In the past couple of years, greek yogurt has grown in popularity and has become hugely marketed and consumed worldwide. Its high protein content is enticing to gym goers and athletes, its low levels of lactose quite fitting for the lactose intolerant, and its tartness, plus creamy and thick texture, a bonus for all the foodies and recipe developers out there. I’m a passionate fan of the deliciousness of greek yogurt, myself. It is a more than suitable base or supplement for numerous types of sauces, dips, or condiments, and I am an avid user of greek yogurt, both to enhance my recipes and add a healthy element to them.
So, I’ve listed my top five reasons for why greek yogurt is one of my favorite feel-good foods and why it is, truly, super.
1. It’s A Healthy (Yummy) Substitute For You Recipes
Who enjoys compromising flavor for health? Everyone wants delectable food that is as tasty as it is nutritious. This is where Greek Yogurt comes to the rescue.
I found replacing certain not-so-good-for-you ingredients with greek yogurt in some recipes kept the integrity of the dish, yet replaced the fat and calories while added more goodies like calcium and protein.
Some ingredients I love to replace with greek yogurt are heavy cream, mayonnaise, and sour cream. The table below indicates the nutritional values of 2 tbs of greek yogurt VS 2 tbs of each of its not-so-good-for-you counterparts.
|Nonfat Greek Yogurt||11.5 g||35 kcal||0 g|
|Real Mayonnaise||0 g||200 kcal||22 g|
|Sour Cream||1 g||60 kcal||5 g|
|Heavy Cream||0 g||100 kcal||5 g|
Nonfat greek yogurt has the highest levels of protein and the lowest levels of fat and calories as compared to real mayonnaise, sour cream, and heavy cream.
Low-fat options of these counterparts to greek yogurt may have fewer calories and fat than their regular forms, but they still don’t have the nutritional benefits that greek yogurt possesses. Greek yogurt runs supreme in protein and calcium content (among other nutrients) as compared to its counterparts. I also find that non-fat greek yogurt is still quite palatable and enhances recipes while say, non-fat sour cream, varies highly in taste than regular sour cream and loses its palatability.
Greek yogurt will always be found sitting in my fridge. It doesn’t last too long since I’m forever searching for ways to successfully use it as an alternative ingredient in numerous recipes. I’ve used greek yogurt in tuna salads instead of mayonnaise, in tortillas instead of sour cream, and in chicken tikka masala and alfredo sauce, instead of heavy cream. The recipes turn out just as delicious in their own way without all the added fat, calories, guilt, and heaviness. You can easily incorporate greek yogurt into savory, as well as sweet dishes which brings me to my second point on the superiority of greek yogurt.
I find greek yogurt to be one of the most easily versatile ingredients when it comes to recipe creation. I use it to make salty, savory dishes as well as sweet desserts.
Here are two simple recipes here showing the versatility of greek yogurt used to make a savory snack as well as a dessert worthy enough to fulfill a sweet tooth craving:
1. Savory Spinach Dip (made with Greek Yogurt)
- Servings – 4
- 12 oz of fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 onion, diced
- ¼ of a jalapeno, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- ½ tbs olive oil
- 2 stalks scallions, sliced
- 1 small tomato, diced
- 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt
- 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup low-fat cheddar jack cheese
- ⅛ cup low-fat parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- Cracked black pepper to taste
- Red chili flakes, to garnish
- Fresh parsley, to garnish
- In a large skillet on medium heat and combine olive oil, garlic, onions, and jalapeno. Stir until the onions are browned.
- Next add the tomatoes and scallions and stir. Add the chopped spinach, stir until they are reduced.
- Allow the spinach to cool. Put the spinach in a strainer and squeeze out as much water as you can. Then put the spinach in a medium sized bowl.
- Add greek yogurt, worcestershire sauce, cheddar jack cheese, parmesan, salt, and cracked black pepper to the bowl and mix well.
- Add contents to serving bowl, garnish with fresh parsley and red chili flakes. Serve alongside toasted whole wheat pita bread or multigrain tortilla chips. Enjoy!
2. Vanilla Greek Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits
- Servings – 2
- 1⅓ cups chobani vanilla greek yogurt
- ½ cup whole grain granola
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- Dark chocolate crumbles, to garnish
- Fresh raspberries, to garnish
- Take granola divide equally into two serving cups. Then add about a ⅓ cup dolop of vanilla greek yogurt in each.
- Next add pomegranate seeds in each cup, divided equally.
