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The “International” World of Yogurt

Yogurt with fresh berries

Recently, with the popularity of Greek yogurt, people (myself included) have been shying away from the “regular”, or American, yogurt. Now, our clients are also raving about Icelandic yogurts. Much of the change in the public’s buying habits stems from the reality that both Greek and Icelandic yogurts are high in protein and low in carbohydrates – a combination that helps with weight control – while “regular” yogurt tends to be just the opposite. In either situation, all yogurt provides friendly bacteria that help in better digestion and infection fighting, so whatever your preference, you’re achieving that.

But there are more reasons for eating yogurt than simply getting friendly bacteria, and which yogurt you choose may depend on some other considerations.

Both Icelandic and Greek yogurts are made by straining or “skimming” the milk, each using a different method. The more they are skimmed, the higher their protein level. Icelandic yogurts start with skim milk to make a cheese-like spread that’s high in protein with very little carbohydrate. Greek yogurts are similar, but generally have a bit more carbohydrate and a bit less protein. In both cases, however, the protein content is higher compared to regular yogurt.

One big difference is that with Icelandic and Greek yogurts, friendly bacteria are added at a later stage in the process rather than benefitting from a full fermentation of the yogurt. The level of action of lactase enzyme on lactose, then, is limited, resulting in lower galactose content. Galactose is another importance difference between the types.

Plain yogurt contains a lot of galactose, some lactose, and natural bacterial cultures. Their role is to produce lactase enzyme that converts the milk lactose starter into galactose along with traces of glucose and levulose. Why is this important? Two reasons.

First, the brain prefers galactose and levulose to glucose. If you need something to help calm your nerves and steady your brain function, regular yogurt may be your “cup of tea”.

In addition, an expectant mother’s mammary glands prefer to extract their galactose requirement from the bloodstream in order to make lactose for the baby’s nutrition. If you’re an expectant mother, regular yogurt may again be your choice because of its galactose content.

In conclusion, if you are looking for brain power, infection-fighting capability, or are preparing for motherhood and lactation, choose regular yogurt. If your ultimate goal is getting the most protein for better muscle power, weight control and repair, you’ll want to choose among the Greek or Icelandic varieties.

Regardless of your choice, all of these yogurts have a nourishing place in your overall health plan.

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4 Responses to The “International” World of Yogurt

  1. Kim says:

    What are your thoughts on coconut milk yogurt as an alternative for individuals with dairy issues?

    • Kim, coconut milk yogurt has become a healthful fad with a growing number of advocates. Being healthful, however, doesn’t mean that I approve it across the board as a substitute for dairy. Dairy has qualities discussed earlier that can’t be replaced by coconut milk. One questionable area has been the general addition of refined sugar to coconut milk yogurt. They generally call it cane sugar extract, but it’s essentially refined sugar. Too, if your problem with dairy is lactose intolerance, overcoming this is important, and accomplished by eating plain yogurt daily, giving you the lactase that is missing. Knowing this I’m not opposed to using it as an occasional yogurt source.

  2. The area of brain function and the brain’s preference for galactose is extended also to levulose, which accounts for 70% of the sugars found in raw honey. So, if I can borrow from the Bible [Isaiah 7:15], the maximum stress-reducing effect on the brain is best achieved by adding a teaspoon of raw honey to your plain yogurt, allowing each spoonful to literally melt in your mouth before swallowing. Do it and feel your stress, your fears and your worries melt away.

  3. Hi Sam! Having a strong dairy intolerance (and need to heal from brain trauma) how much plain yogurt should one take daily to win dairy tolerance?
    Thank you Sam.

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