Healthy Hints: Yogurt

This week we take a break from our “Eat Like A Local” series to discuss healthy hints for a healthy diet!  Today, we will be looking at digestive health, and the benefits of yogurt for your digestive system.  One way to improve digestive health and help with weight management is including yogurt in your diet.  Luckily, enjoying some yogurt can also be a great way to eat local and support local farms during the winter season.

Yogurt Nutrition

A key benefit of yogurt is that it is full of probiotics, or good bacteria, that aid in gut health.  Our digestive system is a mix of both good and bad bacteria; one good bacteria, known as lactobacillus, is one of the cultures also found in yogurt. By bolstering the good bacteria found in the digestive tract, food is broken down more easily and nutrients are more easily absorbed into the digestive system. To make sure you are getting the benefits of the yogurt’s probiotics, make sure the label says ‘contains live and active cultures.’

Even though most yogurt includes probiotics, not all yogurt is created equal.  For starters, some yogurts use whole milk to craft their product, and some use low-fat or non-fat milk.  Different brands also use different recipes and some add varying degrees of sugar and fruit to achieve certain flavors.

Sugar content is usually a chief concern with yogurt, although, not all sugar in yogurt is added in.  Yogurt has naturally occurring sugars present in it from the milk, which adds to the sugar content you see on the nutrition label.  Traditional yogurt has around 12-15g of naturally occurring milk sugar per 6oz serving and Greek yogurt has around 9-12g in the same amount 6oz serving.  A good rule of thumb is to keep total sugars from traditional yogurt to no more than 22g, and total sugars from Greek yogurt to no more than 15g.

Always be sure to read the nutrition label before making a buying decision.  Compare the nutrition facts from one yogurt to its plain or sugar free counterpart to get a more accurate gauge on the added sugar content.  If you are worried about sugar content, consider buying plain yogurt and flavoring it with fresh fruit or granola, or try a kind that uses a zero calorie artificial sweetener to cut down on added sugar.   Remember to keep daily sugar intake to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake.  For a 2000 calorie diet, that is 200 calories of sugar, which is roughly 50g.

Local Yogurt: Country View Dairy

Country View Dairy is a family-owned dairy operation 80 miles from Dubuque in Hawkeye, IA.  Dave and Carolee Rapson, the owners of Country View Dairy, had a dream of owning their own dairy farm.  Carolee had grown up on a dairy farm, and wanted to continue her family’s legacy.  Dave had come to know the dairy industry through years working on a dairy farm and moving through the ranks from milker to herdsman to herd owner.  Both Dave and Carolee took their experience and started working toward their dream of owning their own herd of dairy animals.  In 2002, their dream came true and they purchased a farm in Hawkeye, IA and began operating their own dairy enterprise.

As their family and cow herd began to grow, they began looking for other ways to bring income to the farm besides their traditional milk sales.  In order to pass the farm on to the next generation, they knew they would need to diversify their offerings and make their operation more sustainable.  Dave and Carolee both enjoyed their own homemade yogurt, and after much research, decided to build a state certified creamery on their family farm to mass produce their own home recipe.  Country View Dairy started selling yogurt to local businesses in 2011, and have spent the last seven years perfecting and expanding their yogurt selection to include 5 flavors of traditional yogurt, 6 flavors of Greek yogurt, and 17+ flavors of frozen yogurt.

Greek versus Traditional

When the business first started they had a few varieties of traditional yogurt.  Like any business, everyone always has suggestions for new products and flavors to try, so when the first requests started coming in for Greek yogurt, Dave was skeptical.  The couple waited a few years to make sure Greek yogurt was not simply a trendy fad, but as it continued to gain in popularity Dave made the decision to bring a few Greek varieties on board.

What’s the difference between Greek yogurt and traditional yogurt anyway? Well, the short answer is that Greek yogurt is strained more thoroughly than traditional yogurt, which removes more of the liquid and whey from the product.  This gives Greek yogurt a denser, creamier texture, and more protein per serving than traditional yogurt.  Greek yogurt should also include less sugar because more of the lactose, or milk sugar, is removed from the mix.  Traditional yogurt, on the other hand, has more calcium than Greek because there it contains more whey which includes a lot of the calcium.

If you’re looking for a healthy addition to your diet this new year, be sure to remember yogurt on your next grocery run!  Country View Dairy’s yogurt is available at the Asbury HyVee location. Anderson Erickson (AE) yogurt, another Iowa brand, is available at three Dubuque HyVee stores and all Dubuque County Fareway locations.

Happy eating!

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