Yogurt is one food I consume regularly. But like so many foods, not all yogurts are created equal. So why is it such a healthy food and how do you choose the most nutritious type? Let’s explore…
Yogurt isn’t sweet
You may be surprised by this, but real yogurt is not sweet. You’re forgiven if you haven’t realized this when the contents of the supermarket dairy cabinet are largely sugar laden. If your yogurt tastes sweet, even a little, it has some form of sugar in it. In fact, many yogurts have alarming amounts of sugar; many supposedly healthy brands have more than ice-cream!
Real yogurt is sour. By real yogurt I mean full fat natural or Greek yogurt, they should be your only choice when shopping for this health-giving food. If you or your children don’t like the taste of real yogurt, then keep reading for some inspiring suggestions.
Why is ‘real’ yogurt so healthy?
Because it contains probiotics. The word probiotic means ‘for life’ and refers to the living good bacteria that when eaten in sufficient quantities, benefits the health of your digestive system (which in turn supports nutrient absorption, your immune system, hormones and mental health). You can read more about the importance of improving your digestion here.
When considering the probiotic content, there’s yogurt and then there’s yogurt! You see in some yogurts, the beneficial ‘probiotic’ bacteria are not always present as live and active cultures. Some yogurts are also pasteurized after they have been colonised (a process to kill the bacteria in dairy) – why? Goodness knows, there’s simply no logic in this.
I also question the ‘aliveness’ of bacteria in high sugar environments. Studies comparing identical probiotic foods, with and without sugar, have not yet been conducted. However, it is recognized that sugar (and salt) are used by the food processing industry to preserve food, based on the principles that sugar breaks down the cell walls of bacteria leading to cell death. Considering the large amounts of sugar found in most fruit and flavored yogurt, I question whether the probiotics in these yogurts are indeed viable. Another reason to consume only natural or Greek yogurt.
Eat yogurt, lose weight
Studies have also extended the benefits of yogurt to weight loss. In a study based on three trials over 20 years, yogurt was found to be the number one food associated with weight loss. Interestingly enough, it also found that quality counted more than calories including that eating organic foods, resulted in weight loss. No surprise that potato chips were rated the most likely cause of weight gain! There were some confounding factors for these results, but interesting none the less. Some studies are currently investigating the role probiotics have on the way that calories are dealt with in the digestive tract, again leading to weight loss.
Full-fat or low-fat?
ONLY full-fat, I can’t be more emphatic. Why? Firstly it is closer to its natural state this way (milk is supposed to have fat in it so why mess with it)? Also, removing the fat from dairy disrupts the important enzymes that assist in its metabolism. Many experts claim that this process, makes low fat, indeed more fattening. The sugar content in low-fat dairy is also concerning and also contributes to weight gain (it is sugar, not fat that makes us fat). Can you see the irony? For more detail on fat, you can read this post here.
Also, full fat just tastes better and because you are more satisfied and full, you will not eat as much or have seconds (fat fills you up, sugar does not and stimulates you to want more).
My favorite brands
- I love the very decadent Barambah Organics full-fat natural yogurt. It is made with non-homogenised dairy and is very rich and creamy; it should appeal to most (I want to write especially children, however, my daughter doesn’t like it and prefers a tangier yogurt).
- My children’s favorite is Paris Creek Biodynamic Swiss style natural yogurt and from a health perspective, it is perfect (though it is quite sour). It has no milk solids in it so it is quite a runny yogurt. It’s also made with non-homogenised milk. This would be the best choice for those that struggle with lactose intolerance but want to eat yogurt.
- Meridith Farm Sheep yogurt is also amazing.
- In the supermarket aisle, the only brand I consider is Jalna Biodynamic full-fat natural yogurt or Five am natural yogurt.
Making the change from flavored to natural
If you or your children dislike the taste of natural yogurt, then you will need to flavor it yourself. Here are some suggestions:
- Start mixing the yogurt your kids like, with the natural yogurt you want your kids to eat. Do it gradually and before you know it, you may have converted them to love natural yogurt. I accidently bought a slightly sweetened Greek yogurt last week and thought my kids would love it. Nope, they are so used to unsweetened, they refused to eat it.
- Try adding fresh or frozen berries.
- Cinnamon or vanilla powder is a delicious edition.
- Mix through mashed banana for banana lovers.
- Add stewed fruit.
- If you have too, add a little raw honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup. If you are converting sugar-addicted children, then just add as much honey or rice malt syrup as you need to get them to eat it, but work on reducing the amount over time until their palate has adjusted.
- Find a flavor or way of eating it they like and go with it.
- Also, try different brands of natural yogurt. The taste and consistency vary significantly. You may need to try a few brands before you find ‘the one’!
Ways I use natural yogurt
- Instead of mayonnaise.
- Mix it with tahini and lemon juice and drizzle over meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or a salad. This also makes a delicious dressing for coleslaw.
- Use it in curries to make them less spicy for kids.
- Make a marinade – add some Morrocan or Indian spices, garlic and or ginger to yogurt and coat your meat. Delicious!
- Make a smoothie. I always add natural yogurt to every smoothie I make.
- Make some frozen yogurt popsicles- I blend it up, like a smoothie and pop it into a mold for the kids. This is also a great way to use up leftover smoothies.
- For dessert – the only dessert my kids have (just occasionally) is natural yogurt and frozen berries. They serve it themselves and then sit and stir it like crazy until it forms a frozen yogurt – better than any iPod app that’s for sure!
- Make a dip with it (tzatziki).
- Add it to soups to make them creamy.
- In fact, in most recipes you can substitute cream for yogurt.
Some of the dishes where you’ll find real yogurt…
Note – I’ve posted instructions for making your own yogurt in the comments below.