There are few things in this world I love as much as I love dairy. Any meals I have always consist of some sort of creamy addition, and it is almost always full-fat with no remorse. This may seem decadent to some, but for me, a life without dairy just isn’t worth living. Now, I have an extreme case of dairy-dedication, but benefits of consuming dairy can still be found with a lower level of commitment: a normal person’s consumption rate.
The MyPlate icon (the new government-established daily nutrition recommendations) suggests three cups of dairy per day as part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. I, of course, fulfill this requirement no questions asked, but some people (especially the lactose-intolerant community) may be wondering how in the world they will reach that goal. Well, have I got news for you: Yogurt. Yes, yogurt.
Yogurt has all the benefits (and then some) of solid milk while remaining perfectly digestible to those who cannot process lactose. The key is that the bacteria (in this case, these are good bacteria that should be in your food) added to yogurt to help develop its texture and flavor actually digest the lactose present into lactic acid, and thus make it suitable for the lactose-intolerant community. Two of the most common bacteria found in commercial yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles.
Along with the good-for-you bacteria, yogurt is also an awesome source of health-promoting nutrients. Calcium is suggested to boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities after a meal — this is one of the reasons so many studies link weight loss to the daily consumption of low-fat yogurt.
Calcium is also recognized as an important player in bone health. The iron-binding protein, lactoferrin, found in yogurt is another key contributor to bone health.
Yogurt also has a good source of potassium that helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels. The health benefits seem endless.
Although, yogurt seems so close to home and familiar, it actually is part of quite the well-traveled cuisine, making its presence daily in a number of societies around the globe. Americans are more familiar with sweet flavored yogurts, but many other countries serve it with a different twist.
Mediterranean cultures often serve yogurt plain with cooked vegetables or mixed with cucumber and mint.
Middle Eastern countries often serve plain yogurt with spicy rice dishes which helps to mild out the spice. Then there is the Greek yogurt that has become all the rage in health nut circles.
Greek yogurt has been strained to remove more whey, and as a result is much thicker than a typical yogurt. This process also removes more of the sugar present, and the yogurt is left with a tangier flavor.
Another benefit to going Greek is a protein punch. The amount of protein in a serving of Greek yogurt, as compared to regular yogurt, is much higher and sometimes as much as 100 percent increase. This makes a 6 oz. serving of Greek yogurt about the protein equivalent of a 3 oz. serving of lean meat; as well as an excellent protein alternative for vegetarians. Not to mention it may keep you satiated for longer than the less protein dense regular yogurt.
Yogurt is a versatile power food that is perfect for both sweet and savory dishes alike. It adds to almost every meal, yet still remains valuable enough to be a standalone breakfast champion. I have already fallen head over heels for yogurt in my dairy craze. The question now is, why haven’t you?