By: Saurabh Arora
What is Greek Yogurt?
Greek yogurt, called so because of its Greek origins, is traditionally made from sheep’s milk. It is actually strained yogurt from which the whey has been removed. As a result, it is thicker and creamier in consistency than other forms of yogurt, and has a distinct sour flavour. Greek yogurt is used in a number of Greek delicacies including the famous Tzatziki dip, popularly served alongside grilled meats. The industrial manufacture of greek yogurt began in the year 1975 in Greece, and its manufacture and consumption has gradually spread to other parts of the world in the years since.
Greek yogurt is now making in-roads into India and may, in the long run, provide tough competition to local forms of yogurt currently popular among Indians. Some of the more well-known manufacturers of Greek yogurt include FAGE USA, Dannon, Epigamia, Nestlé, Danone, Chobani, and Yoplait.
Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt:
Greek yogurt is packed with nutrients. It is rich in protein which is key for the growth and repair of muscle mass, among many other things. It also contains probiotics which are live bacteria and yeast that help to keep the gut in pristine health. Greek yogurt is also a rich source of B-vitamins, and also contain high amounts of calcium and potassium. It is these distinctive nutrients that make Greek yogurt standout from regular yogurt.
Given the above, greek yogurt packs in a healthy punch like no other food item. A single serving of greek yogurt for breakfast can keep you fortified and fighting-fit for the rest of the day. Moreover, the richer texture of this yogurt is very appealing to yogurt lovers. Some of the major health benefits of Greek yogurt are briefly discussed below to help you make an informed choice on whether to switch from your regular yogurt to the Greek variant.
Greek Yogurt is Rich in Protein:
Protein is essential for physical growth, repair, muscle building and maintenance of optimal health. As you get older, you need extra protein to keep your skin healthy and body capable of fighting off infections. A typical serving of Greek yogurt provides 15-20 g of protein, which is equivalent to that provided by 2-3 ounces of lean meat. Therefore, taken regularly, Greek yogurt meets much of your daily protein needs without you having to rely on heavy food items like meat, which becomes more difficult to digest as you grow older. Greek yogurt, with its high protein content, can also promote weight loss since it will make you feel fuller for longer periods.
Probiotics to Keep Your Gut Healthy:
Probiotics are live bacteria which, when consumed along with yogurt, help in protecting the body against harmful bacteria in the gut. Greek yogurt contains streptococcus thermophilus, lactobacillus bulgaricus, l. acidophilus, l. casei and bifidobacterium lactis, all forms of positive bacteria. It is believed that the probiotics present in Greek yogurt can help treat urinary tract infections, vaginal yeast infections as well as infectious diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndromes. There is some evidence that the live cultures present in Greek yogurt 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 impact your immune system.
A Rich Source of B-Vitamins
A single serving of Greek yogurt is packed with the B-vitamins riboflavin, cyanocobalamin, thiamine, and pyridoxine. This combination of B-vitamins is vital for energy metabolism, as well as the proper functioning of the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems. A very 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 vitamin A, thereby serving to revitalize your system in the morning.
A Good Balance of Minerals to Keep You Fit
Greek yogurt contains substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Of these, calcium is present in the highest quantity. Greek yogurt provides approximately 20 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of calcium. Thus, it can be used as a high-calcium, low-fat sour cream substitute in any sauce, dip or main course recipe. Moreover, Greek yogurt contains lesser amounts of sodium than potassium, with the presence of potassium actually balancing out that of the sodium. This is a benefit for people as excess quantities of sodium can prove detrimental to human health.
A Great Post Workout Snack:
A serving of Greek yogurt with some crushed walnuts and berries is an excellent post-workout snack. Rich in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, the yogurt helps in repairing and regenerating worn-out muscle tissue after a strenuous exercise session.
Iodine to Keep Your Weight in Check:
Greek yogurt also contains lots 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 help increase the metabolic rate, thereby helping in burning off extra fat, leading to weight loss.
Can You Make Fresh Homemade Greek Yogurt?
Yes, you can! You need not rely on a commercial supplier for your serving of Greek yogurt. You can prepare it at home yourself.
Making Greek yogurt is incredibly easy, especially if you take normal yogurt as your starting material. All you need is a strainer or wire mesh, a cheesecloth, a bowl, a refrigerator, and some patience. Line the strainer or wire mesh with cheesecloth and pour the yogurt over it. Strain out the excess water. Place the cheesecloth with yogurt over a bowl and secure the sides with some rubber bands. Keep in a refrigerator for 2-4 hours for further separation of the whey. The resulting yogurt, with the whey removed, is Greek yogurt.
Alternatively, if you take milk as your starting material, simply concentrate the milk by heating it in a pan. Let the milk cool at room temperature for about an hour. Add 2 tablespoons of live culture yogurt and keep in the oven at 108?F for 4-12 hours. Then strain the yogurt in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. The longer you let the yogurt strain, the thicker it will turn out in the end. An important tip is that if you are making Greek yogurt using milk, make sure you use low-fat milk.Full-cream milk can lead to high contents of saturated fat, which can account for up to 80 percent of the RDA for saturated fat.
It is evident that Greek yogurt is a healthy and nutritious alternative to your regular yogurt. Packed with proteins, vitamins and minerals, it replenishes the energy stores of the body, revitalizes the system, and boosts your immunity. So, with all these power-packed nutrients, it looks like Greek yogurt is here to stay, and with regard to its numerous health benefits, the sky is indeed the limit!
*MD (Auriga research and Director at Arbro Pharmaceuticals) and Founder of Food Safety Helpline