- Add another ⅓ cup dollop of greek yogurt into each cup. Garnish with fresh raspberries of fruit of your choice and a sprinkle of dark chocolate crumbles. Enjoy!
Who says you can’t indulge and eat well? The incorporation of greek yogurt tastes great in both avenues as well as adds its own supreme nutritional benefits. Treats that successfully fulfill your cravings and are good for you are the best kind. This brings me to my next point, which is one of the good-for-you goodies that greek yogurt possesses. Protein!
3. Protein Content and Post-Workout Snack
If there are any gym-goers and fitness-freaks reading this, listen up: in one cup of plain nonfat Chobani greek yogurt there are 22 grams of protein. Greek yogurt is processed through the straining and removal of whey and excess water, which leaves it thick and creamy, as well as increases its protein content as compared to other yogurts. Our standard protein goal can range between 60-80 grams daily, and this number can vary and increase depending on several factors like gender, size, and exercise level.
Maintaining your lean body mass is especially important for those who are recovering from extensive injury, surgery, or those who weight or resistance train. Eating protein rich foods is important for post-workout replenishment. According to researchers from McMasters University, eating a small snack of about one cup of nonfat greek yogurt, or 20 grams of protein after a workout, is enough to promote muscle synthesis. Ingesting more than 20 grams of protein did not demonstrate any superior muscle synthesis. Besides servicing protein needs within the body, greek yogurt can also be beneficial towards digestive aid relief.
4. Digestive Aid Benefits
Because of the way greek yogurt is processed (with the straining of whey), it becomes somewhat tolerable for the lactose intolerant, though it is not completely lactose free. There are varieties of greek yogurt that use non-dairy ingredients in their recipes, such as with a coconut milk base. The downside with greek yogurt made with a coconut milk base is that it does not contain nearly as much protein as its counterpart. Greek yogurt has reduced levels of lactose and is also touted for the probiotics it contains.
In our intestines there are good bacteria, which help you digest, and bad bacteria, which can cause discomfort and pain. The probiotics in greek yogurt help promote an increase in good bacteria in our gastrointestinal system which allows less room for the harmful bacteria to flourish. This allows us to maintain a healthy level of bacteria in our digestive tract, allowing the good bacteria to fight against bacteria that cause diarrhea as well as certain bowel discomfort. The probiotics in greek yogurt can also ease more serious diseases like Crohn’s and abdominal cramping. The benefits dont end there, though.
5. Overall Nutritional Benefits
The more reading and research I conduct on greek yogurt, it really seems like its health benefits are endless. We already know that nonfat plain greek yogurt has more protein, less fat and calories than the regular kinds but what else does it posses?
Plain greek yogurt has lower levels of sodium and carbohydrates than regular brands of yogurt. It contains about half the sodium than regular yogurt, and when we consume a high sodium diet our blood pressure and risk of heart disease is likely to increase. Greek yogurt is also high in potassium, which can help balance out sodium levels in our bodies. It also contains high levels of B12 vitamin which is essential for adequate brain function and energy. According to Shane Griffin, a certified nutritional practitioner and founder of Whole Life Balance, “many choose to supplement vitamin B12 into their diet, but Greek yogurt offers a powerful, natural alternative.” It also posses high levels of iodine which is essential for normal thyroid function and a healthy metabolism. Like I said, the health benefits seem wonderfully endless!
It’s evident that greek yogurt is amazing in its many ways, but it is also important to keep track of which kind of greek yogurt you’re eating. Reading nutrition labels is one of the best steps you can take on your journey to eating well.
Sweetened versions of greek yogurt, or the ones that contain fruit at the bottom, have higher levels of added sugars than the plain varieties. Make sure you consume yogurt with low levels of added sugars.
What I like to do is use vanilla greek yogurt that has low levels of added sugars or even better, use plain greek yogurt and sweeten it on my own with a drizzle of organic honey, fresh fruits, or with nuts and seeds for some added nutrients.
Eating well, to me, has been a learning process that has taken time and I’m still learning everyday. Make little changes in your life (starting with adding more greek yogurt to your kitchen), experiment with recipes, ask for help, and be consistent.
Consistency is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish when it comes to eating right. You deserve to be healthy and you deserve to eat yummy foods while doing it. Learning that balance takes time. Eating well isn’t about just losing weight, it’s about building the body and life that you deserve, and you are worthy of that change.
Written by Alaa Al-Shujairi