Yogurt is arguably the oldest health food. The Egyptians called yogurt and honey the foods of the gods while Abraham was said to owe his long life to his regular diet of yogurt. At the turn of the century, the Noble prize winning scientist Russian scientist Elie Metchnikoff suggested that it was the special bacteria in yogurt that was behind the long and healthy lives of yogurt loving Bulgarian peasants.
While it sounds like a plot point of a 19th century novel, yogurt can actually be a genuinely healthy food. It is super rich in protein, calcium and a host of B vitamins. Many people who are lactose intolorant can eat yogurt without problems, since the lactose is concerted into lactic acid by the same bacteria which convert milk into yogurt. These bacteria, known as lactobaccillus are also said to improve digestive health.
Modern yogurt production has taken to adding super strong bacteria that can survive the digestive process. Called probiotics, they are kind of like the opposite of antibiotics which kill bacteria. These beneficial bacteria are said to relieve constipation, allergies, stomach ulcers and irritable bowel disease– but the reseach backing these claims may be considered a bit thin.
Not All Yogurts are Equal
Researching this topic I actually counted over 150 different types of yogurt at the Fairway market. To narrow down the options to the best choices, look for fat-free, plain yogurt with “live active cultures”. This means that they contain the right type and quantity of bacteria which deliever the digestive health benefits. Many yogurts are so processed and high in sugar that you might as well be eating chocolate pudding. Plain unsweetend yogurt has five grams of protein and just 60 calories– about equal to the nutrient pay load of an egg without the cholesterol.
WHile many healthy foods like flaxseed or cranberries have limited useage, yogurt is so versatile its ridonkulous. It was be used as a beverage, dip , topping, folded into baked goods or stirred into a sauce. Anywhere you use sour cream ( hello Paula Deen) yogurt can be a low fat high protein alternative. My current favorite yogurt is now Greek style yogurt. Even the fat-free versions are rich, creamy and utterly satisfying.
And be sure to save a few teaspoons of your yogurt for an instant face mask. Plain yogurt is rich in lactic acid, that amazing alpha hydroxy acid which can encourage cell turnover and collagen growth. Just dab it on during breakfast and rinse off 10 minutes later in the shower. It will make your skin softer with a pink glow. Seriously.