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Go Greek this fall for your health


If you are looking for a convenient, healthy snack to tide you over until your next stop, consider including yogurt as a staple for your lunch pail. You’ve probably enjoyed a few spoonfuls of regular, American yogurt at your kitchen table over the years.

Today’s convenient single-serving containers now make yogurt an ideal option for the road. Easy to carry, open and dispose of, these packages are easy to find in grocery and convenience stores.

Regular, American yogurt has many health benefits. A rich source of minerals, because it is made from milk, yogurt contains large amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Yogurt has vitamins, too, particularly, Vitamins B2 and B12, and Vitamins D and E and is also a good source of protein.

Eating yogurt with probiotics is good for your overall health. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it can boost your immune system to help fight infection, reduce inflammatory diseases and relieve allergies. Eating yogurt every day has been seen to lower LDL cholesterol levels and improve the cardiovascular system.

Tests have shown that eating probiotic yogurt boosts gastrointestinal health by increasing the proportion of good bacteria in the bowel. Improving digestive function, yogurt has been seen to decrease flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation; to reduce colon cancer, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome; and to reduce the bacteria that cause bad breath and peptic ulcers.

Since regular American yogurt is so good for you, why switch to Greek yogurt instead? Both build bones. Both promote intestinal health. Both improve the immune system. Both are low in calories. So, what’s makes them different?

To many people, Greek yogurt tastes better. It is thicker and creamier and has a richer flavour. Greek yogurt may also be considered healthier because it has lower quantities of sugar and salt. The straining process used to produce Greek yogurt by removing the whey also removes about 40% of the sugar (lactose) and more than 35% of the sodium.

Because this straining process lowers the lactose as well, Greek yogurt may be better tolerated by people with lactose sensitivity. A six-ounce container of regular, American yogurt has nine grams of lactose, while Greek yogurt has only four grams, making it a low lactose dairy product.

Greek yogurt’s straining process also concentrates its protein ratio. A six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has 15-20 grams of protein (about the amount of protein found in three ounces of lean meat). A six-ounce serving of regular, American yogurt has only nine grams of protein.

If you watch your weight by counting carbohydrates, go Greek, since Greek yogurt contains only about half the carbs of regular yogurt. Be sure to read the labels, though.

Steer clear of yogurts with the hidden carbs of added sugars, possibly listed as sucrose, grape juice concentrate, and/or evaporated cane juice.

For the best quality product, the listed ingredients should follow this order: milk, live and active cultures, and fruit (with no fillers of gelatin, guar gum, or cornstarch).

Some Greek yogurts have a very high fat content, so read the labels for fat content, too. Ideally, choose a low-fat or fat-free variety.

Greek yogurt is quite versatile and can easily replace less healthy ingredients in popular foods you regularly enjoy. For example, instead of using sour cream to top up a taco, try Greek yogurt. Or, make a dip by stirring your favourite seasonings into a container of Greek yogurt instead of cream cheese or sour cream. Use it as a partial substitute in recipes calling for mayonnaise, or butter in foods like egg salad, pasta salad, potato salad and/or coleslaw.

Greek yogurt can even be added to partially thicken frosting. When baking, substitute Greek yogurt for eggs and oil because unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt won’t curdle when heated.

Greek yogurt offers a higher portion of most nutrients, than regular yogurt; however, not for calcium.

Due to the straining process mentioned above, a 6 ounce serving of Greek yogurt supplies only 20% of the recommended daily requirement, while regular yogurt offers 30%. Yet, this is not a big issue. It can be easily compensated for by stirring in some complementary calcium rich food, such as seeds and/or almonds.

Considering all its advantages, no wonder Greek yogurt is currently one of the fastest growing foods on the market.

If you decide to pick some up for your next trip, look for a low-fat brand that contains probiotics.

Look on the label for “contains active cultures,” or for specific probiotic names, such as: Lactobacillus acidophilus or Lactobacillus casei. If you find more than one probiotic strain, you’ve selected a high quality product, which offers the best digestive support.

When it comes to choosing the best yogurt this fall, someone may prefer regular, American, but it’s all Greek to me.

***

Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at karen_bowen@yahoo.com.


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