So why is yogurt so popular? Well, it's packed with protein and calcium and if you choose a variety made with lower-fat milk, fairly low in calories. Yogurt is also a good source of riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin B12. Easier to digest that milk, yogurt may be tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant.
Many types of yogurt, including frozen yogurt, may be low in fat but high in sugar and calories. Check the label carefully to see how much added sugar and how many calories you're getting.
All yogurt is pretty much made the same way - by curdling milk with purified cultures of two special bacteria -- Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. This causes the milk sugar (lactose) to turn into lactic acid. The milk is inoculated with the cultures, then warmed in an incubator for several hours; during this time the yogurt thickens and develops its distinctive tart flavor.
In some types of yogurt, the bacteria survive the processing; in other cases, the milk is pasteurized again after the cultures are added, and the bacteria are destroyed. Many frozen yogurts are pasteurized after culturing also. Check the ingredient listing for "active yogurt cultures" or "live cultures" to be sure you are getting healthy lactic acid bacteria.
Yogurt is produced in fat-free, low-fat and whole-milk versions. In order to thicken or stabilize yogurt and increase its shelf life, some brands of yogurt have added gelatin, starches, pectin or gums.
Make sure the containers you choose aren't leaking, crushed or damaged. All yogurt that you find in the grocery store should have a best before date. Be sure to check the date and select the latest-dated carton, tub or cups that you find.
Keep yogurt in its original container in the refrigerator. An unopened container of yogurt with live cultures should keep for about 10 days past the best before date; pasteurized yogurt will keep even longer. However, check to see that the yogurt looks and smells fresh when you open it.
If you're really keen you can make your own yogurt. However, for most of us purchasing it at the grocery store is the most convenient.
To make yogurt cheese:
You don't need anything fancy to make good yogurt cheese. Line a colander or large strainer with a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Place the colander or strainer in a large bowl. Spoon yogurt into the lined colander. Cover and place in the refrigerator and let drip for 24 hours to form yogurt cheese. Two and a half cups of yogurt yields about one cup of yogurt cheese.
Use yogurt instead of:
Mayonnaise. Blend 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard with 1 cup plain yogurt, salt and pepper to taste and use instead of mayonnaise in tuna or chicken salad. Add herbs for even more flavor.
As a base. For a streamlined base for soups, casseroles or cooked sauces, add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour to each cup of plain yogurt.
Sour Cream or Buttermilk. Replace the sour cream in many cakes with plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt. Add 1 teaspoon baking soda to dry ingredients with leavening called for in the recipe.
Yogurt is another one of those foods that can blend in just about anywhere - smoothies and other refreshing drinks, baked goods, pasta salads, dressings, sauces, in marinades for poultry, on baked potatoes, and more.
Healthy Ways to Eat More Yogurt Everyday:
- Stir a large spoonful of plain low-fat yogurt into hot oatmeal. Finish off with fresh fruit.
- Toss fresh blueberries into plain yogurt and top with a drizzle of honey.
- Top pancakes and waffles with a spoonful of plain yogurt, toasted walnuts, banana slices and maple syrup.
- Plain or lower-fat fruit yogurt gives your morning smoothie a calcium and protein boost.
- Toss shredded raw carrots, drained or crushed pineapple and plain low-fat yogurt for a refreshing salad.
- Mix plain yogurt with Dijon mustard. Use with cooled, cooked pasta, vegetables. Add chicken, turkey or tuna for a filling main dish.
- Drop a dollop of plain yogurt into tomato soup or traditional borscht.
- Use yogurt cheese mixed with fresh herbs
- Spoon plain yogurt onto sliced fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions for a refreshing start to a warm evening meal.
- Top baked potatoes with yogurt cheese and snipped chives.
- Add a dollop of yogurt to desserts such as apple crisp and puddings.
- Use yogurt in soups and sauces.
- Swirl vanilla or plain low-fat yogurt into applesauce or other strained fruits for a nutritious, kid-friendly snack.
- Yogurt in a tube is great for those on-the-run days.
- Mix yogurt cheese with fruit juice or summer berries for a sweet dip. Serve with fresh fruit pieces for dunking.
FYI: Yogurt is of Turkish origin. It is also a traditional food in India, Arabic countries and central Asia.
Did you know? Kefir, a slightly sour brew of fermented milk, is reminiscent in both taste and texture of a liquid yogurt. Originally it was made with camel's milk - today it's more commonly produced from cow's milk. Young kefir is frothy and has a sour taste. "Strong" kefir is a fizzy drink containing about two and a half percent alcohol. Kefir is thought by many to be the secret to a long life