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Minimally processed and nutrient dense, yogurt is a great choice.

With all of the yogurt options, flavors and styles, sometimes simple is best. Plain Greek yogurt is minimally processed and nutrient dense – relatively rich in nutrients for the calories. With some careful consideration and selection, a daily yogurt in your diet can be the start of something wonderful. Let’s begin to understand what’s in our yogurt and where it comes from.

Nutritional benefits

Always check the label when shopping but, in general, plain yogurt – with less than 10 grams of protein – is a good source of protein.(1) Its thicker counterpart, Greek yogurt, is an excellent source of protein.(1)

Both styles are a good source of calcium(1) and yogurt has been linked to better heart health.(2)

Fermented dairy, such as yogurt, can also be a common source of probiotics – some bacterial cultures used in the fermentation process have been shown to be beneficial to gut health.(3) Drinkable yogurts, such as smoothies and kefir, are becoming increasingly popular for their portability and inclusion of multiple probiotic strains.

What to look for

There are a wealth of options when it comes to yogurt but a closer examination of the labels may help you narrow down the choices to a few that fit your needs and taste buds.

When considering nonfat yogurt, check the nutrition label. Although the fat content may differ from full-fat yogurts, the calorie difference between the two may not be that significant. Plus, when fat is removed it is often replaced with sugar to enhance the flavor of nonfat varieties.

Flavored yogurts also may be high in sugar. Consider picking up plain Greek yogurt and adding your own whole fruit or sweet or savory toppings. Also, Greek yogurt can easily replace sour cream in many recipes, such as dips, baked goods, and sauces, giving the dish a punch of added protein.

How yogurt is made

Now that you know what’s in yogurt, let’s examine how it is made. During our visit to Straus Family Creamery, founder Albert Straus detailed how they make European-style and Greek yogurt.

It all begins with Straus’ organic milk, which is condensed to remove some of the water. In the yogurt vat, the milk is heated for pasteurization then cooled to incubation temperatures. Bacterial cultures are added and allowed to incubate in the stainless steel tank for seven to nine hours. After cooling, natural flavors are added and the yogurt is packaged.

Prior to packaging, Straus makes their Greek yogurt by straining European-style yogurt, which removes water and lactose – milk sugars – creating a thicker yogurt with more proteins and less sugars.

Whichever yogurt you select – plain or flavored, regular or Greek – yogurt can be a great addition to your day that adds nutrients and a satisfying, customizable taste sure to please mind and body alike.

(1) USDA Food Composition Databases
(2) Dairy and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of Recent Observational Research
(3) A Meta-Analysis of Probiotic Efficacy for Gastrointestinal Diseases

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