little something for everyone - leaving me to stand, mouth agape, trying to decide which yogurt to put in my basket.
Conventional and Greek yogurt still take the lion's share of the cooler space, but MOO-ve over, cow's milk yogurt: there are plenty of other options.
Yogurt made from goat's milk, soy milk, nut milks, and even hemp milk means that the lactose intolerant or allergic can find a way to have the goodness of this cultured food in the diet. What is that goodness, beyond the delectable flavors now available?
Cow's milk yogurt is a terrific source of calcium; provides decent amounts of the recommended daily value of riboflavin (vitamin B2), which breaks down food and helps the body make best use of the nutrients; is a source of phosphorus, essential in bone and tooth formation, and which plays a role in the body's use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; and of potassium, a mineral needed for muscle health, and to regulate blood pressure and fluids in the body. Full fat (cream on top, a personal guilty pleasure) yogurt is high in saturated fats, however, explaining the popularity of the two percent and zero percent options. (It could be mind over matter, but I do find many of the zero fat yogurts are a zero in taste, as well.)
From zero to full fat options, though, it is the presence of live, active cultures in yogurt that is the particular health benefit. These cultures, often referred to as "probiotics," can help balance the good bacteria in the digestive system and support immune health. L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus, and bifidobacterium are the main cultures to seek when eyeballing the label.
Many organs can be positively affected by the live cultures consumed in yogurt. It has been used to treat vaginal and urinary tract infections, to treat high cholesterol, to restore the good gut bacteria after a session of antibiotics, and as a soothing (but sticky) ointment for sunburns. It is said that regular consumption of yogurt decreases halitosis (but please, not in lieu of brushing your teeth...).
Be sure to check the amount of sugar, as well. Not everyone enjoys the tang of yogurt, but oversweetened products defeat the purpose of selecting a healthy snack. It can take some tastebud training, but lower sugar brands are a better choice in the long run. Or, choose your favorite plain yogurt and lightly sweeten it to taste with maple syrup, honey, or agave.
The denser, richer Greek yogurt burst onto the American scene the early part of the 21st Century, nearly a generation after this food began to gain traction in the United States. Strained to remove the watery whey, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates, making it the sweetheart of workout aficionados.
Being rich in flavor and protein, it is the kind of snack that leaves you feeling satisfied for a longer stretch. It also makes a respectable substitute for sour cream or cream cheese in recipes, and is less apt to break down when heated than conventional yogurts. At approximately 200 calories per cup, it is a wise caloric choice over sour cream's 475 calories per cup.
Recent attention to those in the food community suffering from various allergies and sensitivities has resulted in yogurts made from nut milks, soy milk, and goat's milk. Goat's milk yogurt has the distinction of being one of the ancient yogurts, believed to have been produced by Turkish goatherds as far back as 3 BCE.
Generally not as creamy as cow's milk yogurt, alternative yogurts are still a satisfying choice. Be aware, though, that while nut milk yogurts can provide the gut-pleasing live cultures, they are not always a premier source of calcium. Goat's milk and soy milk yogurts do have that added attraction, for anyone allergic to cow's milk or lactose intolerant.
Guess what? Label reading is necessary, even for "health" foods. Every brand varies in sugars, calcium content, and even additives.
With a little research, you are bound to find the yogurt that appeals to you. (Want to get kids into good eating habits? You'll find squeeze tubes of yogurt and yogurt smoothie drinks that are attractive to youngsters - and very packable for school lunch boxes.)
Strong bones, an empowered immune system, a healthy gut - and all delivered in a delicious package? I'd say that yogurt is a must on any shopping list today. Dig in!
This Middle Eastern marinated yogurt cheese is so easy to make at home. Any whole milk yogurt works, but the already strained Greek yogurt works best. Here's a recipe that is easy to follow.
2 C plain whole milk Greek yogurt
3 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs minced parsley
1 Tbs minced chives or shallot
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 tsp grated lemon zest (the outer yellow part of the peel)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Place yogurt in a cheesecloth lined sieve, set over a deep bowl. Gather cheesecloth snugly together over yogurt and tie closed with string. Place bowl and sieve in refrigerator for two days to drain away any remaining whey.
Remove from refrigerator, gently squeeze. Place in a serving bowl. (Or roll into several little balls.)
Whisk oil, herbs, lemon, salt, and pepper together and drizzle over yogurt. Cover and replace in refrigerator for at least eight hours, and up to two days. Remove from refrigerator about one-half hour before serving.
Serve with crackers, warm pita bread, and/or raw vegetables.