Lovin’ My ‘Gurt!

yogurt with fresh fruit and granolaI love dairy products, especially yogurt. I didn’t like it as a kid, but now I eat it every single day. I enjoy it mostly for breakfast, but sometimes I even have it for dinner with some fruit and granola added to it (Yea, chefs have “no cook” days, too!)  I also incorporate yogurt in my recipes and because it satisfies me between meals, I also eat it as a snack. I bet you can tell I really, really like it!

Sure it tastes good but yogurt is also good for us because, depending on the type you buy, it can be a powerhouse source for a type of good, active bacteria  (probiotics) that benefits our bodies. It’s also rich in protein, calcium, Vitamins B 12 and B 2, potassium and magnesium.

Because it’s a dairy product, it can help prevent osteoporosis, which is something we’re never to young or old to be concerned about. And, because it can contain probiotics (good, active bacteria) it aids the digestive track and certain gastrointestinal conditions, like lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhea, and inflammatory bowl disease.  Let’s just put it this way–the probiotics in active yogurt can give your whole immune system a boost

When I stop at the refrigerated case of the store, I’m amazed to see just how many brands and varieties of yogurt there are. In fact, it can be overwhelming! I make it easier on myself and pass on the brands that are loaded with sugar and milk fat. As hard as it can be, I also try to ignore the varieties that include cookies, candy sprinkles and sugared cereals as toppings. These extras can turn a healthy food into one that is not so healthy. Personally, I enjoy Greek yogurt a lot because of its richness and thick consistency. Like regular yogurt, you can buy a flavored-variety with fruit already added, or you can buy the plain version and add your own fruit and other healthy stuff to it.  Greek yogurt also now comes low-fat and zero fat varieties (just like regular yogurt.)  So many choices! My advice when shopping for yogurt for you and your family is to read the label before putting a certain kind in your cart. You’ll learn a lot like whether it’s made from whole milk, reduced-fat milk or skim milk, or if it’s loaded with way too much sugar. (Most people don’t realize that when the fat content is lowered in certain foods, they add more sugar, so watch for that.) And this is really important: Make sure that yogurt contains active cultures; most labels will have a graphic that says “live and active cultures”. These contain the probiotics that are so good for you so put those in your cart. And also check out the vitamin D content.  Lots of varieties now have vitamin D “added” which is a good thing.

If you haven’t had yogurt before, give it a try. If you’ve had it before and made a snap judgment that you don’t like it, give it another go around. Start out with a low or non-fat, fruity version, with little or no sugar.  If you’re already enjoying yogurt, expand on the ways you’re eating it. It’s not a breakfast-time only food! Yogurt can be added to smoothies, eaten as a snack or used as a dip for fresh fruit. In the evening I like to add a little bit of coffee and a little chocolate syrup to it and sometimes I add orange marmalade to a container of it, and mix in some fresh orange sections along with some flaxseeds for an extra burst of fiber and omega 3s. I also use yogurt in marinade recipes, and use it in place of sour cream, oil or butter in baking recipes. I even top my baked potato with plain, non-fat yogurt and add fresh herbs, spices and steamed veggies as topper. (Who needs the butter and sour cream?) And, instead of ice cream, I love frozen yogurt!

Here a very simple marinade made with yogurt. It’s great with chicken and pork and I even use it on some types of  fish.

Chef Isabella’s  Awesomely Good Yogurt Marinade