Whether it’s the base of a creamy parfait, or an ingredient in savory dips and marinades, Greek yogurt is a supermarket staple. Its custardy texture and high protein content make it the perfect addition to almost any dish. But did you know that it’s also a good source of gut-healthy bacteria, or probiotics? These bacteria can aid digestion, lower your risk for yeast infections and keep your immune system healthy.
Yogurt contains calcium, vitamin D, the water-soluble B vitamins and the nutrient iodine, which is important for thyroid function. It’s also a good source of the amino acid leucine, which increases the sense of satiety and helps you feel full for longer after eating. But the most important reason to choose Greek over regular is its high concentration of good bacteria and lactic acid, which can help prevent and treat a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Milk is normally safe to drink with UTIs because it contains lactic acid, which coagulates the proteins in the milk, and can even destroy some harmful bacteria. However, yogurt and other fermented dairy products like cottage cheese are much better because they contain more “good” bacteria that can kill the bad bacteria in your urinary tract. A study found that women who ate eight ounces of low-fat Greek yogurt daily had a 50% less chance for getting a UTI compared to those who didn’t.
The key to the beneficial bacteria in Greek yogurt is its process of fermentation, which separates whey from the curd. This is why it’s so thick and creamy, and higher in protein than standard yogurt. Unfortunately, many brands that claim to be Greek take shortcuts during the production process by adding thickeners such as cornstarch, gelatin and carrageenan.
Another thing to look out for is added sugars. Unless you choose plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, most brands add sweeteners such as cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup to give the yogurt a more appealing taste and texture. Try to find a natural-looking label and avoid those with added sugars.
When making Greek yogurt at home, try to not heat it more than 120 degrees F, which can kill the good bacteria. It’s best to warm the yogurt gradually into a hot mixture, or to mix it in just before serving. It’s also worth experimenting with swapping out eggs and heavy cream for Greek yogurt in recipes. But if you do have to cook the yogurt, wait until near the end of the cooking process in order not to lose any of its nutrients.