By Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Whether you enjoy yogurt with a spoon, a straw, or squeeze it from a tube, there are plenty of healthy reasons to make this dairy food a regular on any grocery list. In the last decade, sales of yogurt have skyrocketed as consumers have discovered its health and wellness value. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, both children and adults need three servings daily of low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt to receive nine essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D. With all it can do to complete a nutritional diet, yogurt is a dynamic dairy superstar!
Soothe Your Stomach
Researchers at Tufts University suggest that yogurt with active cultures or good bacteria may help certain intestinal conditions, such as lactose intolerance, constipation, and stomach ulcers. Many who are unable to tolerate large servings of regular milk can enjoy yogurt. The good bacteria helps with the digestion process, making it easier to digest than some milk. When shopping, purchase yogurt with “Live and Active” cultures.
Protect Your Heart
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at total dairy (milk, cheese and yogurt) consumption among women and compared the intake of each participant with the thickness of their arteries, a risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Participants who ate more yogurt had cleaner arteries lessening the risk of heart disease.
Build Strong Bones
Research shows that dairy’s nutrients are vital to the development of strong bones and reduce the risk for osteoporosis. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis (2004) recognized the role of nutrients in dairy foods that work together to help protect bones. It’s not just calcium that makes yogurt bone-friendly, dairy products contain other bone building nutrients including vitamins D, phosphorous, potassium, and protein. Yogurt also has as much potassium as a banana and as much protein as an egg or ounce of meat.
Know Your Yogurt
Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal. Some varieties have added fat, calories, and sugar. Opt for light varieties to decrease fat and sugar, and choose a thick “Greek” style for three times the protein.
You can create your own flavored yogurt by adding some of your favorite ingredients. The following are a few examples.
• Add berries and 1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract to plain yogurt.
• Add crushed pineapple and a tablespoon of shredded coconut to plain Greek yogurt.
• Add a tablespoon of espresso and a tablespoon of dark chocolate syrup to plain yogurt.
A swaportunity is the opportunity to swap or switch an ingredient to nutrient rich yogurt. Plain low fat yogurt can reduce or replace shortening, oil, butter, or sour cream in baked goods. Use similar flavored yogurt in a muffin, brownie, or cake recipe. Below are easy guidelines to cut the fat and boost the nutrition in your baked goods.
• For butter, replace half the butter with half as much yogurt. For example, calls for 1 cup butter, use 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup yogurt
• For shortening or oil, replace half the oil with 3/4 the amount of yogurt. For example, calls for 1 cup oil, use 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons yogurt.
• Substitute equal parts yogurt for sour cream.
• Greek yogurt has a thicker consistency and three times the protein than regular yogurt. You can substitute it for sour cream, mayonnaise, and cream. Here are a few Greek yogurt swaportunities.
— Top waffles and pancakes with Greek yogurt and fruit.
— Replace sour cream in dips or on top of soups, chili, and Mexican.
— Instead of mayonnaise in tuna, egg, potato, and pasta salad.
— Swap half the heavy cream in cream-based pasta sauce.