Phone

Foods

Yogurt
Why Eat It
Varieties
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Not so long ago, yogurt was considered a product for health-food faddists. Now there are several generations of Americans who couldn't conceive of a supermarket dairy case that didn't have row upon row of yogurt in all its myriad forms, fat contents, and flavors. In the past 30 years, consumption of this delicious--and healthful--product has skyrocketed (even if a lot of it is in the form of frozen yogurt).

Many medicinal claims have been made for yogurt throughout the ages: It has been--and is--touted as a cure for everything from insomnia to yeast infections, as a cancer preventive and a life-extender. Whether or not it can extend life, it is unarguable that low-fat or nonfat yogurt is nutritious--an excellent source of calcium and protein, and a good source of riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin B12.

Yogurt is made by curdling milk with purified cultures of two special bacteria--Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus--that cause the milk sugar (lactose) to turn into lactic acid. The pasteurized (and usually homogenized) milk is inoculated with the cultures, then warmed in an incubator for several hours; during this time the yogurt thickens and develops its distinctive flavor. Nonfat milk solids are often added to thicken the yogurt; this also adds protein.

In some types of yogurt, the bacteria survive the processing; in other cases, the milk is pasteurized again after the cultures are added, and the bacteria are destroyed. This is more often the case in Swiss-style brands. Many frozen yogurt products are pasteurized after culturing, too. Check the ingredient listing for "active yogurt cultures" or "living yogurt cultures." Yogurt that has been pasteurized subsequent to culturing will be labeled "heat-treated after culturing."

Because yogurt is cultured, it is more digestible than milk for some people with lactose intolerance: The live cultures create lactase, the enzyme in which lactose-intolerant people are deficient. However, the amount of lactose remaining varies from 25% to 80%. Active cultures also aid in the digestion of casein, a milk protein. And there is evidence that live yogurt cultures may help to restore the "friendly" bacteria in the intestines, after the bacterial balance of the digestive system has been upset by the use of antibiotics.

Varieties

Plain, or unflavored, yogurt is the original and most versatile of yogurts. It contains 110 to 140 calories per cup. However, most of the yogurts sold in the United States are fruit flavored, and fall into two categories: Sundae-style yogurts, in which the fruit is at the bottom of the container and must be stirred in; and blended, custardlike, Swiss- or French-style yogurts, in which the fruit is distributed throughout the yogurt. Yet another type of yogurt is flavored with vanilla, coffee, or fruit juice (but no fruit solids). Flavored and fruited yogurts range from about 100 calories per cup (for artificially sweetened nonfat vanilla) to 307 (for some whole-milk sundae-style yogurts).

Yogurt is produced in nonfat, low-fat, and whole-milk versions. Low-fat yogurt typically contains from 2 to 5 grams of fat per 8-ounce serving; whole-milk yogurt may contain 6 to 8 grams of fat per 8 ounces. Some brands of whole milk yogurt (called farm-style) come with a layer of yogurt cream on top. To reduce the fat content, lift this off and discard it rather than stirring it in.

In order to thicken or stabilize yogurt and increase its shelf life, some brands of yogurt have added gelatin, starches, pectin, or gums. These additives are not harmful, but they sometimes give the yogurt a slightly "unnatural" stiffness or thickness.

Some yogurts contain artificial flavors or colors, as well as natural and artificial sweeteners such as sugar, honey, molasses, corn syrup, fructose, or aspartame. A cup of regular sweetened vanilla, lemon or coffee yogurt contains the equivalent of 3 1/2 teaspoons of sugar; fruit flavors may have as much as 7 teaspoons per cup. Some extra-rich yogurts have egg yolks added.

Hard and soft-serve frozen yogurt can be a healthy treat, but there is quite a range of products and not all of them are good choices. Nonfat frozen yogurt is the best choice; although it has plenty of sugar added, it still has half the calories of some premium ice creams and, of course, no fat. Low-fat versions are the next best. Other types of frozen yogurt may be enriched with whole milk or cream, raising their calorie and fat content significantly but still leaving it far below that of most ice cream. Sauces, toppings, or mix-ins like nuts, cookies, and candies, can also increase the calorie and fat content of a serving of frozen yogurt.

Fruit-flavored yogurt drinks vary widely in both sugar and fat content. But almost any of these products is a good alternative to a milkshake that is made with whole milk and ice cream.

Shopping

All commercial yogurts are freshness dated. Be sure to check the date, and select the latest-dated carton you find on the shelf. Nutrition labeling will alert you to the carbohydrate content, which can be a tip-off to how much sugar is in the yogurt. If you prefer fruited yogurt, select one made with fresh fruit rather than preserves.

Storage

Keep yogurt in its original container in the refrigerator. An unopened container of yogurt with live cultures should keep for about 10 days past the freshness date; pasteurized yogurt will keep even longer. However, check to see that the yogurt looks and smells fresh when you open it.

Preparation

Most people eat yogurt straight from the carton. But yogurt is also a wonderful ingredient for healthful cooking, and with some adjustments, can be substituted for sour cream, cream, or mayonnaise. Drain off any excess liquid and stir the yogurt before spooning it out of the container. Expect some difference in texture because of yogurt's low fat content, and a slightly tart flavor because of its mild acidity. You may need to add a pinch of sugar or salt to some recipes. The acidity can be counteracted in baking, if necessary, by adding 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of yogurt (don't do this, however, if you are on a low-sodium diet); if the recipe calls for sour cream or buttermilk, no such modification is necessary.

Stovetop cooking with yogurt can present problems: The yogurt will "break" or curdle if heated to too high a temperature. To prevent this, have the yogurt at room temperature, and stir it well before adding it to hot food. If you wish to cook the yogurt briefly in a hot dish, first stir a tablespoon of cornstarch into each cup of yogurt before adding it. Cook briefly over low heat.

Yogurt can be used to marinate meat and poultry and will tenderize it to some extent because of its acid content.

Nutrition Chart

Nonfat Yogurt/1 cup

100
Total fat (g)
0
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0
Dietary fiber (g)
0
10
Carbohydrate (g)
19
Cholesterol (mg)
5
Sodium (mg)
135
Calcium (mg)
300

Low-fat Yogurt/1 cup

155
Total fat (g)
3.8
Saturated fat (g)
2.5
Monounsaturated fat (g)
1
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
0
13
Carbohydrate (g)
17
Cholesterol (mg)
15
Sodium (mg)
172
Riboflavin (mg)
0.5
Vitamin B12 (mcg)
1.4
Calcium (mg)
448
Phosphorus (mg)
353
Potassium (mg)
573
Zinc (mg)
2.2


Date Published: 04/21/2005
Previous  |  Next
> Printer-friendly Version Return to Top