Monday, March 2, 2015

Greek Yogurt: A Nutritional Powerhouse

It seems like the yogurt section in our grocery store has expanded like crazy recently! We only used to be able to get regular yogurt, and now most of brands have a Greek option as well. Greek yogurt is creamier in texture than other yogurts, and is also low in fat, higher in protein and offers all kinds of great active bacterial cultures to help with digestion. Greek yogurt really is a nutritional powerhouse.
Greek and regular yogurts start out with the same ingredients – milk and bacterial cultures. In fact, both types of yogurt even use the same bacterial cultures. The bacteria ferment the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk and produce lactic acid. Different strains of bacteria have slightly different fermentation processes, and have slightly different fermentation products, but the end result is primarily lactic acid. So some strains of bacteria might produce a fermented yogurt that is more acidic, or more bitter, or more sour.

After fermentation, the liquid whey is strained off the solid yogurt. Regular yogurt is strained twice, so there is still some liquid left in the end product. Greek yogurt is strained three times, so most of the liquid is removed. This is what gives Greek yogurt its’ thicker consistency and stronger flavors compared to regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is more “concentrated,” it has more protein than regular yogurt. The protein is left behind in the solid yogurt during the straining process.
  • Protein: Greek yogurt contains an astonishing amount of protein - between 15 and 20 grams in some cases.Protein keeps you feeling full longer and may help your weight loss efforts, but protein shakes and bars are often high in sugar and flat in taste. Greek yogurt is a good alternative. Plus, Greek yogurt's protein load makes it an ideal choice for vegetarians looking for healthy, non-meat sources of protein.

  • Sugar: Greek yogurt contains significantly less sugar than its American counterpart. This is in part due to how Greek yogurt is strained: milk sugars and lactose are removed. Part of Greek yogurt's health advantage is due to the fact that "low-fat" brands of American yogurt are loaded with unhealthy sugars to preserve taste.

  • Sodium: A high sodium diet can cause hypertension and may increase your risk of developing heart disease. Greek yogurt has approximately 50 milligrams per 6-ounce serving. A healthy eating plan that includes Greek yogurt helps you cut back on excess sodium in your diet.
Greek yogurt can be high in fat, so moderation is key. Plus, Greek yogurt provides less calcium than regular yogurt - a deficit easily overcome by the inclusion of leafy greens in your diet. But plain Greek yogurt doesn't have to mean plain, boring meals. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy this versatile ingredient:
  • Mix in some seasonings and you have a protein-rich dip that goes great with veggies.
  • Use Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in your favorite dishes to improve their nutrition content.
  • Sprinkle a bowl of Greek yogurt with berries and a (very little) bit of granola for a protein-rich breakfast or post-workout snack.

No comments:

Post a Comment