Monday, March 29, 2010

Creamy Deliciousness

A common item in the refrigerators of runners, bikers, fitness and health enthusiasts is yogurt.

This creamy deliciousness has been around for a long time as records of variations of yogurt have been found as far back as 10,000B.C. in the Middle East. While there are countless varieties of yogurt, it is thought to have been a staple of traditional diets for thousands of years in parts of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Jump forward a few years and in 1905, a medical student studying the local variation in Bulgaria was able to isolate the lactic acid bacteria. This lead to a scientist by the name of Illya Illyich Mechnikov hypothesizing that these bacteria in the yogurt was responsible for the long lifespans of Bulgarians who counted yogurt as a staple in their diets. Mechnikov set out to popularize the health benefits of yogurt throughout the continent. Yogurt was introduced in the US by immigrants in the 1920's and the first yogurt plant opened in 1925 in Europe. The Dannon company patented a yogurt with fruit jam in Prague in 1933 and introduced it into the US market in 1947. It was in the 1950's and 60's that yogurt began to gain popularity in the US as a health food.

Bet you never knew all that about the yogurt you eat from a plastic carton each day, did you?

Today, there are rows and rows filled with yogurt in every grocery store across the country. No longer is yogurt simply fermented milk - a mixture of milk and cultures. There are endless flavors, fruit on the bottom, cream on top, flavors with mix-ins, fat free, low fat, full fat, oh yeah, and plain.

I hated yogurt for the longest time. My sister liked it, but I just could not eat it. Something about the flavor and texture, I guess. But, as I moved out on my own and started paying attention to my diet more, I learned that yogurt was really good for a healthy diet and can help you lose weight since some varieties are so low in fat. So, I tried a few flavors of Dannon Light & Fit and soon began adding it to my shopping bag on a regular basis. But then I realized that there is quite a bit of extra sugar in most flavored yogurts and a lot of weird ingredients that aren't used in traditional yogurt. Slowly, I started working plain fat free and low fat yogurts into the mix and now I eat it exclusively (both 'regular' yogurt and Greek yogurt).

Food companies spend a lot of money advertising new lines of yogurt hoping to capitalize on the fact that yogurt is good for us.
  • Contains good, active bacteria that benefits the digestive tract.
  • Good source of calcium, protein, Vitamins B-6 and B-12, potassium, magnesium, and riboflavin.
The problem is, a lot of yogurts contain things like corn starch, aspartame, fructose, gelatin, food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, sodium phosphate, modified food starch, and countless other additional ingredients. These additional ingredients can add calories, sugar, sodium, carbohydrates and fats and they diminish the health benefits of yogurt. Plain low fat or fat free yogurts ('regular' and Greek) are the best way to go. Even the fruit on the bottom varieties have added sugar and calories. The varieties with candy pieces should be located in the dessert section with the pudding, not in the yogurt section. Choosing a flavored or other specialty flavor with all the additives is the equivalent of having a salad and loading it up with bacon and high fat dressing!

Instead of going for convenience, if you're eating yogurt as a healthy food, add your own fresh fruits like sliced banana, grapes, kiwi... the options are endless. I eat yogurt almost every day (including today!) as part of a healthy well-rounded diet. By adding fresh fruit, flax, chia seeds and homemade granola I have a great, filling breakfast!

Yogurt is a great part of a healthy diet, and if you're still partial to the flavored varities, go ahead and enjoy, but maybe swap it out a few days a week for plain. Your body will thank you!!

Workout Stats -
7mi elliptical
3x10 bicep curls
3x10 lat pull down
3x10 seated row
lots of stretching


Katie @ Health for the Whole Self said...

Great post! It is so true that some of the yogurts marketed as healthy products are anything but! Some of them are just loaded with sugar and other crap! I'm trying to switch to exclusively plain yogurt and focus on sweetening it myself with fresh fruit, just like you said.

Heather (Where's the Beach) said...

I grew up eating my great-grandmother's homemade plain yogurt. I really can't stand the sugar-laden flavored stuff. Ick. I like to add fruit and cinnamon to my own and will sweeten with stevia if I want it sweet at all. Your bowl of yogurt, fruit, granola looks so good.

...::Mrs. Southern Bride::... said...

I love greek yogurt! I think my favorite way to eat it is mixed with nuts and chai tea. :)

Anonymous said...

Also adding honey is a great way to mix it up.

gracela said...

Plain greek yogurt is my favorite. I will have to try Heather's suggestion of adding cinnamon. And I also read in this month's Shape that Chelsea Handler adds chocolate protein powder to her yogurt. I'll definitely be trying that!

April said...

Your pic is making me hungry! My pure energy food every morning is .5 plain quaker oatmeal (old fashioned = sugar free whole grain!) cooked with water in the microwave with cinnamon, then I stir in a Dannon L&F yogurt and eat with an apple and coffee. I will definitely give the berries/mango a try!

SueMac said...

I love it with nuts and honey, too! But, right now, my new favorite topping for yogurt is some dark chocolate granola...... delish!

Molly said...

All we eat now is Stonyfield Farm or greek yogurt, all that fruit on the bottom stuff grosses me out!

♥ Katinka said...

Stopping by from SITS and wishing you a great day!!!

Jenn said...

You always have such great, informative posts! LOVE yogurt!

Running Through Phoenix said...

Love my Greek yogurt!!