Welcome back to The Naturopathic KitchenLiving a healthy life begins in the kitchen. This week we will focus on the well-known yet underutilized, yogurt. Yogurt is a simple way to add creaminess, protein, probiotics, and a number of health benefits to your dishes. We will finish up with two amazing recipes for you to try!

Yogurt 101

Yogurt as we know it today is a thickened, tart milk product. The term “yogurt” stems from Turkish origins, from the verb “yogurmak” meaning “to thicken,” which may lead one to believe that Turkey is the origin of this delicious and creamy substance. Although the origins of yogurt are not singular and yogurt can be found in nearly every agricultural based society that kept livestock for milk, most historical accounts date the advent of yogurt to around 6000BC by the Neolithic people of Central Asia.1 These herdsmen milked their animals and stored the milk in a traveling container (usually a preserved animal stomach) where it sometimes became thick and tart but maintained freshness and suitability for consumption for a long period of time. Yogurt became an essential part of the diet for many Asian civilizations. In fact, history reveals that Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, along with his enormous and powerful armies essentially lived on yogurt.1

Modern, industrialized production of yogurt is attributed to Isaac Carasso of Barcelona, who in 1919 began the yogurt company “Danone” in honor of his son, “Little Daniel.” If this name looks and sounds familiar, it should. In the 1940s, the very same “Little Daniel” now all grown up, along with Juan Metzger, acquired a small yogurt factory located in the Bronx, New York and the Dannon yogurt company was born. The yogurt business was slow to take off until they introduced yogurt with fruit at the bottom.1 Today, yogurt is an over $8 billion a year industry in the US alone.2

Where does yogurt come from? Where can I find it?

Yogurt is made from combining milk, typically from a cow source. Other types such as goat, sheep, water buffalo, and even camel are used along with milk alternatives like coconut milk, nut milks, hemp milk and soy milk (though these require different processing due to the absence of lactose) with beneficial bacteria. Using different milk sources impacts the flavor and texture of the yogurt produced. Additionally, US law requires that two bacterial culture types be present in order for a product to be labeled as yogurt, Lactobacillus bulgarians and Streptococcus thermophilus, though other beneficial bacteria are also often added such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifido-bacteria to support additional health benefits.3 The purpose of the bacteria is to ferment the sugars in milk (lactose) to produce lactic acid, which causes the milk to thicken into the soft gel that is characteristic of yogurt.

Yogurt is available in a variety of types and flavors. Health food stores may carry yogurt made from the more unique milks and milk alternatives. There are a number of different types of yogurt that are available on the market- set style (this is the kind with fruit at the bottom and yogurt on the top), Swiss or Custard style (has the fruit mixed in already), Greek style (a thicker, protein rich variety), as well as low fat, fat free, lite, frozen and drinkable varieties. Greek style is among the most popular of the yogurt sub-types. Greek yogurt involves slightly different processing that creates a yogurt with twice the protein and half the carbohydrates as regular yogurt.4 The process is quite similar to any other yogurt but when it comes to the straining process, a third round of straining is added instead of the standard two rounds. This process removes excess liquid whey, as well as more lactose and sugar, thus giving the finished product its characteristic thick and creamy consistency.5

How does yogurt help my health?

Yogurt has been characterized as a nutrient dense food, linked to healthy dietary patterns.6 Intake of high quality yogurt products contribute to intakes of protein, calcium, bioactive lipids and several other micronutrients. Additionally, the fermentation process is thought to be a source of bioactive peptides, enhancing the beneficial effects of yogurt on health over non-fermented dairy products. A healthy dietary pattern has been identified as a pillar for the prevention of weight gain and cardio-metabolic disease. Epidemiologic studies suggest that yogurt consumption is linked to healthy dietary patterns, lifestyles, and reduced risk of cardio-metabolic disease, particularly type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.7

What medical conditions/symptoms is yogurt good for?

When should yogurt be avoided?

Outside of an outright allergy or sensitivity, yogurt is generally recognized as safe when used as a food. Even those who are lactose intolerant may be able to enjoy yogurt. Because of the bacterial fermentation process, yogurt contains much lower lactose amounts than non-fermented dairy products like milk. Certain yogurt sub-types, like Greek yogurt may be even lower in lactose. It is important to read the nutrition and ingredient labels on yogurt carefully as some types have excessive sugar or contain artificial sweeteners.

Let’s try out yogurt with these delicious and nutritious recipes!

Greek Yogurt Curry Chicken Salad

INGREDIENTS

1 c organic plain Greek yogurt
1 t lime juice
3-4 t curry powder
3/4 t salt
pepper to taste
2 c shredded, cooked chicken
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/2 c grapes, cut in half
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 T raisins, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, lime juice, curry powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Add the chicken, green onions, slivered almonds, grapes, celery, and raisins (if using) to the dressing. Stir well to combine. Serve as a sandwich, over a bed of fresh salad greens, on cucumber rounds, or with pita chips and fresh chopped veggies. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Thank you to Belle of the Kitchen for this wonderful recipe.

Greek Yogurt Creamed Spinach

INGREDIENTS

3 T olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 c fresh spinach leaves
1/3 c full-fat Greek yogurt
a pinch of fresh dill chopped
fresh lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat olive oil in a pan over high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden in color. Add in spinach a handful at a time while stirring with a wooden spatula. Cook spinach for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and stir in the Greek yogurt and fresh dill. Serve with a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon.

Thank you to Real Greek Recipes for this amazing recipe.

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