Wednesday, May 5, 2010


We all know that yogurt is a super food that is full of beneficial bacteria to keep our intestines working to the best of their ability, and it contains calcium and protein as well.  But the packaged yogurts on the market are so laden with sugar and artificial additives that I doubt there is much nutritional value left in them at all.  This is where we use a little knowlege to become smart shoppers so that we can have our yogurt and eat it too! You might be afraid that I am about to recommend plain yogurt, because surely you've tried plain yogurt and found it to be disgusting.  You may have added fruit to it, but ultimately you probably also ended up adding sugar.  You may even have vowed to steer clear of that stuff forever.  What you may not be aware of is the many varieties of plain yogurt with varying flavors. 

My first taste of plain yogurt was memorable, and not in a good way.  It was produced by a large name brand and it was either fat free or low fat, and little did I know it wasn't pure yogurt but contained fillers like gelatin and carageenan.  And it tasted disgusting.  But I've learned over the years that the real thing is absolutely delicious, and that the flavor varies with the fat content and the method of production.  Some yogurts are extremely tart and acidic and others are smooth and mild flavored. 

On the shelves you may find non-fat plain yogurt, yogurt with cream on top, Greek yogurt, and you may have heard of Skyr, a thick Icelandic yogurt.  I have found that the higher the fat content the better the yogurt because it's got a smooth consistency and it tends to be mild on the tongue.  Greek yogurt is thick, or strained, with a consistency similar to sour cream, as is Skyr, and as with anything, the flavors vary with the brand.  Some brands taste a bit like cottage cheese, others are quite acidic.

I've tried a lot of brands of yogurt.  I might be a yogurt snob, either that or my tongue is simply sensitive to variations of flavor, and I have found "the one"--Trader Joe's brand Greek whole milk yogurt. The flavor is so wonderful that it can be eaten PLAIN without so much as a pucker or a gag. And it really does well as a sour cream in recipes.  If you demand a little sweetness, there are many things you can add to plain yogurt, but two of them stand out: fresh blackberries and/or honey. 

Why blackberries?  Blackberries have a note of sourness to them that compliments plain yogurt beautifully while adding a subtle sweetness, while I find other berries to be too sweet.  A small amount of honey rounds out the two flavors nicely.  For something that leans more to the savory side, another wonderful accompaniment to plain yogurt is walnuts. 

They add a perfect earthiness to the yogurt, and the crunch is a great variation in the mouth.  In fact, this is often dessert for me nowadays!

I don't believe that we need to cut out fat in all our foods.  If we cut out too much fat our palates are not satisfied and we crave more and more food, looking for that thing that will satisfy our taste buds, and this leads to over eating.  A full fat yogurt is actually good for the body, and it's so decadent that the palate is satsified with one serving.  Sometimes a spoonful or two is all I feel I need.

I have a new health weapon in my arsenal for my children as well.  Instead of buying the sickly sweet varieties at the store with all those additives, I buy a large container of plain yogurt with cream on top and mix into stevia and vanilla to taste.  I store it in colorful little containers that are ready to grab.  It tastes wonderful and their systems are saved from the sugar hit.  Honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar are also tasty sweeteners with yogurt.

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