Move over, Greek yogurt: Icelandic yogurt is the new darling of the dairy case. A part of traditional Icelandic cuisine since the Vikings were the bad boys in town, the word for the yogurt in the Icelandic language is skyr, thought to be derived from the word for cut. That's probably because skyr is thick enough to cut, far thicker than most American brands of yogurt. And, because it's so concentrated -- it takes up to four times more milk to make 1 cup of skyr than 1 cup of regular yogurt -- Icelandic yogurt is dense with health-enhancing nutrients.
Weight Loss Benefits
A 6-ounce container of plain, skim-milk Icelandic yogurt contains 17 grams of protein. Not only is that up to three times more protein per serving than regular non-fat yogurt, but it's also a couple grams more than a serving of Greek yogurt. For the average woman on a 2,000-calorie diet, this amount would be about 37 percent of her daily protein requirement. Researchers say that a diet rich in lean protein sources like low- or non-fat dairy products may help you feel fuller longer and allow you eat less each day. In addition, if you're watching your calorie intake and including more dairy products like skyr in your diet, you might be more successful at losing weight, reported a 2012 study.
Reproductive System Benefits
Typical commercial brands of Icelandic yogurt contain a variety of live active bacterial cultures, including L. acidophilus, B. lactis and L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus. The names of the different bacteria aren't important, but what they might be able to do for your health is worth your attention. The bacteria in skyr is a type of probiotic, or "good" bacteria. This type of bacteria helps keep your levels of potentially harmful bacteria in check. Taking antibiotics or using contraceptives like birth control pills or spermicides can throw the bacteria population in your reproductive tract out of whack, making you more likely to get a urinary tract, vaginal or yeast infection. Regularly eating yogurt with beneficial bacteria may help prevent these infections, says the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide.
If you choose low- or non-fat Icelandic yogurt instead of full-fat brands -- and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that you should -- you'll add only trace amounts of fat and saturated fat to your diet, and only 2 percent of your recommended cholesterol limit for the day per serving. Compare that to the 5 percent of your daily fat and 10 percent of your saturated fat limit that you get from a serving of skyr made with cream and you'll see why low- and non-fat yogurt can help lower your risk of heart disease and high blood cholesterol.
Women should have at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. A 6-ounce serving of non-fat Icelandic yogurt will provide you with 20 percent of this recommendation. You've heard that not getting enough calcium can greatly increase an older woman's risk of developing osteoporosis, but you might not be aware that your bone mass starts decreasing as soon as you hit your 30s, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. After that point, you start losing more bone than your body can replace. You can't reverse this natural process, but you can lower the amount of bone you lose with a diet high in calcium-rich foods like skyr.
- Siggi's: Skyr
- Siggi's: What is Skyr?
- Shape: Yogurt 101
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- International Journal of Obesity: Effect of Dairy Consumption on Weight and Body Composition in Adults - A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials
- MayoClinic.com: Are Probiotics and Prebiotics Important for Health?
- The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Dairy - Health Benefits and Nutrients
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Calcium
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.