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Rainbow Kitchen

Yogurt: Yummy for Your Tummy – And Beyond

By Allison St. Claire
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Researchers found that the duration of all illnesses was significantly lower in an elderly group that consumed a certain probiotic found in fermented milk. They reported a possible 20% reduction in the length of winter infections (including gastrointestinal and respiratory infections).

Growing up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, I think I heard about yogurt far fewer times than we have fingers on both hands. It was clearly something only “health nuts” ate, or maybe one of the families in our immigrant-rich neighborhood in Ohio.

Today yogurt has gone from a simple, delicious, nutrient-rich food to occupying acres of grocery store shelving – and mostly, alas, as “dessert” rather than a valuable health food – especially for both infants and elderly persons it was always considered. Yes, 8 oz. of whole milk yogurt averages 8-10 grams of sugar from lactose, but low- or no-fat yogurts’ sugar counts soar (they add sugars to replace the fat); added fruits, flavorings, and other goodies – and you’re consuming a sugar bomb worse than a Twinkie or many candy bars.

For children, yogurt is a balanced source of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and minerals. Seniors frequently have more sensitive colons or no longer produce much lactase, Elderly intestines show declining levels of bifidus bacteria, which allow the growth of toxin-producing and, perhaps, cancer-causing bacteria. Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Studies suggest probiotics may help with inflammatory bowel disease by changing the intestinal microflora and lessening the immune system response that can worsen disease.

Other studies indicate probiotics that abound in yogurt may enhance resistance to and recovery from infection. Researchers found that the duration of all illnesses was significantly lower in an elderly group that consumed a certain probiotic found in fermented milk. They reported a possible 20% reduction in the length of winter infections (including gastrointestinal and respiratory infections).   

Always look for live and active cultures – the living organisms Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which convert pasteurized milk to yogurt during fermentation – in the yogurt you consume. (Indicated by National Yogurt Association's Live & Active Cultures seal.) All yogurts are required to be made with these two cultures. Even better, go for yogurts which also contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidus and other cultures. In heat-treated yogurt, these cultures are killed during post-fermentation heating. Other less than desirable products include yogurt-covered pretzels and candy, and some yogurt-containing spreads and salad dressings.

Greek yogurt which has swept the market recently with a massive marketing campaign has not significantly improved the product. It is simply regular yogurt that has had the whey strained out. Because it is often more sour tasting, the harder it is to find plain, whole milk versions. (Whole milk contains the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and contains no oxidized cholesterol of reduced fat milk.)

Yogurt (rather than sour cream) veggie dip is a long-time favorite way to enjoy this healthy food. But let’s look at a way to incorporate plentiful end-of-summer veggies into a flavorful summer dish with complete-protein quinoa as a base.    

 

Herbed Zucchini and Quinoa Pilaf

I love this dish because there are so many additions and variations you could incorporate to suit your tastes, ingredients on hand, or letting your creativity loose to fashion a rainbow of food delights. Here’s the basic version featured by Stonyfield Yogurt.

2/3 cup plain yogurt

1/4 cup basil

2 T olive oil

3/4 t salt

1/4 T black pepper

1 T unsalted butter

1 small onion (finely chopped)

1 cup quinoa (rinsed)

1-1/4 cup vegetable broth

2 small zucchini (trimmed and grated)

1 red pepper (seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces)

1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)

8 oz fresh mozzarella (cut into 1/2-inch pieces)

 

Combine yogurt, basil, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper in a blender. Puree on high speed until well blended and smooth; set aside.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion to pot and cook for 4 minutes. Add quinoa to pot and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in broth, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and transfer quinoa to a serving bowl.

Stir prepared dressing, zucchini, red pepper, chickpeas, mozzarella and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt into serving bowl with quinoa until combined; serve immediately.

Endless other possibilities:    

Chicken broth, tomato juice, coconut milk, cucumber water.

Almost any summer veggie: Yellow summer squash, pole beans, peas, eggplant, carrot curls, julienned bok choy, savoy cabbage...

Other beans: kidney, cannellini, navy, pinto.

Other peppers: green, yellow, orange, hot ones to your liking.

Other herbs in addition to or in place of basil: dill, parsley, chives, thyme, oregano...

Let your imagination run wild; your taste buds enjoy and your health improve!

 


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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

Meet Allison