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Greek wisdom in the yogurt
This variety is packed with essential nutrients having varied restorative benefits if consumed on a regular basis, says Dr Saurabh Arora
There is drinkable yogurt, squeezable yogurt, Greek yogurt and one made from coconuts, soy, almonds, cashews, hemp and flax seeds in the market. However, the tangy taste and thick creaminess of Greek yogurt savoured by many stands out. It is making inroads into the country through various brands and might provide tough competition to the regular varieties in the near future. Only few know what goes inside this healthy yogurt. Traditionally made from sheep’s milk, it is a kind of strained yogurt from which the whey has been removed. As a result, the consistency becomes thicker and creamier, while retaining the distinct sour flavour. The solid yogurt is used in several Greek delicacies, including the famed Tzatziki dip, which is served with grilled meats. It’s industrial manufacture began in Greece in 1975.
What makes it standout from regular ones is the fact that Greek yogurt is packed with essential nutrients and has various health benefits if consumed on a regular basis — being rich in protein, B-vitamins, calcium and potassium. Probiotics, containing “good bacteria”, help to keep the gut in pristine health. A single serving of this wonder yogurt for breakfast can keep one fortified and fighting fit for the rest of the day. Moreover, the rich texture and flavours also appeals to health-conscious ones. Some of the major health benefits of it are discussed below to help one make an informed choice for switching from regular varities to Greek yogurt.
Rich in protein
Protein is essential for growth, repair, muscle building and maintenance of optimal health. As one gets older, the need for extra proteins to keep the skin healthy and capable of fighting off infections increases. A typical serving of it provides 15-20 gms of protein, which is equivalent to that provided by 2-3 ounces of lean meat. Therefore, if taken regularly, Greek yogurt meets much of the daily protein needs, without having to rely on heavy food items like meat, which is more difficult to digest with progressing age. The yogurt having high protein content can also promote weight loss, as it will make one feel fuller for longer periods, in between meals.
Probiotics to keep the gut healthy
Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria, when consumed along with yogurt, may help to protect against harmful bacteria in the gut. Greek yogurt contains Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, L acidophilus, L casei and Bifidobacterium lactis. It is believed that the probiotics in Greek yogurt may help treat urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections as well as infectious diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome. There is some evidence that the live cultures present in it may also help prevent or mitigate colds, flu and childhood allergies. Moreover, without the healthy balance of “good bacteria” from probiotics, the “bad bacteria” can multiply in the gut and ruin one’s immune system.
Good source of B-vitamins
A single serving of Greek yogurt is packed with the B-vitamins riboflavin, cyanocobalamin, thiamine and pyridoxine. This combination is vital for good metabolism, as well as the proper functioning of the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. A really good breakfast idea is to mix a serving of Greek yogurt with fresh fruits and nuts. This will supplement the B-vitamins with large amounts of vitamin C and A, thereby revitalising the system in the morning.
Balance of minerals for fitness
It contains substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Of these, the amount of calcium is the highest. It provides approximately 20 per cent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium. Greek yogurt is a high-calcium, low-fat sour cream substitute in any sauce, dip or main course recipe.
Great post-workout snack
Greek yogurt when mixed with some crushed walnuts and berries can become an excellent post-workout snack. Rich in amino acids, the building-blocks of proteins, it helps in repairing and regenerating worn out muscle tissue after a strenuous exercise session.
Iodine to keep one’s weight in check
Greek yogurt contains good quanity of iodine, which is vital for optimal thyroid function. The thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining proper metabolic function. The extra iodine will boost the synthesis of these thyroid hormones, which will increase the metabolic rate, thereby helping in burning off extra fat, leading to weight loss.
Can one make fresh homemade variety?
Yes! One doesn’t need to rely on a commercial supplier for Greek yogurt. It can be prepared at home.
The process is incredibly easy, especially if normal yogurt is taken as the starting material. Then a strainer or wire mesh, cheese cloth, bowl, refrigerator, and some patience is needed. Line the strainer or wire mesh with cheese cloth, and pour the yogurt over it. Strain out the excess water. Place the cheese cloth with yogurt over a bowl and secure the sides with some rubber bands. Keep it in a refrigerator for two to four hours for further separation of the whey. The resulting yogurt, with the whey removed is Greek yogurt.
Alternatively, if one takes milk as the starting material, simply concentrate it by heating. Let the milk cool at room temperature for about an hour. Add two tablespoons of live culture yogurt and keep in the oven at 108 F for four to 12 hours. Strain the yogurt as before in the refrigerator for two to four hours. The longer one does the straining, the thicker comes out the yogurt. A crucial tip is that if one is making Greek yogurt from milk, make sure to use low-fat milk, as full-cream milk can lead to high content of saturated fat, which can account for up to 80 per cent of the RDA for saturated fat.
It is evident that Greek yogurt is a healthy and nutritious alternative to the regular variety. Packed with proteins, vitamins and minerals, it replenishes the energy stores, revitalises the body and boosts one’s immune system. So, with all these power-packed nutrients, it looks like Greek yogurt is here to stay, and with regard to its health benefits, the sky is indeed the limit!
(The author is founder of the Food Safety Helpline)
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