It happens to me every year: I go to the annual dietetics conference, and at the conclusion of the last talk, I vow to educate everyone I know on the latest in nutrition news.
In years past, my motivation to spread the word has lost steam somewhere between the convention center exit and my office desk. “Not this year,” I say aloud in my car on the way home. So for the first time in years, I’m going to share something pretty important: probiotics in yogurt and why you need them.
What are probiotics, you ask? The simplest definition, according to Jo Ann Hattner, MPH, RD, and Susan Anderes, MLIS, authors of Gut Insight (www.gutinsight.com), probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your gut (intestines), keeping bad bacteria at bay. They have been shown to reduce the incidence of various gastrointestinal illnesses such as antibiotic-induced diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and lactose intolerance, to name a few.
Researchers are also studying how live and active cultures in yogurt, an excellent source of probiotics, may also play a role in reducing cholesterol levels and preventing some diseases. More research needs to be done, but so far the results are promising. Currently, the best-studied probiotics are the lactic acid bacteria, particularly Lactobacillus sp. and Bifidobacterium sp.
In addition to its health benefits, yogurt is highly nutritious. Each 1 cup serving of yogurt contains about 150 calories, 13 grams of protein, less than 4 grams of fat, over 570 milligrams of heart-healthy potassium and 45% of your Percent Daily Values of bone-building calcium.
Enjoy yogurt for breakfast with blueberries and honey; blend a midday pick-me-up yogurt smoothie with bananas, raspberries, toasted flax seeds (available at health food stores or large supermarkets) and a touch of vanilla extract; or spoon a dollop of thick, zesty Greek yogurt over a baked potato for a healthier alternative to high-fat sour cream.
This easy and super-healthy chicken recipe that follows calls for unpretentious yogurt and packs a big punch of tangy flavor.
Lemony Yogurt Chicken
To drain yogurt, line a wire mesh strainer with coffee filters. Spoon the yogurt into the filters and place the strainer over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the yogurt is thick, at least 2 hours. Short on time? Buy Greek-style yogurt. It’s a thick, slightly more tart variety.
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup drained plain lowfat yogurt
Zest of 1 large lemon (about 2 tsp.)
Juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 Tbs.)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
Place the chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the chicken in a glass dish. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. of the salt evenly over the chicken.
In a bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, ginger, garlic powder and cayenne until smooth. Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken, spreading it evenly over both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Scrape most of the yogurt mixture off the chicken. Place the chicken on the grill pan and cook, turning once, until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side. Serves 2 to 4.
Note: Alternatively, prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Place the chicken on the grill and cook, turning once, until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
- Pounding the chicken makes it more porous, allowing more of the yogurt mixture to flavor the chicken, and ensures it cooks quickly and evenly.
- The yogurt mixture would also be delicious as a marinade for pork tenderloin, boneless pork chops or lamb chops.
- For a luscious lunch option, place Lemony Yogurt Chicken into a whole grain pita. Top with romaine lettuce, tomato slices, cucumber slices and extra yogurt.
- Try other delicious yogurt recipes such as Yogurt Dip with Garlic, Mint and Dill. It’s great as a dip as well as a spread for Greek-style burgers.
Visit www.aboutyogurt.com to learn more about yogurt’s health benefits.
About the author: Joy, a registered dietitian, developed a love of food and cooking at age 10 while living in Mexico City when she opted to help peel, chop and shred for elaborate Mexican feasts instead of going outside to play with kids her own age. Joy’s Spanish-Jewish roots cultivated a passion for world food, such as Turkish, Israeli, and Cuban, but her familial struggle with weight led to a career in nutrition. The combination enabled her to embrace the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet without forfeiting amazing flavor. Joy was an associate food editor for magazines such as Southern Living and Cooking Light, developed recipes for Natural Health magazine and various food companies.