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I discovered yogurt decades ago in college. It wasn’t really an “in” thing until then. I quickly learned to love it and tried all flavors. Back then Dannon was about the only kind in the store. As it became popular, more and more brands appeared.
In my 20’s I started reading about healthy eating and learning about something called “probiotics.” I started looking for yogurt with “live” culture and trying to eat healthy. Many brands are full of thickening agents, artificial colors and flavors and yucky preservatives. Best to steer clear of those. I would buy a large container of plain yogurt and make a small container with vanilla flavoring, fruit and/or honey to take for lunch many days of the week.
Now the catch phrase to remember is “grass-fed.” For some years, that phrase made me think of beef for dinner. Then again I read more and learned that “grass-fed” dairy products are healthier for us. It has a more healthful balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Grass-fed yogurt is creamy, luscious and delicious and contains active cultures. There are subtle differences in flavor with herbal top notes. Be sure to look for yogurt marked “100% grass-fed.” There are some brands that say “grass-fed” and it only means at some point in their lives, the cows had grass. It does not guarantee that there was no “industrial farming” practices. When cows are allowed room to roam and graze on grass they naturally leave manure. Manure is rich in nitrogen, an organic compound that is necessary for soil health. Healthy soil produces healthy grass which in turn feeds the cows and helps prevent soil erosion and cleans the air by sequestering excess carbon from the atmosphere. My favorite local grower sells pecans raised by a friend in Georgia. Her grass-fed cattle munch grass around the pecan trees and fertilize the trees. Result is healthy pecan trees with bumper crops.
I began to look at organic grass-fed yogurt and milk. One brand is Organic Valley. Organic Valley isn’t a “corporation” – it’s a cooperative of family farmers whose values include organic farming practices, welfare of the animals, and sustainable grazing. The average herd size in the cooperative is about 71 cows (with 1,618 dairy farmers in the cooperative). Another brand is Dreaming Cows. Their yogurt is made in Jumping Gully Dairy, one of three family owned, grass based, New Zealand-style rotational grazing dairies. Located in Southern Georgia, their cows graze year round on lush green pastures. My sister’s favorite yogurt is Stoneyfield which began as an organic farming school in New Hampshire. Now it represents a huge network of food producers made up of hundreds of organic family farms, thousands of organic cows, and over 200,000 organic acres. No matter where you live, seek out organic dairy producers and support them. Yes, organic does cost more, but I think it’s worth it for our health and our planet. If in doubt regarding a brand, go to the company’s website and read about who they are and how they practice farming.
Health Benefits of Yogurt
Health benefits of yogurt range from protecting against osteoporosis to relieving irritable bowel disease and aiding digestion, but these depend on the type of yogurt consumed. Added sugar and processing can make some yogurt products unhealthy. Yogurt starts as fresh milk or cream. It is often first pasteurized, then fermented with various live bacteria cultures, and incubated at a specific temperature to encourage bacteria growth. The culture ferments the lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. This produces lactic acid, which gives yogurt its distinctive flavor.
The science-based health benefits of natural yogurt include:
- Rich in important nutrients like calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium
- High in protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving)
- Some varieties may benefit digestive health, “probiotics”
- Strengthen your immune system
- Protect against osteoporosis
6 Ways to Use Plain Yogurt
I. Yogurt, Granola, & Fruit Breakfast
Of course the easiest way to eat yogurt is plain out of the container. I love yogurt with honey (1 tablespoon per cup of yogurt), fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and/or granola. You can’t go wrong with this breakfast or snack. For fresh fruit, look for fruits of the season such as oranges right now, or the ever faithful banana or apple. In the dead of winter, use frozen or dried berries. If you don’t make your own granola, look for one with whole organic grain and lower fat and sugar levels.
For a fun snack for kids and everyone else, slice an apple in half. Core it. Add yogurt, granola, and fruit. Voila! Yogurt Apple Bowls.
II. Add to a smoothie
No matter what kind of smoothie you make, adding yogurt adds proteins, nutrients and creamy flavor. It’s great in a green smoothie or a fruit smoothie. One of my favorite breakfast smoothies is a blend of frozen banana and strawberries with yogurt, a touch of vanilla and honey, and lots of ice cubes. A frozen treat that’s healthy for you. I put a handful of baby spinach in most smoothies. I’ve mentioned before the research linking spinach to healthy bones. With all the fruit and yogurt, you don’t even taste it!
Breakfast Banana Smoothie
Breakfast Banana Smoothie
- 1 sliced frozen banana
- 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
- 1/2 cup optional baby spinach
- 6 oz cup of grass-fed yogurt
- 1 tsp honey
- 3/4 cup ice cubes
- Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor
- Blend until smooth and creamy
- Serve immediately
III. Make a dip for veggies
Decades ago when Hidden Valley Ranch’s ranch dressing was the latest food trend, I bought the little packets of dressing mix and added plain yogurt to it. It was a hit at multiple parties over the decades. Then I began adding my own herbs to yogurt to make a tasty dip for veggies or a thick salad dressing. Try using plain yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise in your favorite recipes for less fat and calories. A typical serving of sour cream has significantly fewer nutrients and more fat than a 1-cup serving of Greek yogurt.
IV. Make a creamy dessert: Strawberry Banana Frozen Yogurt
Frozen bananas and other fruits make a great blended frozen treat. Add some yogurt for great flavor and nutrition and you elevate it. This easy recipe is from Super Healthy Kids. You can process frozen fruit with yogurt in a blender or food processor, and eat it like soft serve within minutes. For a harder ice cream version, place back in the freezer. For a nuttier flavor, add a spoonful of almond butter.
V. Build a parfait
Start with honey yogurt and fresh fruit to build a fruit parfait. One of my most popular posts in 2017, was Tangerine Yogurt Dream, This tasty dish works as breakfast, snack, and even a dessert. Layer the tangerine sections with honey yogurt mixed with tangerine juice. For a fancy dessert version, garnish with nuts and cherry sauce. It’s so good!
No time to cook and company appears? Layer crushed cookies or graham crackers, yogurt whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Tasty and easy and you never turned on the oven! The fresh tangy, lighter whipped cream is a lively and effective foil to sugar.
VI. Add a dollop to soups, stews, chili, waffles or pancakes
There is something wonderful when you eat a dish that’s both savory and sweet. Blend frozen strawberries, a little maple syrup, and yogurt and top your favorite waffles or pancakes. Love pumpkin or squash soup? Add a dollop of plan yogurt to the bowl with a handful of seeds or nuts for added nutrition and flavor.
Let your imagination go wild as you find new ways to use yogurt in your cooking. Thanks for visiting!
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