Health-conscious Americans have long touted the benefits of yogurt. But now many who once turned their noses up at yogurt are embracing the Greek way. Few foods pack as healthy a punch in such small serving sizes as Greek yogurt. A bowl of Greek yogurt can keep you fortified with essential nutrients and even help you lose weight. For many Greek yogurt lovers, the richer texture is also a big sell.
Greek yogurt is made by separating out the liquid whey, explains Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “This results in a thicker texture with fewer carbohydrates and sugar, and more protein the regular yogurt,” she says.
1. The Power of Protein
Protein is essential for good health. It is vital to cell growth, building muscle, and repairing tissue.
As you age, you need more protein to keep your skin healthy and to fight off illness. Greek yogurt is a great way to boost your protein levels while avoiding heavy foods like meats.
“Have it for breakfast and add in a handful of walnuts and blueberries,” Rumsey says. “Use it as a substitute for sour cream on top of chili or baked potatoes.”
2. Probiotics Keep You Regular
Greek yogurt is packed with probiotics. These are microorganisms such as bacteria and yeast. These normally live in your intestines, and having good microorganisms in your intestines helps keep you healthy, says Shane Griffin, a certified nutritional practitioner and founder of Whole Life Balance.
“Without a healthy balance of good bacteria from probiotics, too much bad bacteria can build up and cause damage to our immune systems,” Griffin says.
Probiotics are great for the digestive system, and especially helpful to people who suffer from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, he adds.
3. Get Your B12 Here!
Vitamin B12 is necessary for energy and healthy brain function, and Greek yogurt is full of it. “Many choose to supplement vitamin B12 into their diet, but Greek yogurt offers a powerful, natural alternative,” Griffin says.
Vegetarians are often deficient in B12 because it generally is found in meats, so Greek yogurt is an excellent, meat-free way to add more to your diet.
4. Potassium Balances Out Sodium
Most Americans have way too much sodium in their diet. Not only is Greek yogurt low in sodium, it is also high in potassium.
What does one have to do with the other? “Think of this scenario like it is a teeter-totter,” advises Griffin. “There must be a proper balance between sodium and potassium in the body, and Greek yogurt can help you maintain the correct proportions.”
5. A Workout Recovery Food
Greek yogurt can be a healthy and satisfying treat after a tough workout. Not only will it tide you over until your next meal, but it actually contains protein that can repair damage done by exercise.
“Greek yogurt is rich in the amino acids which make up proteins, and proteins are the building blocks for regenerating muscle tissue and repairing fiber damage,” explains Griffin. Add a banana or some berries for a nutrition-packed post workout snack.
6. Iodine Keeps Your Waist in Check
Greek yogurt is chock full of iodine. Iodine is important for proper thyroid function, and the thyroid is essential for healthy metabolism.
“People today tend to be iodine deficient, which can cause serious problems, including rapid fluctuations in weight,” Griffin says. “For people with weight problems, increasing iodine levels in their diet increases the thyroid’s activity and in turn increases their metabolism promoting weight loss.”
7. Calcium Is Key to Keeping Fit
Another benefit of Greek yogurt that is key both to weight loss and your overall health is its high calcium content.
Calcium has been linked to regulation of the body’s cortisol output, Griffin says. “Elevated levels of the hormone cortisol can cause the body to store fat, inhibiting weight loss or other health goals.”
“By incorporating more calcium into your diet, you can partially limit fat production in the body.”
8. The Sliminess Factor
Even though Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt, and therefore not so “slimy,” some people still don’t care for the consistency.
One way around that is to incorporate the yogurt into a smoothie drink. Alternately, you can use it as a topping on other foods. “Use it as a substitute for sour cream on top of chili or baked potatoes,” suggests Rumsey. You could also make your own popsicles at home by freezing Greek yogurt with fresh fruit.