Yogurt is one of the foods I always recommend.
It is a fantastic food that most people love and tolerate and it has universal appeal across different diets and cultures.
Yogurt has 2 important elements that make my recommendation list when working with my clients to get back to sleep. It is a good source of protein and it is a probiotic food. Protein is needed to make hormones that play a role in sleep and probiotic food contains live bacteria that helps support gut health that is often compromised due to stress and sleep issues. Furthermore, yogurt has lots of important nutrients like magnesium calcium, potassium and B vitamins.
Recently I was asked why do I recommend plain Greek yogurt.
The simple answer is because it has a higher content of protein.
And then something was nagging me in the back of my mind about why Greek specifically.
Part of the reason was a few months earlier I was comparing the different Greek yogurts at the grocery store. The brand my husband preferred was the highest in protein content so we bought that one.
Traditional Greek yogurt is delicious. It is thick and creamy. To make Greek yogurt, the whey is removed. You know when you eat regular yogurt you see liquid in the container – that is whey. It is the reason that my yogurt miso salad dressing is so robust because regular yogurt makes it too thin and just not the same taste.
I then examined my husband’s yogurt choice more closely. The ingredients were milk and active bacterial culture ….. and pectin. The label said it was “Greek style yogurt” – so it was not a true Greek yogurt. It was basically faking Greek yogurt by adding pectin to thicken and firm up the texture. So watch out for wording of “Greek style yogurt” and look for words in the ingredients like pectin, gelatin, gum or starch.
You see, what you want in your yogurt is just two ingredients, milk and live bacterial cultures. That’s it.
And frankly you want whole milk over skim milk but it really isn’t a deal breaker.
Full fat whole milk is a healthy choice over the low fat. Whole milk will have more protein and it simply tastes better. You don’t need to fear the fat in yogurt. A study suggests that fat in dairy products did not seem to increase risk for heart disease and in might even be beneficial.
Which now leads to which is better – plain Greek yogurt or plain yogurt.
Both are good choices.
However I am recommending full fat plain yogurt over Greek yogurt. While there is nothing wrong with recommending Greek yogurt, I have learned while exploring this topic that Greek yogurt has a dirty secret – it is not environmentally friendly.
The problem is when whey is removed when making Greek yogurt and this whey is acidic and toxic if dumped into the environment. In speaking with someone in the dairy industry, whey is being dumped because it is too expensive to do something with it. How much this is happening is not known but if they dump too much, it is going to be obvious in the environment.
Some of the whey is being sold as cattle feed or for fertilizer which will also get washed off into the waterways over time. An example of what it can do, in 2008 in Ohio, the acidic whey was dumped into Sandy Creek which depleted oxygen levels, albeit temporarily, that resulted in the death of 5,400 fish.
It seems to be a huge problem for the manufacturers of Greek yogurt, – what to do with all this whey? And the problem increases because of the popularity so maybe this is why Greek style yogurt is now a thing?
It does seem that there are people working on figuring out ways to deal with all this whey. There was a New York Yogurt Summit where one producer has been alleged to say “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become a hero”. That was back in 2012.
So my conclusion is to eat regular, full fat, plain yogurt instead if Greek yogurt.
Look for the ingredients to say no more than: milk and live bacterial cultures.
And eat the whey in your regular yogurt, don’t dump it down the sink. Mix it into your yogurt bowl or smoothie, Or save it and find another creative use like a brine or marinade. Apparently, it makes a nice cool drink. Hmmm – I think I will just mix it with my yogurt. Besides the whey contains probiotics and protein and that’s a good thing.
And now to add one more idea, I tried buffalo yogurt. I had no idea how delicious it tasted. It is now my favourite – made from whole buffalo milk and bacterial cultures. I got it at the farmer’s market although I have seen it available at my local organic grocery store. If you see it, don’t pass it by – give it a try. Has all the same good things as regular yogurt.
It is not that I will never have Greek yogurt again, it just concerns me how popular trends can have an impact somewhere else. And eating good old plain yogurt is the better alternative for me. I really hate to see the waste of food and then to realize it has the potential to do environmental harm.
Only trouble is….getting use to my thinner less creamier yogurt miso salad dressing.