Power Food: Yogurt
From The Ask Mo Blog
The Oldest Power Food
Fermented dairy products, like yogurt, have been consumed by humans (and their precursors) for over 12,000 years. In central Asia, people would milk their animals and then carry the milk in containers made from animal stomachs. The natural enzymes in these containers would curdle the milk yielding a yogurt-like food. Yogurt wasn’t just for Neolithic man, it was even a power food for the Genghis Khan and his army.
With the benefits of yogurt becoming more and more apparent with each published research study, the popularity of yogurt has continued to grown with the advent of new types and varieties of yogurt. Here’s what to look for...
Greek vs. Regular Yogurt
The popularity of Greek yogurt has exploded recently bringing lots of attention to the nutritional benefits of 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 vs. Flavored Yogurt
My rule of thumb for clients is to always opt for plain yogurt and add your own flavoring. Whether it is yogurt with fruit on the bottom or ‘lite’ yogurt full of artificial and natural flavorings and sweeteners, you can do better nutritionally by adding your own fruit and flavors.
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 (this means ‘vanilla’ yogurt too) - it adds up quickly. Adding your own fruit (like blueberries or strawberries) will get you more fruit per serving and less sugar.
Yes, yogurt is a good source of protein, especially Greek yogurt. But the true power of yogurt comes from the live cultures. The good bacteria used in the creation of yogurt (and sometimes added after the fact) provides you with key reinforcements to your digestive tract.
More research is starting to show that the bacteria in your digestive tract has the power to communicate with your body and your brain, modifying how your immune system functions, what hormones that are released, and even your metabolic rate.
There is still lots of details to work out regarding how exactly the bacteria in our gut communicate and manipulate functions in our bodies, but it is very clear that taking the time to curate the best bacteria in your digestive tract is an important step to good health (and a healthy weight!). Yogurt helps you get there easier.
In order to truly reap the benefits of the good bacteria found in yogurt, it is important to eat fresh yogurt. Some yogurt products are processed at high temperatures to ensure a longer shelf-life. These yogurts will contain “long-life” or “UHT” on the labels. Avoid these yogurts, as the heating process kills the good bacteria that we want.
Yogurt - The Complete Nutritional Package
The great nutritional package that you get with yogurt is best highlighted with respect to bone health. Dairy products play a big role in the nutritional contribution to bone health, packing calcium, protein, vitamin D, potassium, and phosphorus. Many of these nutrients are also essential for maintaining optimal blood pressure.
It is hard to find a food that is better to snack on or add to a meal than yogurt. With all the different varieties, it should be easy to find one that fits your liking.
Dr. Mike Roussell PhD, is a nutritional consultant and author known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical nutritional habits that his clients can use to ensure permanent weight loss and log lasting health.