While most of us sleep until sunrise, most dairy farmers are awake long before beginning their daily routine of milking and caring for cows that provide nutritious and wholesome dairy products that feed our families. While I don’t always think of the hard work that goes into that milk jug each time I reach for it in the refrigerator, I do remind myself of the dairy good nutrition I’m about to pour into my children’s cups. And whether its milk, yogurt or cheese, I know that each time I add one of these dairy ingredients to a recipe for my family meals, I am serving up nine essential nutrients that include calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A and D as well as many B vitamins.
There are two things to celebrate in June – the start of summer and National Dairy Month. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these two times of year coincide. Nothing is more refreshing than yogurt topped with fruit or a smoothie whirled in a blender for those warm days that require only a light meal.
Here are a few common questions about yogurt you might have:
There are so many choices in the yogurt aisle, which one is the best choice?
While the yogurt aisle can be a bit overwhelming, it is important to know that all types of yogurt can fit into a healthy diet. Whether you choose yogurt made from whole milk, reduced-fat or skim milk; plain or flavored yogurt or yogurt sweetened with a low calorie sweetener, you are making a balanced choice. Yogurt sweetened with a low-calorie sweetener, such as aspartame, is a sensible and safe choice for anyone looking to lower calories or sugar intake and those who monitor carbohydrates, and those with diabetes.
What’s the difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt?
While regular yogurt is strained twice, Greek yogurt is strained three times resulting in a thicker, creamier consistency removing much of the liquid whey, lactose and sugar. In some cases, Greek yogurt can have twice the protein than regular yogurt, but it also has a slightly different, tangier flavor. Remember though, all yogurt, whether Greek or not, can fit into a healthy diet.
I’ve heard that not all yogurts have beneficial bacteria, is this true?
To be called yogurt, active cultures – known as probiotics – must be added to the milk. Specifically, two cultures must be added: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. Others may be added depending on the manufacturer. You may also see the Live and Active Cultures seal added to a container of yogurt, noting that the yogurt has been verified by the National Yogurt Association to have at least 100 million active cultures per gram, an amount recommended by leading researchers to be beneficial for health. Probiotics are beneficial because they help maintain the balance of bacteria necessary for a healthy digestive system. They can also boost immunity, shortening the length and severity of minor illnesses.
Can I cook with yogurt?
It’s easy to cook with yogurt to lower the fat in your recipes. Replace half the fat with yogurt in your quick bread recipe or cake recipe to keep essential moisture while reducing the fat at the same time. Add it to scones in place of heavy cream. Yogurt also works well in sauces and marinades. Or mix up your favorite creamy salad dressing using yogurt instead of mayonnaise! The possibilities are really quite endless. Here’s a great recipe for yogurt parfait with granola and berries.
What about lactose intolerance? Is yogurt okay to eat?
Approximately 12% of adults have lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the result of not having enough lactase, an enzyme needed to break down the lactose in dairy products. Those live and active cultures found in yogurt are not only beneficial to making yogurt, but they also help those with lactose intolerance also break down lactose in milk. So for those with lactose intolerance, yogurt is an excellent choice.
There’s no such thing as too much dairy in the refrigerator. Now that you know the facts about yogurt, you can feel confident that whether you choose flavored yogurt or yogurt sweetened with a low calorie sweetener, you are making the right choice for your family. Enjoy a cup of yogurt every day!
For ideas on dairy good recipes, visit www.dairymakessense.com.
Jen Haugen RD, LD is an award winning registered dietitian based in Austin, MN. She is currently writing her first book, focusing on growing healthier families through gardening and cooking together. She is also a media expert frequently appearing on ABC 6 News . In 2012, Jen was named Emerging Dietetic Leader in Minnesota by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She continues to be a leader in her field with her supermarket and media expertise, garden program development and nutrition experience. Reach Jen on Twitter @JenHaugen and check out her blog JenHaugen.c