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Eating Wisely

The Joys of Yogurt

Michele Call
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 4, July-August 2003, p. 145

Have you discovered the benefits of yogurt? I didn't like yogurt when I was younger. When I developed a problem with recurrent yeast infections, I begrudgingly decided I had better give yogurt a try. In fact, I literally bought a quart of plain yogurt, got a spoon, and forced myself to eat at least a few spoonfuls a day. What I didn't know at that time is that the health benefits of yogurt go far beyond merely helping the body to get rid of a yeast infection. What I also did not know is that yogurt is both a tasty and versatile food. In fact, it has become an important and beloved staple in my family's diet.

Not everything that calls itself yogurt is equally beneficial. I came face to face with this reality when preparing for a vacation. I thought it would be nice to get some of those "fun" yogurt products that my children had requested as snacks for the long ride in the car. As I read the labels, I discovered that each and every exciting-looking yogurt product lacked the "secret" powerful ingredient: lactobacillus. This is the intestine-friendly bacterium that provides so many benefits. It is even better if your yogurt also contains L. acidophilus. So when you are buying yogurt, look for these in the list of ingredients. More importantly, look for the "Live and Active Cultures" seal from the National Yogurt Association (in the US). This ensures that the yogurt has plenty of the beneficial bacteria present.

If you buy pre-flavored yogurt, it is important to check on any of the other additives that are contained in the yogurt. Buying plain yogurt is usually by far the best type to buy. This allows you to add your own choice of healthy flavorings. Look for a yogurt that is fruit-juice sweetened, rather than being sweetened with corn syrup or aspartame. As you will see by the end of this article, there are many easy, tasty ways to enhance the somewhat tart taste of plain yogurt. Some brands and styles of preparation are better than others.

The most widely known health benefit of yogurt is preventing an overgrowth of yeast. Yeast overgrowth can cause vaginal yeast infections, as well as thrush in the breastfeeding mother and baby. Eating extra yogurt during a course of antibiotics can help to prevent yeast overgrowth in the first place since antibiotics kill both the good and the bad bacteria. Yogurt helps to replenish the good bacteria, which in turn, keep yeast under control.

Consuming yogurt can aid in quicker healing after a bout with diarrhea, or during any intestinal upset. Some studies indicate that yogurt helps boost the immune system. So feeding your family yogurt every day may help you survive the winter season with a few less illnesses. There are also indications that eating yogurt may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Yogurt is also a nutritious food, providing a good source of protein, and a better source of calcium than the same quantity of milk.

Yogurt Recipes

Even though yogurt is good for you, it doesn't mean you need to choke it down like medicine. There are many tasty ways to eat yogurt. Here are some ideas:

  • Mix yogurt with some fruit-juice sweetened jam. This will give it a flavor similar to the store bought yogurt with fruit.
  • Mix yogurt with unsweetened applesauce, or with fresh or dried fruit.
  • Mix yogurt with granola and apples.
  • Make a smoothie. Blending yogurt, a banana, and the fruit/fruit juice of your choice in a blender. Add ice (optional).
  • Make popsicles with half yogurt and half fruit juice.
  • Add yogurt to your hot cereal in place of milk. You may need a little more sweetener to offset the tartness--consider applesauce, real maple syrup, or cut-up fruit.
  • Use yogurt on warm, fresh whole wheat bread as a topping. Also consider adding chopped nuts and fruit.
  • Replace buttermilk with yogurt while baking.
  • Use yogurt in salad dressing or vegetable dip. If you don't like plain yogurt, add an equal amount of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and spices of your choice for flavor.
  • Replace mayonnaise with yogurt when making tuna. It gives the tuna salad a lighter, less greasy taste. Try replacing it in other recipes that call for mayonnaise as well.
  • Replace sour cream with yogurt in your recipes.
  • Garnish your favorite bean soup, such as black bean soup or lentils and rice, with yogurt.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Whole Foods for the Whole Family, a cookbook published by La Leche League International, lists 22 recipes under "yogurt" in the index.

When I first started eating yogurt, I would see buy-one-get-one-free coupons for the one-quart size yogurt. I couldn't imagine for the life of me who could eat so much yogurt before the expiration date. Now, our family finishes it in less than a week! If you haven't already discovered yogurt, I hope I have given you some inspiration to add it to your family's life.

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