First published on http://menopausemission.com/eating-the-right-greek-yogurt-during-menopause October 2012
Yogurt is a popular food to eat for maintaining strong healthy bones. The popularity of Greek yogurt over the last five years has skyrocketed, but unfortunately some companies claiming to sell traditional Greek strained yogurt in fact are serving a product that does not align with the way pure traditional Greek strained yogurt is actually made. Being Greek, this begins to become insulting, especially growing up with the real thing, knowing the proper flavor and ingredients. Some of these yogurts are not making people healthy, but are contributing to their health issues. Don’t assume because a label says it’s a “Greek” yogurt that it’s healthy. Make sure you read the ingredients of your yogurt before purchasing; otherwise you will be buying a product that will in fact agitate and worsen your menopausal symptoms. For some, even a pure traditional Greek strained yogurt on its own can actually increase hot flash symptoms.
All Greek yogurts at your local market are not created equal, and this is something everyone should pay attention to, particularly when symptoms of menopause begin to settle in. When a woman gets close to entering the menopause stage of their life their bones begin to lose calcium. This can become more serious if a woman is not taking in enough vitamin D and calcium in their diet, has a family history of osteoporosis, has thyroid disease, an inactive lifestyle, small bone structure/frame, and takes medications that affect bone density.
It becomes crucial if any of these factors exist in your life to watch your diet, become active – particularly by doing weight-bearing exercises with light weights, and eat what I call “clean foods,” which do not contain sugar, caffeine, white flour, artificial colors and flavors, are not fried, fatty, or processed.
When adding traditional Greek strained yogurt to your diet, it should only have a small list of ingredients; Cultured Pasteurized milk, live and active cultures that include Acidophilus. That’s about it. Some home-made yogurt may contain vinegar, which is fine. If you see ingredients that include sugar, modified corn starch, kosher gelatin, pectin, and natural flavor you are best to avoid, if not run in the other direction. Some of these will trigger menopause symptoms.
If your local grocery store does not sell Greek strained yogurt try your local health food store. Greek yogurt tends to be thicker in consistency than conventional yogurt, giving it a creamier texture. Manufacturers do this normally by straining out some of the whey from the yogurt. That is the watery stuff you sometimes see in yogurt, which is meant for you to stir into the container of yogurt before eating. You don’t want to get rid of any of the water/whey you see in any yogurt container because that contains extra vitamins and minerals as well. Most companies leave enough whey in their yogurt to provide nutritional value. Read the labels of yogurt containers at the grocery store to compare nutritional and ingredient content before making your purchase.
If you want to sweeten your yogurt do add fresh fruit. I’m a fan of traditional Greek honey, but if you are noticing this is a trigger to more menopause symptoms try a small amount of agave syrup or just stick to the fruit. Walnuts and ground flaxseed are a nice addition as well. When I add these to Greek yogurt I can’t help but think the flavor combination I’m eating resembles something like cheesecake. They also add more bone strengthening power, prevent aging, and lubricate your tissues.
There has been a lot of debate as to whether one should eat low-fat or 2% fat content, either is good, but know that the lower the fat content in the yogurt, the higher the calcium content.
Growing up in a Greek household and traveling to Greece as a child to see my relatives exposed me to the thick creamy treat of traditional Greek strained yogurt. Yogurt in my family was particularly a popular part of our diet, not only because it is part of the traditional Greek diet, but because all the females in my family, on both sides, had a tendency to suffer from osteoporosis. My mother, my aunts, my grandmothers and even my great-grandmothers were always seen eating the creamy snack, often full-fat. I knew I was next in line to get osteoporosis if I didn’t become pro-active and look after my bone health and strength before it became a problem.
At the age of six I wanted to eat it with a lot of sugar to mask the sour taste, by age nine I cut the sugar and discovered and appreciated it with thyme-infused traditional Greek honey, by age 18 I added omega-3 fatty acid rich walnuts to the yogurt-honey blend. For years I looked forward to my summer vacations to Greece and my yogurt snack in either the mornings or evenings. Nothing I ate in North America could compete with this snack. On my trips back home from Greece, airlines would serve a packaged form of Greek yogurt with a side compartment of Greek honey as a breakfast snack. I relished every bite with my memories of my Greek holiday, sometimes with tears in my eyes.
Returning to my home of birth in Canada I would often ask my mother to make the traditional Greek strained yogurt, but the milk we used didn’t give it quite the same flavor. It was still better than what my local supermarket offered. Plus, there was always a little kept to make home-made tsatsiki to accompany our meals.
Yogurt may or may not be a right food choice for you entering or dealing with menopause. Choose traditional Greek strained yogurt, but be in tune with your body and notice if your body reacts to it or not. If it works for your body type, make sure you choose a company that truly makes it in its clean form; with no additives, preservatives, colors, gelatin or sugars. Those are the ingredients that will worsen your menopause symptoms. The aim is to keep your bones strong, prevent osteoporosis and any possible bone fractures, and minimize menopause symptoms.
Most importantly, just enjoy and know you are eating a healthy, high protein, bone-strengthening snack. It’s like a little OPA for your bones.
Photo Credit: Master Isolated Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net