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Yogurt Goes Gourmet

Friendly Bacteria a Bonus

Yogurt’s live and active cultures contribute friendly bacteria that promote digestive health by settling an upset stomach, promoting regularity, and possibly boosting immunity says Jo Ann Hattner, RD, author of Gut Insight.

Look for the "Live and Active Cultures" seal to be sure you are getting yogurts that have not been heat-treated after the fermentation process (similar to beer, wine, and cheese), which kills most of the beneficial active cultures.

People with limited lactose tolerance may tolerate yogurts with live and active cultures because the fermentation process helps to digest some of the lactose, making it more digestible.

Sorting Through the Yogurt Varieties

  • Greek yogurt, with its thicker, richer texture, is the latest newcomer garnering lots of attention. Choose nonfat or low-fat Greek style yogurt that contains up to twice the amount of protein and about half the sugar of regular yogurts.
  • Sheep milk yogurt is another option claiming to be richer and creamier than cow’s milk yogurt with double the calcium and more protein. Ideal for cooking, it stands up to higher temperatures without breaking down like other yogurts.
  • Goat milk yogurt is considered one of the most popular worldwide. Typically made from whole goat milk, it has a softer texture with a slightly sweet and salty flavor. It's lower in calcium and usually higher in fat, but you can lower the fat content by skimming the cream off the top.
  • Soy yogurt made from soybeans has no saturated fat or cholesterol, is lower in protein, and is usually fortified with calcium to compete with cow’s milk yogurt.

Best bets, experts say, are plain, low-fat varieties topped with your own fruit, nuts, whole-grain cereal, or granola.

Easy Yogurt Recipes

Choose your favorite variety of lower-fat, low-sugar yogurt, or make your own.

Serve yogurt for breakfast or snacks as a parfait layered with fruit and whole-grain cereal or top it with a touch of honey, pomegranate seeds, and chopped walnuts. Fruit smoothies made with fresh or frozen blueberries, a banana, a few ice cubes, and low-fat plain yogurt is another great snack or on-the-go breakfast.

Boost nutrients in your recipes by substituting equal amounts of nonfat Greek-style yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise in salads, dips, casseroles, and more. Add plain yogurt to marinades to help tenderize meat. Make the Greek sauce Tzatsiki to serve with fish or chicken by adding chopped cucumber and mint to Greek-style plain fat free yogurt.

Sweeten plain low-fat yogurt with crushed pineapple and top it with coconut for a pina colada dessert. Top a baked apple with low-fat yogurt mixed with apple pie spice.

There are so many ways to enjoy yogurt, limited only by your imagination and creativity.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

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