Yogurt is one of the world’s oldest foods, likely created by accident when lukewarm milk hooked up with bacteria and fermentation occurred. The process of yogurt making hasn’t changed much over the centuries, but increasingly, we’re appreciating yogurt not only for great taste and adaptability in the kitchen but also for its abundant health perks.
Yogurt is brimming with live active cultures, beneficial bacteria that boost immune and digestive health. Along with plenty of bone-building calcium, vitamin B12, potassium, zinc, and protein to help build and repair muscles, yogurt can be considered a superfood.
There are many types of yogurt on the market, but you want to steer clear of added sugars, colors and additives. Stick to plain and add your own personal touches. Here are some of the many forms of yogurt that are available. There is something for everyone.
Thick and smooth Greek yogurt has become a customer favorite. Greeks have been making an indulgent, no-stir treat they call yiaourti by straining out the liquid whey that pools on top of yogurt. This increases the overall concentration of yogurt in the container, making a thicker product with up to twice the amount of protein, about 20 g per cup.
Strained yogurt not only contains less sodium than regular yogurt, but also has fewer carbohydrates, and therefore less lactose, the sugar in dairy products that makes some stomachs churn. Greek-style yogurt tends to hold up better than regular yogurt when heated. Also, due to its hearty texture and rich taste, it can be substituted for sour cream, milk, mayonnaise, and even crème fraise in recipes. I use Greek yogurt to make tzatziki, a Greek flavored yogurt dip that is great with veggies and meats such as salmon, lamb, and chicken. Here is a quick recipe.
In a food processor add the juice of 1 lemon, 1 garlic clove, 2 seeded and diced cucumbers, 1 tbsp fresh dill, and ground black pepper and sea salt to taste. Process until well combined, then stir in 3 cups of plain Greek yogurt.
Soy yogurt is made by combining soy milk with vegan bacterial strains. It may have a slight beany taste that puts off some people, but it lacks lactose, making it a great choice for those who are lactose intolerant. Unlike dairy yogurt, the soy version is naturally low in saturated fat and contains energy-boosting iron. It also contains phytoestrogens, estrogen-like compounds that may improve bone health and offer a number of heart-health perks, such as keeping cholesterol levels in check.
Two separate 2009 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that soy consumption was protective against prostate and breast cancer. Large amounts of sugar may be added to cover the unmistakable soy flavor. When possible, choose lower-sugar brands, as well as certified organic, which use non-genetically modified soybeans.
Kefir is made by adding kefir grains (mixture of yeasts and bacteria) to milk. Studies suggest that kefir has unique types of beneficial bacterial cultures that break down the sugars in milk, making it a possible dairy option for those who are lactose intolerant.
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found that kefir may halt the spread of breast cancer cells. Kefir’s ability to reduce inflammation, allergies, cholesterol, blood pressure, and diarrhea has been demonstrated in research circles, as well. It also makes a great post-workout drink.
Goat Milk Yogurt
A good smooth goat yogurt should not taste much different than yogurt made with cow’s milk. The fermentation of goat yogurt has been found to produce compounds that may help lower blood pressure. With similar nutritional profiles, the biggest difference between goat milk yogurt and its cow counterpart is digestibility. Goat’s milk has smaller fat and protein globules, making it easier to digest.
Sheep Milk Yogurt
Sheep’s milk has more solids than cow’s or goat’s milk, making the yogurt a rich, luxuriously thick product without the need for thickeners. It is also easier to tolerate for those sensitive to cow’s milk because its protein structure is different. Compared to cow or goat yogurt, sheep yogurt contains more protein, calcium, B vitamins and magnesium. Sheep’s milk also contains more fat, but most of it is heart-healthy unsaturated fat and short- and medium-chain saturated fat.
Photo from here, with thanks.