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Yogurt: The Original Health Food


No one knows for sure when yogurt first appeared on the culinary scene, but estimations date its arrival back to the beginning of agriculture. The first record of possible health benefits from yogurt was in the 1500s. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire sent his doctor with a satchel of yogurt to Francois I, the King of France, to cure his intestinal disorder. It worked and yogurt's reputation as a health food was born. Soon after, people began praising the health benefits of yogurt by claiming it cured many different illnesses.

The Culturing of Yogurt

Yogurt is made from milk—whole, low-fat, or skim milk can be used. Live bacteria, also known as cultures, are added to the milk. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are the two cultures required for a product to meet the legal definition of yogurt. Some manufacturers add other bacteria as well. The mixture is then incubated—time and temperature will determine the flavor, consistency, and acidity.

The bacteria in yogurt are commonly known as probiotics or friendly bacteria. Studies suggest that these probiotics can provide a variety of benefits, including preventing traveler's diarrhea, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, and other forms of digestive infection, and possibly strengthening the immune system against respiratory infections.

Yogurt Packs a Nutritional Punch

Yogurt is high in calcium —a mineral essential for strong bones. For adults, the recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000-1,200 mg (milligrams), depending on your age, sex, and pregnancy status. The recommendations vary by age for children, starting at 200 mg for newborns up to 1,300 mg for teens. An 8-ounce cup of yogurt can supply 42% of your daily need.

Yogurt is a great way to get protein. Protein is made up of amino acids—nine of which are essential. Essential means that your body cannot synthesize the amino acid; therefore, it must be in the food you eat. The protein in yogurt is complete—meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Additionally, yogurt is an excellent source of riboflavin, potassium, and vitamin B12. Depending on the type of yogurt you choose, you can reap the nutritional benefits without a lot of fat, calories, and cholesterol.

Yogurt (1 cup) Plain,
nonfat
Vanilla,
low-fat
Vanilla,
full-fat
Calories110170220
Total fat (g)028
Saturated fat (g)01.54.5
Cholesterol (mg)01030
Sodium (mg)160130120
Potassium (mg)510440390
Carbohydrates (g)163031
Protein (g)1098
Calcium (%)35%55%30%

g=grams; mg=milligrams

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Source: Stonyfield Farm website

The Versatility of Yogurt

Yogurt is a great snack—delicious by itself or with a little fresh fruit or granola added. Yogurt can be used a number of different ways in the kitchen. You can bake or cook with yogurt or use it to create tasty spreads and sauces. Best of all, yogurt can add flavor and nutritional value without adding a ton of fat and calories.

Here are some yogurt substitutions that can help make your recipes healthier:

  • Replace the sour cream in many cakes with plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt.
  • Use nonfat plain yogurt in place of sour cream or mayonnaise in dips and salad dressings.
  • Substitute nonfat plain yogurt for sour cream on a baked potato or in stroganoffs or stews.
  • Try nonfat plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise in tuna, chicken, or potato salads or in coleslaw.
Date and Oatmeal Yogurt Muffins

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pitted dried dates
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
1/2 cup nonfat or low fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, beaten lightly

In a bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, dates, and walnuts. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, butter, and egg. Stir the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir the batter until it is just combined. Divide the batter among 6 paper-lined ½-cup muffin tins and bake the muffins in the middle of a preheated 400°F (204ºC) oven for 30 minutes.

Makes six muffins

Source: Epicurious

Hummus With Yogurt and Lemon

Yogurt is used to replace some of the high-fat tahini (sesame seed paste). Serve with fresh vegetables or toasted pita bread wedges.

2 large garlic cloves
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Mince garlic in processor. Add remaining ingredients; blend until coarse puree forms, occasionally scraping down sides of work bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to small bowl. This can be prepared three days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 1 ½ cups

Source: Epicurious

Yogurt-Cilantro Marinade

This marinade tenderizes and flavors chicken, lamb, and fish. One cup of marinade will cover one pound of meat.

¾cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced

In medium-sized bowl, combine yogurt, cilantro, juice, oil, mustard, and garlic. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, up to one day.

Makes one cup.

Source: Weight Watchers

Zesty Fettuccine Alfredo

12 ounces uncooked fettuccine noodles
1/3 cup butter
2 cups nonfat, low fat, or whole fat plain yogurt
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Paprika

Cook fettuccine according to package directions. Remove from heat and drain well. Return to cooking pot. Add butter, tossing until melted. Add yogurt, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss well. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve immediately.

Makes four servings.

Source: Dannon Yogurt website

RESOURCES

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
http://www.eatright.org

ChooseMyPlate.gov
http://www.choosemyplate.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Dietitians of Canada
http://www.dietitians.ca

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

References:

Acidophilus and other probiotics. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/academic/natural-alternative-treatments. Updated August 2013. Accessed January 22, 2014.

Calcium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/calcium-HealthProfessional/#h2. Accessed January 22, 2014.

The history of yogurt. Dairy Goodness website. Available at: http://www.dairygoodness.ca/yogurt/the-history-of-yogurt. Accessed January 22, 2014.

Kligler B, Cohrssen A. Probiotics. Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 1;78(9):1073-1078. Probiotics. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html. Accessed January 22, 2014.

Yogurt production. Milk facts website. Available at: http://www.milkfacts.info/Milk%20Processing/Yogurt%20Production.htm. Accessed January 22, 2014.

Nutrition information. Dairy Council of Arizona website. Available at: http://www.dairycouncilofaz.org/nutrition/nutrition-information/. Accessed January 22, 2014.

Products. Stonyfield Organic website. Available at: http://www.stonyfield.com/products/stonyfield. Accessed January 22, 2014.

Yogurt. Taste NY website. Available at: http://taste.ny.gov/ny-yogurt. Accessed January 22, 2014.



Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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