There’s a sensation in the dairy case, a rock star in the food world that’s taking supermarkets by storm.
It’s Greek yogurt, and as one of the fastest-growing foods on the market, this ‘new’ yogurt – though it’s based on a centuries-old yogurt-making technique – racked up more than $1.6 billion in sales in 2012, according to a report released by Packaged Facts.
Greek yogurt’s appeal lies in its creamy consistency and health benefits. It’s made like traditional yogurt but strained to remove the whey. The end product is creamier and thicker – and it also means it’s packed with protein – twice the protein of traditional yogurt. Losing the whey also means less sugar.
What’s not to like?
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor, author of the forthcoming cookbook “The Greek Yogurt Kitchen” (Grand Central Publishing 2014), listed Greek yogurt’s top five benefits in a recent story for US News & World Report.
No. 1: Digestive Health
One of the most touted health benefits of Greek yogurt is the probiotics it contains. These healthy bacteria help promote a healthy gut. Your digestive tract naturally contains lots of different types of bacteria – some good, helping you digest food, and some potentially harmful. Eating Greek yogurt with probiotics helps increase the good bacteria in your gut. And the more good bacteria you have, the less room there is for the bad varieties to grow.
No. 2: Blood Pressure
One of the best ways to help control high blood pressure is through diet, specifically the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The DASH diet is low in fat, and includes eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and two to three servings of low-fat or non-fat daily products every day. Dairy foods, including Greek yogurt, are an important source of calcium, magnesium and potassium, which is believed to help lower high blood pressure.
No. 3: Weight Management
Numerous studies have also found a link between eating dairy and weight loss. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared 300 men and women who followed either a low-fat, Mediterranean or low-carb diet over a 2-year period. Regardless of the type of diet they followed, those who ate the most dairy lost approximately 12 pounds more than folks who ate a low amount of dairy foods.
Greek yogurt stands out, among other things, for containing double the amount of protein compared with traditional yogurt. Since protein takes the body longer to digest, it can help make you feel and stay full for longer. This is especially important to help curb your appetite between regular meals when trying to lose weight. And when you do get hungry, it is a healthy way to help minimize those extra cravings.
No. 4: Bone Health
Greek yogurt provides important nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and protein, which work together to promote strong, healthy bones. Unfortunately, many people focus on just calcium and turn to over-the-counter supplements in order to meet their calcium needs. However, Greek yogurt provides a complete suite of nutrients not found in calcium tablets alone. A study of postmenopausal women conducted at Washington University School of Medicine concluded that taking in calcium directly from dairy foods, as opposed to supplements, has a more positive impact on bone health.
No. 5: Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is a sensitivity that occurs when the body does not produce enough lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose, the natural sugar in milk. .
The symptoms of lactose intolerance are triggered by the digestive tract and may include bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. People with lactose intolerance should, however, keep milk and dairy products in their diet, according to recommendations by both the National Institutes of Health and National Medical Association. Further, studies have found that folks with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 1 cup of milk at a meal, which is equal to 12 grams of lactose. It is recommended that those with lactose intolerance start introducing lactose slowly into the diet and begin with lower lactose-containing foods. Greek yogurt is a lower lactose food, with a 6-ounce container of nonfat plain Greek yogurt providing only 4 grams of lactose. The lower amount of lactose found in Greek yogurt is due to the straining process, making this rich, creamy food a lactose-intolerant friendly one. As a bonus, the probiotics found in Greek yogurt also help breakdown the lactose sugar, making it easier to digest.
So go ahead, and enjoy the delectable dairy dish that is Greek yogurt– millions of fans can’t be wrong!