Looking for a nutrient-dense food that is healthy, requires no cooking or cleanup, can be eaten on the run and appeals to kids? Then consider yogurt, which satisfies all of these criteria and more.

Research has demonstrated that yogurt can help meet changing nutrition needs during every stage of life. Like most dairy products, it is a good source of protein; an average 8-ounce serving contains 8–10 grams (g) of protein, or roughly 16%–20% of the daily amount recommended. Yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium, yielding up to 35% of daily needs. It is high in minerals and essential vitamins, like potassium and vitamin B12. Best of all, it comes in a full spectrum of fat levels, including nonfat, low-fat and whole-milk varieties and is also available in light and reduced-calorie forms. Unlike other dairy products, yogurt can be digested by people who are lactose intolerant.

The live or active cultures in most yogurts are produced during fermentation and are referred to as probiotics, or “good” bacteria. (Not all yogurts contain active cultures, so be sure to check the label for the bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus.) These bacteria assist with digestion and help fight infection. Yogurt also strengthens the immune system (especially in terms of warding off gastrointestinal infection); reduces the risk of certain cancers (e.g., colon cancer), coronary heart disease and other diet-related illnesses; lowers the risk of osteoporosis; and helps ease the discomfort of chemotherapy treatments.

In addition to being eaten plain, yogurt can be a boon when cooking. Here are some practical tips you can try in your kitchen:

  • Cut down on fat and calories by thickening sauces with yogurt instead of heavy cream. To keep your sauce from curdling, add 1 tablespoon of flour to every cup of yogurt used before adding the mixture to the sauce.
  • Avoid adding yogurt to a hot or boiling mixture, as the heat can destroy healthful bacteria. Instead, slowly add a small amount of the hot mixture to the yogurt and warm it gradually. Then stir the warmed yogurt into the remainder of the hot mixture.
  • Don’t cook or store yogurt in aluminum pans or containers; the acid in yogurt reacts with aluminum and can spoil the taste of the food or ruin the pan.
  • Try topping a baked potato with low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream or butter.
  • Use yogurt as the base for your favorite onion or spinach dip.

Source: www.aboutyogurt.com/healthupdate; retrieved October 4, 2004.