I've always had a love/hate relationship with yogurt. On one hand, it's a quick and easy meal that provides essential calcium and other health benefits. On the other hand, the "fat-free" craze has left many yogurt brands full of excess sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other preservatives that wreak havoc on your body and weight-loss goals.
Luckily, there's a yogurt on the scene that avoids the pitfalls of traditional yogurt while packing a powerful nutritional punch all its own. Plus, it's so versatile that you can create countless nutritious meals using only a few ingredients. I'm talking, of course, about Greek yogurt.
Reading over the health benefits of Greek yogurt, healthy eating advocates who've been around the dieting block will be tempted to think it sounds too good to be true. But Greek yogurt really is a nutritional powerhouse. Consider the following:
- – Protein: Greek yogurt contains an astonishing amount of protein - between 15 and 20 grams in some cases. Protein, of course, promotes feelings of fullness, which helps prevent overeating. Plus, Greek yogurt's protein load makes it an ideal choice for vegetarians looking for healthy, non-meat sources of protein.
- – Sugar: Greek yogurt contains significantly less sugar than its American counterpart. This is in part due to how Greek yogurt is strained: milk sugars and lactose are removed. Part of Greek yogurt's health advantage is due to the fact that "low-fat" brands of American yogurt are loaded with unhealthy sugars to preserve taste.
- – Sodium: Too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, which is particularly dangerous as you get older. Not only is sodium naturally present in many foods, but unless you eat an entirely natural diet comprised of foods that are not preserved in any way, chances are you're getting excess sodium in your diet. A healthy eating plan that includes Greek yogurt helps you cut back on excess sodium in your diet, since Greek yogurt contains about half as much sodium as its American counterpart.
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While Greek yogurt's protein, sugar, and sodium content make it an excellent addition to a healthy diet, there are things you have to keep in mind. Greek yogurt is high in healthy fat, so moderation is key. Plus, Greek yogurt provides less calcium than regular yogurt - a deficit easily overcome by the inclusion of leafy greens in your diet. And no matter what the packaging promises, the Greek yogurt you add to your diet should not come with a side of jellified fruit. In fact, to really reap the health benefits of Greek yogurt, avoid the flavored varieties entirely and stick to plain.
But plain Greek yogurt doesn't have to mean plain, boring meals. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy this versatile ingredient:
- – Mix in some seasonings and you have a protein-rich dip that goes great with veggies.
- – Use Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream in your favorite dishes to improve their nutrition content.
- – Sprinkle a bowl of Greek yogurt with berries and a (very little) bit of granola for a protein-rich breakfast or post-workout snack.
The possibilities - and health benefits - are practically endless! Get more delicious and nutritious Greek yogurt recipes in our Beyond Diet Recipes section