Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts is a staple in Greek homes. Did you know that this meal really does a body good? Roula Marinos Papamihail explains.
Greek yogurt is more than delicious
Yogurt with honey and walnuts is one of my all-time favorite Greek foods. Greek yogurt can be a beautiful ending to a wonderful Greek meal, a breakfast item, or a satisfying snack. Not only does it taste AMAZING but it also satisfies your sweet tooth, provides your body with a variety of nutrients and enzymes, AND delivers a significant amount of probiotics. As a result, not only is this dish extremely easy to digest, AND nutritionally dense, but it also improves your digestion OVERALL.
Why is Greek yogurt (a.k.a. strained yogurt) so thick?
Greek yogurt is a thick, creamy cultured milk product. What makes Greek yogurt different? The liquid whey (the watery part of the milk that remains after milk has been curdled) is strained out several times, yielding a distinct thicker, creamier texture. The creamy texture found in many other yogurt products is usually the result of additives. The true straining process used in making Greek yogurt results in a yogurt that has twice the amount of protein and less sugar than regular yogurts.
Greek yogurt is high in probiotics
While macronutrients are important for overall health, one of the most significant benefits of Greek yogurt is that it’s a fermented food. By eating fermented foods you’re providing your body with many additional, much needed, micronutrients. Fermented foods are cultured foods that also contain high amounts of probiotics (good bacteria). These probiotics are not only needed by our bodies for the maintenance of healthy digestion and healthy immune systems, but also serve medicinal purposes.
“All disease begins in the gut” ~ Hippocrates
There are several strains of probiotics that can be found specifically in yogurt (depending on the type of starter used). The two characteristic bacterial cultures used are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Research continues to indicate that different probiotic strains and substrains are able to treat different ailments. Yogurt’s probiotic strains have been linked to improvements in disorders such anxiety, colic, constipation, allergies and eczema.
Additionally, different strains colonize in different part of our gastrointestinal tracts. Their effectiveness can be determined by their ability to survive in our systems once consumed. Probiotics are fragile in nature, and supplemental probiotics can lose their effectiveness through production processes and/or when exposed to heat and acidic environments. Yogurt however, is a perfect vehicle for probiotic delivery.
Dairy seems to act like a buffer for stomach acid and bile, making yogurt one of the most effective ways to consume probiotics.
If you’re lactose intolerant
,For those reading this that are lactose intolerant and or avoid dairy for fear of being lactose intolerant, eating yogurt may actually help relieve some of the associated symptoms. The probiotics found in yogurt have been found to alter microorganisms in the colon. These microorganisms may even begin to produce their own lactase enzyme. It seems that through the continued consumption of yogurt, individuals may actually produce this enzyme. Overtime, this growth may help alleviate and or eliminate intolerance symptoms.
Buyer beware: not all Greek yogurts are created equal
The current Greek yogurt craze in the US has resulted in the Greek yogurt label being slapped on a variety of products. There are no government regulations when it comes to labeling Greek yogurt and unfortunately many companies are taking advantage. The additional straining process can be expensive. To save money, some companies use thickening agents like cornstarch and milk protein concentrate instead.
The best way to know if you’re buying a truly strained (aka Greek) yogurt? Know your source and read the ingredients. Greek yogurt should only contain milk and live active cultures.
TIP: Read the labels. Only purchase yogurt that lists “contains live active cultures”, and not “made with live active cultures”. This way, you can ensure that your yogurt is truly authentic AND packed with probiotics.
Make your own Greek yogurt
The optimal way to ensure that you are eating a genuine, traditional Greek strained yogurt filled with many strains of probiotics is by making your own. Most people agree that store bought yogurt pales in comparison to taste and texture (and in probiotics!) when compared to Yiayia’s yogurt.
By making your own you can insure that you’ll be eating the most nutritionally dense, probiotic filled yogurt available. Click here for a recipe.
Walnuts are multitaskers
While most American adults do not consume tree nuts on a regular basis, this is definitely not the case for Greeks. Walnuts are a staple in many Greek dishes and desserts dating back to ancient times and as a result, Greeks have been experiencing the many health benefits that walnuts have to offer for a very long time.
These health benefits are vast. They range from cancer fighting properties to heart health. They’re high in the amino acid l-arginine which helps individuals with heart disease and or people with risk factors for it. Walnuts help improve overall exercise performance and contain large amounts of healthy fats, specifically omega 3’s. This healthy fat not only also protects the heart has also been found to combat depression.
Walnut consumption supports healthy cholesterol levels, are full of antioxidants and overall, studies have shown that walnuts actually to help prevent age-related degeneration. They help reverse liver damage, and help with weight control by providing extended periods of satiety.
