Yogurt: Plenty of the stuff that matters
Dr. Brendan Egan, examines the resurgence in popularity of yogurt, not just for it’s taste but also it’s rich and beneficial nutrition profile.
A Nutrient-rich food.
Despite it's apparent simplicity, yogurt is a nutrient-rich food that offers an array of benefits to everyone from children to athletes to the elderly. These benefits are a result of impressive amounts of many nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, and probiotics. Although low in dietary fibre, this can easily be improved through a variety of recipes and by adding your own ingredients. A host of other vitamins and minerals are also present to a good level in yogurt namely calcium, iodine, magnesium potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B12 and zinc.
As the scientific evidence for health-promoting effects of protein accumulates, and the obsession with protein-containing foods grows, unsurprisingly the populairty of yogurt is rising too as it is an excellent source of 'high quality' protein. High quality protein refers to yogurt being rich in what are known as ‘essential’ amino acids (or building blocks of protein), which are key to the recovery, growth and repair-promoting properties of protein.
In a typical plain natural yogurt, the quantity of protein is generally 4 to 6 grams per 100 grams of yogurt. However, in newer yogurt varieties such as high protein strained Greek-style yogurt, this quantity can be as much as 10 grams per 100 grams of yogurt.
Because many nutrition recommendations now suggest that protein needs for athletes, active adults, and elderly are greater than the recommended daily allowance (RDA), and that we should aim for about 20 to 30 g of protein at each meal, clearly a portion of yogurt accompanying breakfast or lunch, or even as a snack, can serve as a excellent means to help hit this target.
The fat content of yogurt varies considerably whether choosing a fat-free or low fat version, or on the other extreme of a cream-based Greek-style yogurt which can have as much as 11 grams of fat per 100 grams of yogurt. To make matters more confusing, within Greek yogurt options, there are in fact, fat-free varieties, depending on the initial milk source and the production process.
Despite almost half a century of public health messages vilifying dietary fats, there is now increasing awareness that all not fats, including dairy fat, are unhealthy. In fact, dairy can be rich in types of fat with health-promoting potential, such as the well-known conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and also provide fat-soluble vitamins. For instance, dairy fat from grass-fed cows is among the best sources of vitamin K2, a vitamin that you are likely to hear a lot more about in the coming years. One benefit of vitamin K2 is from calcium redistribution, which helps to limit plaque build-up in blood vessels and helps the body better use calcium for strengthening bones.
Probiotics generally refer to the healthy and beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and are present in certain fermented foods like yogurt. Because unhealthy changes in gut bacteria have been associated with digestive and metabolic health issues, there is tremendous interest in the use of probiotics in food or supplements to improve health. The bacterial cultures used to produce yogurt such as Streptococcus thermophiles, Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus casei, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are examples of probiotics, and therefore are a welcome part of the nutrition profile of yogurt. These live cultures in food can improve digestive health, and in fact may also assist immune function, which is yet another example of the rich and beneficial nutrition profile of yogurt.