Seniors & Aging

Yogurt much more than a breakfast item

Greek yogurt with honey is a simple but tasty treat.
Greek yogurt with honey is a simple but tasty treat. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Yogurt may be the flavor of the month in nutrition circles. Even better, there’s hard evidence that yogurt benefits not only your gut, but also your bones, heart, and brain.

Seniors are among those who benefit from eating yogurt, according to recent studies. But don’t think that yogurt with granola is the only way to eat it, says David Lukens, president and CEO of Grace Harbor Farms, who makes a variety of yogurt products at the Custer-area dairy and creamery.

There’s so many more things you can do, rather than just have it for breakfast.

David Lukens, Grace Harbor Farms

Health benefits

Yogurt is abundant in calcium, zinc, and in B vitamins, which aid in bone health and the slowing of osteoporosis, according to a 2014 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Yogurt is also a beneficial source of protein and probiotics, which aid digestion.

Other studies have also found that the probiotics in yogurt promote healthy intestinal flora, which can affect everything from gum to heart disease. A study published last year in the journal of The American Geriatrics Society found that older adults who eat seven or more servings a week of yogurt and other milk products had a lower incidence of frailty and bone fractures.

Not your mother’s yogurt

There are plenty of ways to add yogurt to your diet, and plenty of different kinds of yogurt to choose from.

By adding plain yogurt to your diet, especially with savory additions, you can avoid the sugar pitfalls of some of the fruit- or dessert-flavored yogurts in stores. Yogurt with fruit or added sugar can contain up to 28 grams of sugar, the recommended daily total for an adult woman.

Lukens, whose company makes whole-milk yogurt and kefir sold at Community Food Co-op and other grocery stores in the Puget Sound area, says exploring the different kinds of yogurt on the market can help add yogurt to your diet in unexpected ways. For example, yogurt can replace higher-fat products like sour cream and cheese, and can be added to baked goods.

Here are some yogurt options:

Plain yogurt is the traditional creamy version that contains much of the whey of the milk used to make it. As a breakfast item or snack, it can be sweetened with fruit, honey, or maple syrup. Yogurt can replace half of the oil in baking items, to reduce fat in a recipe. By adding herbs, garlic or other savory flavors, yogurt can be a sauce for fish or chicken.

Greek yogurt is strained to remove some of the whey, resulting in a thick, creamy product. It can replace sour cream, and, by adding herbs and garlic, be a healthy dip for crackers or raw vegetables. To make Greek yogurt from regular yogurt, put the regular in cheesecloth and strain for two to four hours.

Kefir is a drinking yogurt that contains beneficial yeast and probiotics. The yeast consumes much of the lactose in milk, making kefir easily digestible, even for people who are lactose-intolerant. Lukens says that while yogurt is cultured with heat, kefir is cultured at room temperature. The result is a product that can be sipped like a milkshake, but is lower in fat.

Labneh is a smooth, cheese-like product made from yogurt strained for eight to 12 hours. Also called yogurt cheese, it can be spread on toast instead of butter or cream cheese, mixed with pesto as a sandwich spread or crostini topping, and used as a creamy topping for a grain salad. For extra flavor, add olive oil, salt, and garlic.

Lukens also likes using his company’s yogurt in tzatziki, the traditional Greek sauce paired with falafel and lemon chicken, and used as a dip for crudité and pita chips.

“People are always asking about different ways to use our yogurt,” he says. “There’s so many more things you can do, rather than just have it for breakfast.”

Tzatziki sauce

16 ounces plain yogurt

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ lemon, juiced

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Process until well combined. Cover in a dish and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

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