Recently, Health 101 Examiner has been focusing on quick and easy ways to reap huge health benefits, specifically during the first hour of each day. Jump start each day by drinking a large glass of filtered water. Numerous benefits of drinking water are described in “World’s easiest, low-cost health and beauty tip”. Then, sprinkle two tablespoons of the superfood, chia seed, into low-sugar whole grain cereal, oatmeal, baked bread batter, or a smoothie for optimum nutrition. Another great superfood to incorporate into the breakfast meal is non-fat plain Greek yogurt.
While yogurt has been a key component of the health food craze for decades, Greek yogurt has now become the dairy industry’s shining star. NPR.org reported that while sales of Greek yogurt were $60 million five years ago, sales should reach $1.5 billion this year. Over the past three years, sales have increased over 100 percent each year. Greek yogurt is priced 20 to 100 percent higher than American style yogurt, yet more consumers are switching from American to Greek yogurt because of its nutritional advantages.
American vs. Greek
American yogurt is made from cow’s milk while traditional Greek yogurt is made from goat’s milk. Both types begin with milk and live cultures. Both are good sources of calcium, protein, and probiotics. Calcium helps build strong bones while protein provides the framework for every cell in the body. Probiotics support the immune system and promote gastrointestinal health.
Unlike American yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained and filtered to remove the liquid whey part of milk, water, lactose sugars, and salt. This process makes Greek yogurt thicker and obviously, lower in sugar and salt. It also requires four times more milk than American style yogurt to produce the same amount of end product which makes Greek yogurt higher in protein than American yogurt. A six ounce serving of plain Dannon non-fat American style yogurt has 80 calories, 12 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein, and 120 mg of sodium. That same amount of non-fat Greek yogurt contains 100 calories, 7 grams of sugar, 18 grams of protein, and only 80 mg of sodium.
In addition to being less sweet than American yogurt, Greek yogurt also has a unique tangy taste. The live culture used to make Greek yogurt contains active bacteria S. thermophilus (St) and L. bulgaricus (Lb), which ferment the milk to give Greek yogurt a unique tangy taste (“The Truth Behind the Greek Yogurt Phase”, acefitness.org).
While plain non-fat American style yogurt is still considered to be a health food, the additives in flavored American style yogurt negate any health benefits. While plain American yogurt is already loaded with lactose sugar, flavored yogurt also contains added sugars which often include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFC raises triglyceride levels and increases the risk of diabetes at a higher rate than natural cane sugar (“The Truth Behind the Greek Yogurt Phase”, acefitness.org). Sugar-free flavored varieties are just as sweet, but instead of added sugar or HFCS, they contain artificial sweeteners whose safety has been questioned for decades. Some flavored yogurt also contains artificial food dyes which have been linked to cancer, allergies, hyperactivity, learning impairment, and aggressiveness (“The Hidden Health Risks of Food Dyes”, www.eatingwell.com).
While Greek yogurt is available in higher fat and flavored varieties, it usually contains all natural ingredients. When deciding which Green yogurt to buy, check the ingredients. Ideally, Greek yogurt should only include milk and live active cultures. Stonyfield Organic Oikos 0% Fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt is sweetened with organic sugar to provide the sweetness Americans generally prefer, adding 40 calories per cup, but it does not contain any HFCS, artificial sweeteners, fillers or dyes. The optimal yogurt choice, however, is plain non-fat Greek yogurt.
Best Ways to Eat Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt’s tangy, less sweet flavor is an acquired taste. Those who are accustomed to American style yogurt can initially incorporate Greek yogurt into their diet by substituting it for milk, water, mayo, or sour cream in favorite recipes. Replacing Greek yogurt for milk or water turns a smoothie into an extra creamy, high protein shake. Using Greek yogurt instead of water to prepare oatmeal makes the oatmeal richer, creamier, and more filling.
Mix ranch seasoning mix into a bowl of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a healthier ranch dip. Chicken and tuna salad are delicious when made with Greek yogurt instead of mayo, and provide a satisfying protein punch. Once accustomed to Greek yogurt in favorite recipes, try eating this superfood topped with any combination of whole grain cereal, fruit, nuts, and/or a dollop of honey. Visit Fitsugar.com for creative tasty Greek yogurt recipes.
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