The yogurt market has become trendy nowadays, even more after recent research studies about how modulating our gut microbiota with probiotic foods contributes to our health. In this industry, Greek yogurt accounted for around 4% of yogurt sales in 2008, but it is now placed in more than 40% of total yogurt sales. Greek yogurt does not need to be imported; it’s just a thicker variation of yogurt obtained after straining regular yogurt to remove the extra liquid and obtain a concentrated product.
Nutritional profile of Greek yogurt
One of the most exciting properties of Greek yogurt is that such extra straining is associated with a dense nutritional profile. Greek yogurt contains more protein and fewer carbohydrates per ounce because some carbs go away with the excess water during the straining process. Some types of Greek yogurt may have concentrated amounts of saturated fats as well, but if you buy the low-fat version, you get a healthy balance of nutrients instead.
Greek yogurt can be fortified with vitamin D and other nutrients, but in the process of straining, you lose a bit of calcium. Thus, it is not your best source of dietary calcium if that’s what you’re looking for. However, studies show that most brands are an excellent source of vitamin A, it also contains friendly bacteria, and it has an extensive range of health applications.
Health applications of Greek Yogurt
Asides from being a nutrient-dense food, Greek yogurt is a relatively safe dairy for people with lactose intolerance. By itself, Greek yogurt has almost no lactose in it because lactose is removed in the process of making it, but if you want to go a step ahead, you can buy lactose-free Greek yogurt. It is also gluten-free, which means it’s a safe product for people with food sensitivity.
Greek yogurt has Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains, good bacteria that modulate your gut microbiota and brings many therapeutic benefits. This probiotic food has been linked with better digestion, control of constipation and diarrhea, a lower rate of intestinal disorders, a positive modulation in the immune system, prevention of high blood cholesterol, and protection against certain infections.
Studies have shown that Greek yogurt is also beneficial to treat inflammatory diseases in the gut, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and pouchitis. It relieves the symptoms and prevents the relapse of these intestinal disorders by an immune modulation of the gut microbiota and the inflammatory cytokines associated with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. Greek yogurt also enhances the immune system by improving the activity of white cells such as T-cells and Natural Killers.
Recently, Greek yogurt has also been considered a nutritional aid for patients with chronic kidney disease. Yogurt is usually restricted for these patients, but they need protein in their diet, and Greek yogurt is a protein-dense food. The diet for these patients needs to be adjusted according to the amount of phosphorus and proteins in each meal, so many dieters are currently adding some brands of Greek yogurt with a healthy phosphorus-to-protein ratio for dialysis patients.
Greek yogurt as a beauty agent
Greek yogurt is also very good for your skin and hair. Since it is rich in lactic acid, Greek yogurt acts as a moisturizing agent and a gentle exfoliant to your skin. It has zinc, which is commonly used in anti-acne creams, and it has some astringent effects on your skin pores as well. You can use Greek yogurt in a variety of ways, and there’s some anecdotal evidence that it may be useful as a home remedy for dandruff as well.
You can mix one cup of Greek yogurt with two lemons and apply it to your face for one hour. This face mask acts as a skin polish to make your face smooth as a part of your natural treatment. You can also mix Greek yogurt with one egg and 2 tablespoons of oats and apply the resulting paste to your skin for 30 minutes to get rid of dark heads and pimples in your face. Similarly, if you want to use it as an anti-dandruff, get a cup of Greek yogurt and leave it in the open for 3 days. On the fourth day apply it to the roots of your hair for 20 minutes and wash it away.
A final piece of advice if you’re buying Greek yogurt
Finally, keep in mind that the FDA is not regulating the use of the term “Greek yogurt,” so you need to read the label to avoid a few things. For example, some “Greek” yogurt is regular yogurt thickened with gelatin or other products, others are made with whole milk and should be avoided because of their high-fat content. Another thing that you should avoid is added sugar, granola, chocolate, fruit syrups and other sweets that doubles up the calories in Greek yogurt. If you want to keep the whole range of health benefits, it is better to buy plain Greek yogurt, and you can add fruits, nuts, and any other ingredient afterward.