Greek yogurt, a variety made by straining off some of the liquid whey that gives regular yogurt its thinner texture, has become incredibly popular over the past few years. This is due, in part, to its high protein content; a six-ounce cup of Greek yogurt can have as much as 20 grams of protein, the same as about half a chicken breast (conventional yogurt has more like 9 grams).
Aside from its nutritional edge over traditional varieties, Greek yogurt is appreciated for its unique texture; it's much thicker and creamier than other varieties of yogurt, a characteristic that makes it useful for a number of other purposes both in and out of the kitchen.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing Greek yogurt is what’s in the ingredient list; not all Greek yogurts are made the same way or using the same ingredients. Some are thickened with modified corn starches or gelatin and the majority of flavored Greek yogurts have tons of added sugar. But, if you choose a plain, organic Greek yogurt made with milk and live and active cultures as the first ingredients, you can reap the many health benefits this creamy yogurt has to offer.
True Greek yogurt (strained, thickened milk with live and active cultures) has powerful probiotic properties. We often hear about the benefits of probiotics for digestive health (the live and active cultures in yogurt help balance out the good and bad bacteria in our guts) but new research is examining their health benefits of probiotics when applied topically. Though more research is needed, preliminary studies have shown that applying certain strains of “good bacteria” directly to your skin can potentially help heal acne, reduce redness, and prevent visible signs of aging.
So how do you take advantage of the benefits of Greek yogurt both in and out of the kitchen? If you’re not a fan of yogurt and granola, we’ve got seven creative ideas for you.
1. Make cheese
Place 3-4 layers of cheesecloth in the bottom of a colander set over a large bowl. Put the Greek yogurt in the cheesecloth (feel free to add salt, herbs, or spices to the yogurt first for flavored cheese) and put the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning you’ll have soft, spreadable yogurt cheese.
2. Deep condition your hair
The fat in Greek yogurt makes a great moisturizer. Use it as a deep-conditioning treatment by applying plain Greek directly to your hair. Cover your head with a shower cap and let the Greek yogurt soak into your hair for 30 minutes. Then, wash your hair as you regularly would.
3. Moisturize your skin
Greek yogurt is also a great moisturizer for your skin. You can buy a number of beauty products with Greek yogurt in them or make your own moisturizing mask by combining plain Greek yogurt with a little bit of honey. Leave the mixture on your face for 15 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water and a washcloth.
4. Fight acne
More research is needed but preliminary studies suggest that, when applied topically, the probiotics in Greek yogurt can help heal acne and may also create a barrier that prevents new acne-causing bacteria from reaching the skin.
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