The many guises of a smooth, creamy treat.
By Matthew Kadey, R.D.
Yogurt is one of the world’s oldest foods, likely created by accident when lukewarm milk met bacteria and, ta-da, fermentation occurred. The nuts and bolts of making yogurt hasn’t changed much over the centuries, but now we’re appreciating the creamy concoction not only for its adaptability in the kitchen but for its numerous health perks.
“Yogurt is packed with active cultures for immune and digestive health, bone-building calcium, and protein to help active women build and repair muscles,” says Tara Gidus, a sports dietitian based in Orlando, Florida. What’s more, food scientists have recently discovered that a daily bowl of yogurt may help us dodge hypertension, gum disease, stroke, bladder cancer, the flu, and a Buddha belly. Sales of this powerfood, now a regular blip on the health media’s radar, have grown by 10 percent annually. But no longer does yogurt from Bessie the Cow hold a monopoly in the dairy aisle. Now you can get your yogurt fix by dipping spoon into any one of these contenders creating a stir.
Other than a slight goaty note, good goat yogurt shouldn’t taste much different than the stuff made with cow’s milk, says Bill Wendorf, an emeritus professor in the food science department at the University of Wisconsin. Uniformly smooth, goat yogurt is easier to digest, Wendorf adds, because of differences in the casein protein and a softer curd. It’s also higher in potassium.
We like: Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt (www.redwoodhill.com). European- style yogurt made without refined sweeteners or preservatives.
Try this: To make crowd-pleasing guacamole, combine plain goat yogurt, avocado, lemon or lime juice, garlic, diced jalapeño, and salt in a blender; whirl until smooth.
Yogurt Sheep milk has more solids than cow or goat milk, making the yogurt a rich, luxuriously thick product that doesn’t need beefing up. “Sheep yogurt is much higher in calcium than cow or goat yogurt,” says Wendorf. There’s also nearly double the protein and, as with goat milk, sketchy hormones and antibiotics common in large-scale cow-based dairy farms are not generally used in sheep-yogurt production.
We like: Old Chatham Sheepherding Company Sheep’s Milk Yogurt (www. blacksheepcheese.com). Pasture-fed sheep produce nutritionally packed organic yogurt.
Try this: Mix together plain sheep yogurt with grated orange zest, lime juice, curry powder, cayenne powder, and honey. Spread this mixture on fish as it cooks.
Originally from the Caucasian Mountains of Russia, kefir is made by inoculating cow milk with kefir grains, a mixture of yeasts and bacteria. Kefir is more sour than standard yogurt, and studies suggest the unique type of beneficial bacterial cultures within it breakdown much of the lactose, making it a potentially viable dairy option for those intolerant to milk sugar. Canadian researchers have found that extracts from fermented kefir may halt the spread of breast cancer cells, making it a potentially useful tool to prevent and treat breast cancer. Today kefir is largely available as a thick drink—excellent recovery food after a stiff workout.
We like: Evolve Kefir (www.evolvekefir. com). Made with low-fat milk and 11 tummy-friendly bacterial cultures, including Bifidobacterium lactis and Streptococcus thermophilus, not found in other types of yogurt.
Try this: If kefir tastes too sour to you on its own, reduce the lip-puckering factor by mixing it in a blender with orange juice, frozen berries, and a dollop of peanut butter to make a smoothie.
Greek yogurt has become popular because it’s creamier, has more tang, and contains up to twice as much protein as regular American-type yogurts, says Gidus. Chalk these attributes up to the added step of straining the watery whey away. “If you are sick of runny yogurt, put a spoon into a container of Greek yogurt and feel the difference,” Gidus quips. “Just make sure you look at the fat and sugar contents, as some Greek yogurts can pack in a lot of both.” Typical Greek yogurt from Greece uses either sheep or cow’s milk. Most U.S.– made versions, however, stick to only cow’s milk.
We like: Chobani Greek Yogurt (www. chobani.com). Real fruit added, and so creamy you’ll swear it’s full fat.
Try this: To make a toothsome tzatziki dip, combine diced cucumber, salt, finely chopped mint leaves, minced garlic, plain Greek yogurt, and chopped chives.
Geared to veg heads, soy yogurt is made by combining soymilk with vegan bacterial strains. Its slight beany taste may put off some, but soy yogurt lacks lactose, making it a boon to those whose stomachs churn like a cement truck in the presence of dairy. Soy yogurt is a natural source of energy boosting iron and phyto-estrogens—estrogen- like compounds that may boost bone health and offer some protection from breast cancer. One caveat: “Soy yogurt tends to be higher in calories than people realize, because a lot of sugar might be added to cover the ‘soy’ flavor,” Gidus says.
We like: WholeSoy & Co. Soy Yogurt (www.wholesoyco.com). Eleven creamy flavors made using organic, non-GMO soybeans. Plain is available for the sugar-weary.
Try this: Place a dollop of soy yogurt in the bottom of a glass. Top with some granola and berries. Repeat the layers, and top this parfait with a drizzle of pure maple syrup.
Crafting your own yogurt saves you a bunch of cash, cuts down on container waste, and is surprisingly easy.
What you need:
1 1/3 cup non-instant milk powder
¼ cup yogurt with live cultures
1-quart glass jar
Fill jar with water to about 2 inches from the top. Pour the water into a saucepan and heat until 100–110°F. Pour 1 cup of the warm water into a blender and the remainder back into the jar. With the blender on its lowest setting, add the milk powder and yogurt. The instant the mixture is smooth, turn off the blender. Add the milk mixture to the jar and close the lid tightly. Set the jar in the warm oven (see note) and let set for 3 or more hours. When the surface of the yogurt resists a slight touch, place the jar in the refrigerator to cool completely and thicken further.
Note: If using an electric oven, turn it on to its lowest heat setting for 2 minutes, turn it off, and put in a pot of boiling water along with the yogurt. If you have an oven with a gas pilot light, turning it on for a few minutes and then turning it off before adding the yogurt jar should provide enough warmth. You want the temperature during yogurt setting to stay 90–120°F.