Going Greek

Well, there’s been a lot of buzz about Greek yogurt in the last few years and how great it is for you.  This post isn’t going to refute that.  But I do want to point out a few things about this little protein-packed gem that you might want to consider before loading up on that 10-for-a-dollar sale on Greek yogurt at your local grocery store.

So let’s start with the good stuff: first, the protein.  When you’re looking for a quick bite that’s going to keep you satiated for awhile, it’s gotta have protein.  Carbohydrates of the wheat and starch variety will generally leave you feeling heavy and sluggish; ever eat a couple slices of pizza for lunch and then crash a few hours later?  This isn’t exactly optimal for attending a three hour practice after work, not only because you’re exhausted but also because you’re probably starving again by the time you strap on your skates. So, protein is the ticket…and Greek yogurt has an abundance of it, approximately 10-16 grams per serving, depending on the variety. This is around twice what you find in regular yogurt.

Greek yogurt also–despite requiring about three times more milk to produce–has lower lactose, and therefore can be a little gentler on those who might be lactose-intolerant. Some folks find digesting dairy just plain hard, which can result in embarrassing “exhaust trouble” later on, and is only exacerbated by being in derby stance for extended periods of time.

You will of course find Greek yogurt in full-fat, low-fat and non-fat varieties; which one you choose is a matter of personal taste. But before you get on the fat-is-bad bandwagon, consider this: you do, in fact, need some fat. It aids in digestion and prevents you from burning muscle (this is a little simplified but there it is). And from a “whole foods” perspective, the more you take out of a food, the more you’re missing…in other words, when you start skimming out the fat in milk you’re taking out other things, too, that your body is going to start missing on a subconscious level, leading to weird cravings. And, for the love of Pete, you’re a derby girl. You’re active. You burn a jazillion calories and really, the 10% of your daily allowance that you get from your Greek yogurt isn’t going to hurt you.

I’m not going to get into advocating one brand over another, or telling you not to buy certain kinds. What I am going to do is give you a few things to look out for on your label when you’re browsing the dairy aisle. First, avoid artificial dyes and aspartame. I think the former is self-explanatory (we’re trying to be healthy, here) and the latter has a well-deserved reputation for artificiality and shady side effects. Again, we’re going for healthy, not fake.

Second, try not to buy yogurts that contain carrageenan. This little devil is often used as a thickening agent (to give lesser-quality yogurts that creamy consistency that Greek yogurt is famous for), and some studies have linked its degraded form to certain types of cancer. The undegraded form is supposed to be purer, but is near-impossible to produce without contaminating it with the degraded form, so best just to avoid it altogether.

A few other things to be on the watch for: high fructose corn syrup (this is basically just disguised sugar and does you no good), and modified corn starch…most corn starches are genetically modified in some form, and unless you are buying an organic variety that certifies it isn’t modified in any way, you don’t want this in your yogurt.

As as far as flavors…? I prefer berry varieties myself if I really am in a hurry. I also like to buy a larger container of plain full-fat and dole it into single-serving tupperwares with some fresh fruit and honey or agave nectar. Add some organic or homemade granola for a tasty, filling breakfast. I personally don’t enjoy naked, plain Greek yogurt for anything except cooking with but that’s just me. You might be a glutton for punishment…have at it.

Either way, if you are looking for a mid-morning snack to get you to lunch, or a quick filler between work and practice, going Greek can help.