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Active Yogurt

Timeless Nutrition Tips...

Yogurt has been produced for at least 4,000 years. Legend says that an angel taught Abraham how to make yogurt.

Active Yogurt

Yogurt is a cultured milk product, made by adding certain "good" bacteria to milk, skim milk, and/or cream. It wasn't always easy to come by. Making your own was a lengthy, complicated process.

Today, yogurt is available at stores and supermarkets as well as health food stores all across America.

Following are some tips on reading the labels on yogurt cartons.

Active Yogurt Cultures

  • Contains active yogurt cultures means that the bacterial cultures are still present in the yogurt because it has not been heat-treated. Check to see that they are not stabilized with starch or gelatin. U.S. Government regulations require a minimum of two cultures, but some yogurts have as many as five distinct cultures.
  • Whole milk yogurt must contain 3.25-percent to 4-percent butterfat, the same as whole milk.
  • Low fat yogurt contains the same amount of butterfat as the low fat milks from which they are made. This amount can be between 0.5-percent to 2-percent butterfat.
  • Nonfat yogurt or fat-free yogurt must contain less than 0.5-percent butterfat. If the label also says "lite" or "light," it may indicate that the yogurt has been sweetened with aspartame rather than a natural sweetener.
  • Made with active cultures means that the yogurt was probably heat-treated, thereby killing the active cultures that produced it.
  • "Certified organic" yogurt has been made from milk produced by cows raised under strict organic standards, including an organic diet, no routine treatments with antibiotics or growth hormones, and a healthy growth environment.
  • Sundae-style yogurt has fruit at the bottom of the container, topped with plain or flavored yogurt.
  • Blended yogurt, also called Swiss pudding or custard style yogurt contains pureed fruit or other flavoring ingredients, and a starch or gelatin to give the mixture body.

In the 1970's, few Americans had ever tasted yogurt. Today the average US. consumer eats about five pounds of yogurt per person in a given year. Europeans are eating twice that amount Yogurt is thought to improve our immune system defenses, reducing the risk of colon and breast cancer. There is no doubt that yogurt is a good source of calcium. Plain yogurt has 400mg per-cup more than a cup of skim milk. Yogurt is also rich in protein (8g per cup) and contains as much potassium as a banana, as well as riboflavin (vitamin B2), phosphorus, and magnesium.

Cooking With Yogurt

When cooking with yogurt, the sweeter flavor of plain low fat yogurt is your best bet because nonfat yogurt has a thin, slightly sour taste. As with other high-protein, high-acid foods, spare the heat. Use low cooking temperatures and short heating periods for best results. Whenever possible, add the yogurt at the end of the cooking period, just in time to let the yogurt mixture come up to serving temperature. If the yogurt is added at the start of the cooking period, you can avoid separation or curdling by stirring a stabilizing mixture of flour or cornstarch blended with a little water into the yogurt.

To keep a thick consistency, it helps to not stir yogurt into other ingredients-instead, fold the yogurt into the mixture. When substituting buttermilk with yogurt, thin the yogurt with a little water or milk to the right consistency. When using yogurt for baking, add 1/2-teaspoon baking soda for each cup of yogurt used.

Use plain low fat yogurt as a substitute for sour cream; you'll save 280 calories per cup. Yogurt can also be used as a partial substitute for mayonnaise (use 50-percent yogurt, 50-percent mayonnaise).

Yogurt becomes sharper with age. Stored at a refrigerator temperature of 35 to 45-degrees, yogurt will keep fresh for up to two weeks. The fresher when used, the better the flavor and consistency.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has a thick, creamy texture and a nice, tangy taste. But when it comes to yogurt, there are plenty more reasons you'll want to "go Greek". It's rich in calcium and good for your bones. In fact, one serving supplies nearly one-fourth of a person's daily calcium needs, and the fat free variety is packed with twice as much protein as regular yogurt. Fat free Greek yogurt is also high in probiotics, cultures that can help ease irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that affects mostly women. And even though the evidence is inconclusive, some experts say probiotics help boost immunity - a plus during the flu season. Have at least three servings of dairy a day: Fat free Greek yogurt is a good choice. It's a healthy swap for high-fat sour cream.

Idea: Berry Good Parfait. Top 8 ounces fat free plain Greek style yogurt with 1 tablespoon sliced almonds. Sprinkle 1 cup of mixed berries on top. Nutrition information: 224 calories, 26g protein, 23g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 0.5g saturated fat, 84mg sodium.

Yogurt and Lactose Intolerance

Yogurt with "live active cultures" is well tolerated by the majority of lactase-deficient individuals, even though yogurt's lactose content can vary widely. Because very high or low temperatures inactivate the bacteria, pasteurized yogurt and frozen yogurt are less likely than fresh yogurt to improve lactose digestion. Lactose digestion and tolerance are similar for frozen yogurt and ice cream but may be tolerated by lactose-intolerant individuals. Pasteurized yogurt, cultured buttermilk, and sweet acidophilus milk are tolerated at least as well as regular milk.

Note: Lactase in yogurt does not improve the digestion of lactose in other milk and milk products consumed at the same time as yogurt.

How to Make Labna, a strained yogurt

Tips for Buying Yogurt

  • Check labels for "live and active cultures".
  • Buy plain low-fat yogurt and add your own fruit. This saves money and calories.
  • Try kefir, a fermented "milkshake" with the same expected benefits as yogurt.

Yogurt Nutrition Facts

Mixing plain low fat or non-fat yogurt with fresh fruit is your best bet. In a typical yogurt aisle in your grocery store, plain yogurt is set aside by a panoply of trays, tubs and tubes in which sugar, granola and even candy have replaced some of the yogurt. The result: sugar and calories are up, nutrients are down.

