Yogurt: Health Food or A Big, Expensive Lie?
It can be either, and the smart eater makes the right choices.
What exactly IS yogurt? An expensive way to drink milk? No, not necessarily. Yogurt, like cheese, is one of the world’s oldest processed foods. Plain yogurt is simply milk which has been heated to kill the microbes, blended with selected bacteria and allowed to ferment. Yes, it’s more expensive than drinking a glass of milk, but also a lot more interesting. And, for some people, it is easier to digest than milk, as the culture breaks down lactose which can mitigate lactose intolerance.
What about frozen yogurt? If you’re eating it because it is delicious, that’s fine. But, don’t indulge because you think it’s a health food. Frozen yogurts can be packed with as many calories as ice cream, or contain artificial colors and sweeteners which you may or may not want.
What makes it “Greek”? This yogurt is strained to eliminate some of the whey (liquid) so it is thicker and more concentrated than regular yogurt because it has a higher percentage of milk solids.
Fage lays claim to inventing Greek yogurt in a small shop in Athens in 1926, later growing a significant business in Greece and initiating imports to the United States in 1998. They were one of the first to start manufacturing in Upstate New York, whose dairies are new booming thanks to this craze.
How about those new “Probiotic” yogurts? Activia, for example, contains live cultures known as probiotics. There are health claims that these bacteria help in digestion and these products have a significant following, particularly among people with digestive disorders. Some additional yogurt brands (e.g. Chobani and Oikos) contain probiotics but don’t actively promote it; others do not (e.g. Fage).
Yogurt is incredibly versatile, and there are innumerable dishes around the world made with it. Interestingly, many internet recipes for centuries old dishes now specify using Greek yogurt, a testament to the how wildly popular this relatively new concept has become.
Some of myMEGusta’s favorite yogurt concoctions are:
Tzatziki – A traditional Greek sauce sauce made with grated cucumber, lemon, dill, used as a dip and in pita sandwiches such as gyros or souvlaki
Raita –A similar Indian dish which is wonderful accompanying hot foods: yogurt with cucumber, with seasonings such as mint, cumin, paprika or cayenne
Lassi – Another treat from India: yogurt blended with fruit, e.g. mango, with no need for sweetener if the fruit is ripe enough
“Fake” crème fraiche – Beat Greek yogurt until smooth and add a sweetener (try agave syrup!) to make a tangy fat-free dessert sauce, e.g. for berries, maybe adding cocoa or other flavorings