Yogurt has been a part of Middle Eastern diets since 2000 BC, and is a staple in our culture today.
However, with mass manufacturing, processing, preservatives, added sugars, reduced fats, what’s good in it any more?!
A lot of yogurts on the store shelves are flavored which often contain additional ingredients as well as sugar and fruit. They may contain everything from artificial dyes to preservatives and sweeteners (natural or artificial), to ingredients that enhance flavor.
I would suggest when looking for a good yogurt, stay with plain yogurt and then add your own fruit or spices.
Greek yogurt is higher in protein and touted the ‘healthier’ choice. It’s important to get the probiotic benefits that come with yogurt, but don’t assume that all yogurts are equal.
Probiotic, which literally means ''for life,'' refers to living organisms that can result in a health benefit when eaten in adequate amounts.
The good bacterium in yogurt fortifies your gut and digestive tract. Research shows that this bacteria communicates you’re your brain, modifying your immune system functions, hormone release and metabolic rate.
Look for yogurts that say "live and active cultures" on the label, as they are the only yogurts that contain probiotics. Avoid yogurt that has “long-life” or “UHT” on the labels; a heating process has been used which kills the good bacteria you’re looking for.
Protein Rich - Yogurt is made from milk, right? So as an added bonus, you get a nice balance of protein in a serving (18 g per ¾ cup of Greek Yogurt and about 9 g per 6 ounce serving of regular yogurt).
Calcium Rich – Calcium is essential for bone health, colon health and reducing the risk of colon cancer. It works with the live cultures in the yogurt to increase absorption by the bones, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Yogurt is an important source of calcium for those who have problems digesting lactose (sugar) in milk. Yogurt contains ‘lactase’, the enzyme needed to break down lactose for proper digestion.
Vitamin & Minerals – Loaded with nutrients like B-2, B-12, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin-D and Omega-3’s, yogurt is a power packed nutrient loaded food.
Greek vs. Regular Yogurt
Greek yogurt differs from regular yogurt in a few ways.
The process of making Greek yogurt involves straining, which removes water, sugars, and some whey protein (one of the two dairy proteins). This straining process is what makes even the fat free Greek yogurt so thick and creamy (a taste and texture usually only associated with high fat foods).
Because some whey protein is lost during the straining process, Greek yogurt has higher levels of casein (the other dairy protein), this also aids in making Greek yogurt thick and creamy.
Texture aside, there are several key nutritional differences between regular and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has almost twice the protein and half of the carbohydrates as regular yogurt. This makes it a great snack or addition to any meal when you need to bump up the protein.
Greek yogurt is not better than regular yogurt; it is just nutritionally different, so pick the one that best meets your needs.
Plain or Flavored Yogurt
My rule of thumb for clients is to always opt for plain yogurt and add your own flavoring; you can do better nutritionally by adding your own fruit and flavors. This way it keeps your food cleaner and easier to watch your good calories and macros.
Buying yogurt with the fruit added or ‘on the bottom’ can quickly turn your power food into a dessert. Be wary of the sugar content of yogurts that contain fruit and flavoring, it adds up quickly. Adding your own fruit (like blueberries or strawberries) will get you more fruit per serving and less sugar.
I personally choose full fat yogurt over fat free.
Fat is a much-needed part of our diet and our body requires it for many functions including fat loss. Where fat is reduced, sugar and sodium are increased. So opt for the full fat!
The Complete Nutritional Package
Yogurt pretty much sums up the complete meal deal. It’s hard to find a food that is better to snack on or add to a meal than yogurt.
Top it off with fresh fruit or sides of veggies and you have the ultimate healthy snack.
Yours in health!