Six Trends in the Yogurt Aisle


Spoon-Free Yogurt

The tubes of yogurt are easier for people who want to grab a yogurt as they run out the door. Along with convenience, spoon-free yogurts are also suitable for freezing. Keep in mind, however, the three spoon-free yogurts on the market today are far from perfect. Stonyfield Farms YoSqueeze meets the best criteria but replaces the fruit with fruit flavors. Yoplait's Expresse and Go-Gurt have excess saturated fat and calories. Expresse, however, need not be off your shopping list. Unlike the other two kid-centered lines, it contains real fruit and comes in grown-up flavors such as "mixed berry" instead of "cool cotton candy". If you eat one or two of the tubes, the saturated fat will not matter too much. Just do not go back for more! In addition, do not assume the fruit on the package is the fruit in the tube. The mixed berry, for example, has blueberries, blackberries and raspberries outside but only raspberries inside.

Drinkable Yogurt

Dannon Drinkable YogurtDannon's new Frusion Fruit n' Yogurt Smoothies are essentially the classic Dannon Fruit on the bottom yogurts with added water and fruit juice. The liquids dilute the calcium but you still get a quarter of a day's worth plus vitamins B2, B-6 and B-12. Beware: With Frusion Fruit n' Yogurt Smoothies you also get the red dye carmine, which is made from the dried bodies of cochineal insects and which has caused sever allergic reactions in a small number of people. Carmine is contained in many other spoon-able and "spoon-free" yogurts. If you live on the East Coast, Natural by Nature Low fat Yogurt Shake is another possibility. It is organic and free of carmine.

Yogurt Plus Toppings

A few years ago, Dannon started adding sprinkles to some of its yogurts marketed to kids. No doubt, millions of parents were thrilled to have Sprinkl'ins -- yet another healthy food heading down the path to the junk category. One adult brand, YoCrunch, has gotten into the yogurt-as-ice-cream act. The flavors with Nestle Candy Pieces, Chocolate Crunch, or Oreos, supply extra calories and saturated fat at the expense of protein, calcium and vitamins. A strawberry YoCrunch with Nestle Crunch has 240 calories, for example. The same amount of low-fat fruit yogurt has 160 to 180.

Full Fat Yogurt

In the United States, we have a market dominated by low-fat yogurt. It is no surprise that Dannon would take a stab at marketing the full-fat version to Americans. The elegantly packaged la Creme is indeed incredibly creamy. However, the touch of cream means three grams of saturated fat -- 15 percent of a one-day requirement -- in a four-ounce serving. Again, you are trading nutrients for calories. The eight-ounce cup of Brown Cow Farm Cream at the Top Whole Milk Yogurt uses up 20 percent of the one-day amount of saturated fat. Overall, it is not worth it.

Soy Yogurt

Soy Yogurt Whether your aim is to avoid milk or to eat more soy, you can now find "cultured soy" tucked in among the milk products in the yogurt aisle.

Soy does have some advantages. It has virtually no saturated fat, it may help lower cholesterol levels, and some brands -- like Silk and Whole Soy -- are made from organic soybeans.

For many people, the taste takes some getting used to. In addition, it is a good idea to note that soy does not have as much calcium, magnesium, protein or B-vitamins as milk. Silk and Stonyfield Farm fortify their brands with calcium.


Lower Calorie Yogurt

Dannon recently cut the calories in its Fruit on the Bottom line. Most flavors have 210 calories, down from the earlier 240. But for serious calorie-counters, all major brands now have "light" lines that use the artificial sweetener aspartame instead of sugar. That slices the calories by one-third. The problem with diet or light yogurts: The calorie savings are modest (unless you are eating two or three yogurts a day). Other than that, you will not find many differences between the regulars and lights. One exception: Dannon Coffee Yogurt has caffeine (about half a cup of coffee's worth in each eight-ounce container). Dannon Light 'n Fit Cappuccino Yogurt uses decaffeinated, as does Stonyfield Farm Cappuccino.

The best and most nutritious choices in yogurt are an 8-ounce yogurt with two grams of saturated fat, 240 calories, and 40 grams of sugar and a quarter of a day's calcium. In addition, they should be free of candy, cookies, sprinkles and artificial sweeteners.

Mix and Match Yogurt Snack

1 to 1-1/3 cups granola or other ready-to-eat cereal
1 cup vanilla, French vanilla or fruit-flavored low fat yogurt

Stir cereal into yogurt and serve. Makes four servings. Per serving: 9g protein, 11g fat, 129mg calcium, 30g carbohydrates, 242 calories

Peanut Butter and Jelly Yogurt

3/4 cup plain yogurt (whole, low fat or non-fat)
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1-1/2 tablespoons grape jelly

Place yogurt, peanut butter and jelly in a small keep-cool container and mix well with a spoon. Makes one serving.

Yogurt and Fatigue

The soft texture of yogurt makes it easily digestible by the body, providing a quick source of energy. But unlike other foods, yogurt has a good ratio of protein to carbohydrates, making it a long-lasting energy source. Yogurt also contains a bevy of healthy probiotics that promote healthy bacteria in the digestive tract while eliminating harmful bacteria. Recent research from the University of Toronto suggests that probiotics can help ease sympoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, among other conditions. This makes yogurt a good meal or snack to enjoy any time of the day.

Yogurt-Banana-Honey-Mask

Create an all-natural facial mask with yogurt! Mix 1/4 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 banana into a paste and apply to your face and neck. It should set for anywhere from 10 minutes to 25 minutes before you can wash it off gently with water. The combination of these three ingredients leaves skin moisturized and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.