Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Today's Yogurt Culture an Array of Confusing Options

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Today's Yogurt Culture an Array of Confusing Options

Article excerpt

It's amusing that yogurt, which originated as a way to make milk last longer before the days of refrigeration, now makes grocery shopping last longer as we try to make sense of the dizzying selection in the refrigerator case. I regularly get questions from people confused about which yogurt to buy. Here are a few of the most commonly asked with answers to help you choose more healthfully and get out of the store more quickly. Non-fat or full-fat?

With so many conflicting headlines about fat these days, it's no wonder people are stumped when buying dairy products. A key recommendation in the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to choose low-fat or fat-free because dairy fat is mostly saturated, the type linked with increased cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Also, full-fat dairy has more calories than nonfat, so it seems logical that forgoing the fat would be a better choice for keeping weight in check.

But this view has been challenged recently with a few well- publicized studies that surprisingly link the fat in dairy with a lower risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Researchers surmise that full-fat dairy might offer some as-yet-unknown health benefit. It also might help with weight management because the fat in it makes it more satisfying, helping keep your appetite in check.

It's important to recognize that although these new studies are compelling, they are not conclusive, and more research needs to be done to fully understand dairy fat's health impact. Until there's more clarity, I suggest basing your yogurt-buying decisions on two things we do know. First, because unsaturated fats from foods such as nuts and olive oil offer well-documented protective health benefits compared with saturated fat, as well as satiating power, opt for nonfat or reduced-fat yogurt and add healthy fats by topping it with nuts or swirling in some nut butter (which is delicious with fresh fruit). For a savory yogurt dish, add chopped vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil. Second, since calorie for calorie, refined sugar appears to be worse for your health than saturated fat, if faced with a choice between a sugary nonfat yogurt and an unsweetened full-fat option, go for the latter.

Greek or regular?

About a decade ago, Greek yogurt was a treat you could find only at a specialty store. I know firsthand because I was developing recipes back then, and whenever I called for Greek-style yogurt, I had to provide directions for making your own by straining the regular stuff. (It's actually pretty easy to do. You just put regular yogurt in a fine-mesh strainer that has been lined with a paper towel or cheesecloth, place it in the refrigerator over a bowl and let it sit. After several hours, you remove the thickened yogurt from the strainer and discard the liquid whey that has accumulated in the bowl. …

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