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Words of Wellness-Going Greek - March 27, 2013

By: Kate Adams

Dietitian at On With Life

Determining if a food is a good part of a balanced diet is nearly impossible with clever marketing and always changing recommendations. Case in point: yogurt. All types of yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc and Vitamins B6 and B12, however not all are created equally.

Regular yogurt has on average 110 calories and 7 grams of protein per serving. Many regular yogurts are very high in sugar, especially ‘fruit on the bottom’ varieties, looking at the ingredient list, you may find more sugar than fruit.  Many contain thickeners, stabilizers, processed sweeteners and artificial colorings. Very low-calorie yogurts tend to be the worst culprits when it comes to these ingredients.

Greek yogurt tends to be thicker and creamier because it contains less water than regular yogurt. This also gives it a tangier flavor which may not appeal to everyone. One cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt averages 80 calories and 13 grams of protein. Flavored varieties will have more calories as they have more sugar. Keep the sugar content to a minimum by sweetening plain Greek yogurt yourself with agave, maple syrup honey or fresh fruit. The big difference compared to regular yogurt is the greater amount of protein and less artificial ingredients. Greek yogurt is typically tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant, this is because much of the lactose is removed when the yogurt is strained. Plain Greek yogurt also makes an excellent substitute for sour cream on tacos or in dips and spreads as well as for mayonnaise in potato salad and coleslaw.

I’ve found that texture varies from brand to brand so you may have to try a few before you find the one you like. My favorite brands include: Chobani, Fage and Oikos.

Probiotics are found in all types of yogurt (Greek and regular). They are live microorganisms that keep your digestive system working properly and help to breakdown food.  Consuming probiotics helps to keep your gut full of the good bacteria and outnumber the bad guys – the ones that cause illness. Yogurt is the most common source of probiotics but it is also found in some cheeses, fermented dairy products and kefir (a cultured milk beverage that tastes similar to yogurt, only thinner). The most commonly seen probiotics on labels are L. acidophilus, L. casei, B. bifidum and B. Longum. Don’t bother paying extra or looking for special packaging, all yogurts contain these good guys! Taking extra probiotics is especially important while on antibiotics. Unfortunately antibiotics whip out all types of bacteria, good and bad, so consuming yogurt can help to rebuild your healthy gut flora.

Bottom Line: Go Greek… more protein and less junk!