Love Yogurt? 5 Things to Know

By Katherine Brooking, MS, RD

Love yogurt? You’re not alone! According to recent projections, the U.S. yogurt market is expected to exceed $ 9 billion in sales by next year! Chances are, there’s yogurt in your refrigerator right now. But how much do you really know about this top snack choice? Here are 5 yogurt facts that may surprise you:

1. It’s filled with bacteria – and that’s a good thing!

Yogurt must contain ‘live and active’ cultures (also known as bacteria), specifically Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, to meet the legal definition for the product. These cultures convert pasteurized milk to yogurt during fermentation. In addition, some brands contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidus, and other cultures. Research indicates that these bacteria may play a role in preventing gastrointestinal infections and boosting the body’s immune system. While more research is needed to establish a definitive link between yogurt cultures and these health effects, early studies are encouraging. On top of all of that, yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein and vitamin B-12.

2. Not all yogurts are created equal

There are literally hundreds of choices in the yogurt aisle these days - regular, fruit-flavored, artificially-sweetened, Greek, Swiss and Icelandic-style, and countless other options. It’s important to read the nutrition facts panel closely. Some varieties are loaded with calories, saturated fat, and sugar – making them a lot more like a decadent dessert than a healthy snack food. While all yogurt has naturally-occurring sugar from the milk, some brands have over 20g of added sugar. Look for one that has under 15g of sugar and keep it fat-free.

3. Greek-style has twice the protein

Greek yogurt has twice the protein (keeping you full for longer) and less sugar than regular yogurt. In fact 1 cup of Greek yogurt has 24 grams of protein – that’s the equivalent of about 4 eggs! That’s because it’s strained to lose the watery whey, making it creamier and thicker than traditional yogurt. For a perfect between-meal power snack, top ½ cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh berries, 2 tbsp granola, and 1 tsp honey.

4. It can slim down your baked goods (and your waistline!)

If you’re looking for ways to cut down on saturated fat and calories, consider substituting nonfat plain yogurt or nonfat Greek yogurt for some of the fat (like butter, oil, or even sour cream) in your baking. Yogurt adds moisture without fat, making it a top swap for baking cookies, muffins, brownies and cakes. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when using yogurt in your recipes:

  • Reduce the oil in your recipes back by substituting 1/2 of the oil with 3/4 the amount of yogurt
  • When substituting butter with yogurt, replace 1/2 of the butter with 1/2 as much yogurt (so if a recipe calls for 1 cup butter, you would use 1/2 cup butter plus 1/4 cup yogurt)
  • When baking, you can replace one egg with 1/4 cup yogurt

5. It’s been around for thousands of years!

While new brands of yogurt pop up on store shelves every year, yogurt itself is nothing new. In fact, evidence suggests that a version of yogurt was consumed by people as early as 5,000 and 6,000 B.C. Herdsmen of central Asia carried milk around in containers made of animal stomachs, which curdled the milk and essentially made yogurt. There are historical accounts that yogurt was a staple of the armies of Genghis Khan, and yogurt is mentioned in ancient Indian, Persian, and Turkish texts.