The healthy bacteria added in the fermentation of milk may aide digestion assisting in the utilization of nutrients from other foods. Often people who have difficulty digesting lactose are able to comfortably digest dairy yogurt as much of the lactose has been turned into lactic acid as a natural occurrence of the healthy bacteria. Sheep and goat’s milk yogurt are reported to be even easier for some. Dairy yogurt is naturally high in protein, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin D and sheep and goat’s milk yogurt contain even greater levels of some nutrients than cow’s milk yogurt.
Plant-based yogurts such as coconut, almond and soy, are also highly nutritious yet dairy-free. Coconut milk contains fiber but is higher in fat than dairy yogurts. Almond and soy milk yogurts contain fiber but are lower in protein and calcium than dairy yogurts.
Step 2: Pick the Style – Traditional, Cream-top, Greek, Icelandic, Russian, French or Kefir
- Traditional – Thin with a naturally sour taste
- Cream-top – Made with un-homogenized milk and a layer rises forming a rich yogurt cream on top
- Greek – Removes the whey through straining and leaves a thick consistency and a tangy taste with a higher protein content than other styles (be cautious as some marketed Greek style yogurts have added thickeners)
- Icelandic – Similar to Greek style, the whey is removed through straining leaving a thick consistency and tangy taste with less sugar
- Russian – Has a mild taste and gentle consistency while being a bit creamier and thicker than traditional yogurt
- French – The ratios of the healthy bacteria are different than traditional yogurt leaving a milder yogurt flavor
- Kefir – Contains more liquid and is a consumed as a drink
Step 3: Pick your Punch – Plain, Fruit, Flavored, “Smoothie” or Tube
Yogurt is a healthy food that is naturally high in sugar but does not taste sweet. The lactose that is fermented is actually a sugar represented on the nutrition label. On average, plain yogurt that has no added sugar has about 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugar in the form of lactose for every 6 ounce serving. Adding sugar in the form of fruit, fruit juice or sugar can make this otherwise healthy choice a treat. Yogurt smoothies and tubes often contain fruit or flavored yogurt plus added sugar. When selecting yogurt know that fruit, flavored, smoothies and tube yogurt contain an average of 26 grams of sugar in every 6 ounce serving, approximately two tablespoons of added sugar.
Step 4: Pick Local – St. Benoit, Redwood Hill Farms, Bellwether Farms, Wallaby Organics, Clover Stornetta, Straus Family Creamery and Pavel’s
For Customers of Paradise Market by Jen Martin, RHN
Registered Holistic Nutritionist & Nutrition Consultant
Jen’s Picks – Plain Icelandic yogurt because it is high protein, low in sugar and has a thick and creamy consistency that tastes great with fresh fruit. She also regularly uses plain Kefir from Green Valley Organics in smoothies and Greek Yogurt from Straus with raw pistachios and honey for dessert.
What to do with Plain Yogurt
Dressings: Yogurt adds flavor and creaminess to a dressing. Use it in place of buttermilk in your favorite recipes. Choose a traditional or Russian style yogurt for thinner dressing.
Dips: Mix with any flavors, herbs or spices to create a delicious dip for vegetables, fruits and other party platters. Choose Greek or Icelandic style for a thicker consistency.
Trying to get your kids to eat more veggies? Try mixing plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt with a packet of Simply Organics Ranch dip. Even if they use the vegetable stick as a spoon for the dip you can feel confident that the snack is still a healthy choice!
Marinades: The acid in yogurt can tenderize meat making it a good ingredient for marinades. Traditional style and Russian style yogurt are thin and well suited. Depending on your recipe, kefir may be another good choice as it is contains the most liquid.
Blended: All styles of plain yogurt are great for blending. When making a fruit or savory smoothie, kefir is a good choice as additional liquid may not be needed. You can also make yogurt based freezer desserts using plain Greek or Icelandic yogurt.
To make yogurt popsicles, add 1 C plain yogurt with 1 C chopped fresh fruit to a blender and puree. Fill an ice cube tray with the mixture. Freeze for 5 minutes, remove and add the sticks, then freeze again for about an hour and serve.
Soups: Plain yogurt is an excellent alternative to other forms of dairy in many soup recipes. Substituting yogurt can often reduce the fat and calories and increase the protein while improving digestion, all without sacrificing the creamy texture and taste.
Baked: Muffins, cakes and breads bake well with a little added yogurt as it tends to add moisture to the mix.
Banana Berry Cupcakes
Ingredients: 2 C whole grain flour, 2 bananas, 1 C berries, 1 egg, ½ C honey, ½ C plain yogurt, 2 Tbsp avocado, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Instructions: Preheat oven to 325. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a food processor puree the bananas, egg, avocado, vanilla, honey and yogurt. Mix in the puree with the flour and fold in the berries. Pour batter into a cupcake pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Snacks: Add a little plain yogurt to a bowl of fresh fruit with nuts and a natural sweetener such as honey, or sprinkle a bit of fresh granola on top to make a protein packed snack.
Desserts: Add a dollop of yogurt to a fresh fruit crisp or favorite baked treat to add a bit of creaminess.