Walnuts also help maintain and nourish brain health. Their neuroprotective compounds, have been found to “enhance cognitive and motor function during the aging process.”
As a result of all of these unique properties (and many more), walnuts continue to be considered one of the healthiest tree nuts around.
Give your walnuts a bath
Unfortunately, more and more Americans (and Greek-Americans) are finding themselves having to avoid walnuts (or nuts of any kind) due to an increase in compromised digestion and or overall digestive discomfort experienced after eating tree nuts.
There is a way to avoid this. By soaking nuts prior to consumption, you can alleviate some of the
resulting digestive discomfort. Soaking is the practice of covering your walnuts (or legumes, grains and seeds) in water with a splash of some type of acid medium, for a specific amount of time. This removes the phytic acid found in the nut. Examples of an acid medium are lemon juice, vinegar, or in this case, some of the leftover whey skimmed and/or strained off of your yogurt.
TIP: Soak walnuts for at least 7 hours prior to consumption to maximize removal removal of the phytic acid. Once soaked, you can then just drain, pat dry, and eat!
Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that binds to minerals in our bodies, preventing us from appropriately assimilating these much needed minerals. In addition, soaking allows for easier digestion, as it softens and or sprouts the nuts outer hull or shell, alleviating — and even eliminating for some — much of the discomfort that comes from ingesting nuts.
While it’s not traditional Greek practice to soak tree nuts, it is considered a traditional cooking practice. Of course, consuming walnuts paired with yogurt (made the traditional Greek way) automatically allows for easier digestion due to yogurts probiotics.
Note: Soaked walnuts are not as crunchy as non-soaked walnuts. Many individuals will then dry or dehydrate the nuts to make them crunchy again. For additional information on soaking and dehydrating nuts click here.
Greek honey – To “KALO” Meli
Delicious Greek honey has become well-known worldwide, due to the beautiful, temperate Mediterranean climate, and the broad bio-diversity of Greek nature.
Honey serves for a lot more than just a sweetener for your yogurt. It contains a multitude of nutrients including antioxidants, enzymes, minerals and vitamins. It’s also commonly used for medicinal purposes AND is considered anti-aging.
Honey supplies the body with energy in the form of liver glycogen, making it “ideal for energetic morning starts and as a pre- and post-exercise energy source.” It also boosts the immune system, promotes the growth of good bacteria in the intestine, and aids in sleep. Honey also provides amino acids, the body’s building blocks of protein.
According to Hippocrates, honey “causes heat, cleans sores, and ulcers, softens hard ulcers of the lips, and heals carbuncles and running sores.”
While there are many different types of Greek honey on the market today, knowing the difference between unadulterated and adulterated honey, AND raw honey verses heated honey is key to experience the many health benefits mentioned above.
Fake Honey vs. Real Honey
Unfortunately, as a result of honey’s superfood fame and amazing taste, many adulterated forms of honey have saturated today’s market. Added sugar syrups, molasses, corn syrup, dextrose, other flavors and additives make for anything but a healthy honey. Knowing your source, checking its thickness, (pure honey is very thick and takes time to pour off the spoon), and avoiding brands in plastic “cute” containers, are just a few of the ways you can avoid buying fake honey.
TIP: For additional tricks on how to see if your honey is fake or real, click here.
Pollen found in honey, is considered one of nature’s most completely nourishing foods. The higher the pollen count, the greater its nutritional density. Of course, Greek honey contains an abundant amount of pollen. However, production processes in some honeys destroy and or remove much of this pollen.
Raw honey vs. heated honey
Ultra-filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, and pushed through extremely small filters. This removes pollen (and other particles), changing its composition from a nutritious superfood to a “chemicalized” food.
Other filtering techniques that use heat strip and destroy many of raw honey’s beneficial micronutrients and enzymes. To avoid purchasing what I like to refer to as “non-living” honey, it’s best to purchase raw cold-pressed honey. This type of honey retains all of its beneficial superfood properties. It’s usually solid at room temperature and or quickly crystallizes after purchase. Many beekeepers in Greece continue to harvest using ancient traditional methods, AND use the cold-pressed method for extraction. Greek honey is raw and unfiltered, providing all of the benefits mentioned above.
Do your body good
It’s easy to see why Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts has become a staple. Eating this dish made with high-quality ingredients and methods will allow you to enjoy its superb health benefits.
Interested in learning more about how diet and fermented foods can help YOU alleviate your own digestive distress or discomfort? Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org and schedule a free discovery session.
More from Roula Marinos Papamihail:
She trained at Functional Diagnostic Nutrition, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. and holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Indianapolis. She’s also the proud mom of 4 little boys. Roula is currently accepting new clients in her office, at home, over the phone, or via Skype. Visit her website at www.myhealthysoma.com.