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The truth about Greek yogurt

If the television commercial with John Stamos doesn't persuade you, maybe the high protein count will clinch the sale.

Between the celebrity sex appeal and the nutrition, it's no wonder Greek-style yogurt is growing in popularity.

Greek-style yogurt, which has tangy flavor, thicker consistency and higher protein content than other varieties, accounts for one-third of total yogurt sales, according to a 2012 dairy trend survey from the Institute of Food Technologists.

In fact, for a yogurt variety that was relatively unknown a decade ago, Greek-style yogurt is now taking up serious real estate in the dairy case.

Still, you may wonder how to fit this dairy product into your diet.

Is it a meal, a snack, a replacement for a glass of milk or the ingredient that's going to provide your tummy with beneficial bacteria?

Start with the Nutrition Facts panel on a yogurt carton for answers.

Depending on the brand, a serving of Greek-style yogurt might contain 15 to 20 grams of protein, which can be almost double that of other types.

With that much protein, Greek-style yogurt is a satisfying snack, said Sarah Krieger, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“Pair it with fruit, which goes great with yogurt,” said Krieger of St. Petersburg, Fla.

Whether you select plain, fat-free, full-fat and/or sweetened yogurt depends on your overall diet.

“If you really want full-fat yogurt, go for it, but cut back on fat elsewhere,” Krieger said.

You also can buy fat-free plain yogurt and add a small amount of honey, coming out ahead on calories. Or you can flavor plain yogurt with fruit.

“Use very ripe fruit at the peak of sweetness. Mangos and raspberries will taste amazing. You won't have to add as much sugar,” Krieger said.

Calcium content also differs from other yogurts. When making Greek-style yogurt, calcium-rich whey is strained off. However manufacturers have the option to add calcium. Compare amounts among brands using the Nutrition Facts panels.

In addition to nutrients, yogurt is a source of probiotics — friendly bacteria that aid digestion and have the potential for strengthening your immune system.

Greek-style yogurt also contains probiotics, though not unique ones, said Dr. Eamonn Quigley, head of gastroenterology at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston.

“I can't find evidence of superior bacterial consistency,” Quigley said.

It's not a miracle food, but it's a nutritious one, according to health experts.

However, suppose the idea of low-fat yogurt isn't as appealing to you as say, raisins with yogurt-flavored candy coating?

Are you still getting probiotics in a handful of a highly processed confection?

Most likely not, according to the definition Quigley uses.

“A probiotic is a live organism that when ingested in adequate amounts confers health benefits,” he said.

Don't use candy-coated raisins as your source for probiotics or nutrition. Instead opt for Greek-style yogurt as a delicious, tangy dressing for a simple vegetable salad.

Garden Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing

Makes four servings

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

2 large scallions, trimmed and chopped ( cup chopped)

1 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced (peeled only if skin is thick)

cup plain nonfat yogurt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

teaspoon ground cumin

teaspoon each: paprika, salt and pepper

Place tomatoes, scallions and cucumber in a large bowl. Combine yogurt, oil, vinegar, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix well. Spoon yogurt mixture over vegetables. Stir gently to combine.

Nutrients per serving: 75 calories; 3.5 grams total fat; 4 grams protein; 6.3 grams carbohydrates; 163 milligrams sodium and 1 gram dietary fiber.




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