Home  >  Carol LeBeau's Health Journal  >  Carol's Health Journal

The Health Benefits of Greek Yogurt
By Carol LeBeau
11/11/2012 1:40:20 PM


I have a confession to make.  I am a snob.  A yogurt snob.  It hasn’t always been that way.  For years, whatever brand of good ole American yogurt was on sale – Dannon, Yoplait, Albertson’s was fine with me.

No more.  Reluctantly, but with good reason, I have joined the ranks of millions of other “snobs,” for whom the only yogurt is Greek!  And why not?  The rich, creamy, slightly tart treat is not only yummy.  It’s high in nutritional value.

Going Greek wasn’t easy.  The thicker texture and tangier taste took a little getting used to.  But today, I’m hooked on the creamy, dreamy dairy product that does more than just curb your hunger.

Here are just a few of the health benefits of Greek yogurt:

Greek yogurt is packed with protein

Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt goes through an extensive straining process that removes much of yogurt’s watery whey.  As a result, it’s much thicker and richer than regular yogurt.  According to Palomar Health registered dietitian Halle Elbling, it’s also more filling. “Generally, a six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 14 to 20 grams of protein,” says Elbling. “Regular yogurt averages five to nine grams.”

Greek yogurt is a tasty source of calcium

Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which is key to bone and teeth health, as well as heart and nerve function. Since calcium levels can vary from yogurt to yogurt, Elbling recommends reading labels so you know exactly how much of the mineral you’re getting.

Greek yogurt is good for your gut

Probiotics in Greek yogurt can not only improve your digestive health and keep the bacteria in your gut healthy, they can also boost your immune system and keep you well.  Make sure the yogurt you choose has “live and active cultures” on the label.

Greek yogurt is indulgent

Thicker than traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt swirled with fresh fruit and a little honey is like a decadent dessert! When you’re craving comfort food, Greek yogurt can satisfy your sweet tooth without derailing your diet.  (Just keep an eye on the sugar content.  Some yogurts can be like candy in a cup!)

Greek yogurt is versatile

OK…this tip is from me! 

I found Greek yogurt can really satisfy my hunger, so it makes a great snack. I love it after a swim or when I need a pick-me-up. But because it’s so versatile, it’s perfect with fruit and cereal at breakfast, delicious with a salad at lunch or added to salad dressing at dinner. 

Finally, if you need one more reason to go Greek here’s a bonus benefit – fewer carbs and less sugar and sodium.  This delicious, decadent dessert and snack is also a nutritional rock star! I’ve covered a lot of food fads over the years but I’ve got a hunch this one’s here to stay.

These days, when it comes to yogurt it’s Oikos, Chobani and Fage…and it’s all Greek to me!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

My First Introduction to the Batiquitos Lagoon
By Carol LeBeau
11/9/2012 1:32:38 PM

Staying in touch with old friends and co-workers is important to me.   But coordinating busy schedules to meet for a leisurely lunch can sometimes be a challenge.

My good pal, and former 10 News colleague, Janine Nakama and I have come up with a way to stay connected by skipping a lengthy lunch.  These days, we multiply our time by combining our monthly gabfest with a workout…in our case, a nice long walk.

Over the years, Janine and I have walked and talked our way along most of San Diego’s most popular walking spots – from Coronado and Mission Bay to Lake Murray and Torrey Pines.

But just when I thought we’d walked it all, Janine recently suggested a new walking spot…Carlsbad’s Batiquitos Lagoon.  Like many of you, I’ve driven past the lagoon for years – the peaceful piece of coastal wetland visible along I-5. I had no idea there was a hidden treasure you can’t see from the freeway…a heavenly haven for runners, walkers and naturalists.

But Janine, knower of all things North County knew exactly how to access the Batiquitos trail system.  We parked in one of five public parking lots providing access to a wonderful two-mile walking trail from which the north side of the lagoon can be seen and experienced.  

I say “experience” because the coastal wetland is home to many plants, birds and fish.  Our “walk and talk” was often interrupted by flying fish, “forests” of giant cat tails and shore birds of every variety.

A stone’s throw from the freeway and bustle of city life, this peaceful trail is like a rural oasis – a perfect spot to re-connect with a friend for power walking and aerobic visiting!

Beautiful – yes. But the Batiquitos Lagoon is also important to our local environment as one of the few remaining tidal wetlands in southern California.  The area is run and meticulously maintained by the California Department of Fish and Game as a nature reserve. 

If you’re a runner or walker tired of the same old route…or just looking for a low-cal option to lunch with a friend, check out what you can’t see from the freeway at Batiquitos Lagoon! 


Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine!
By Carol LeBeau
11/6/2012 1:43:48 PM

It’s been a long time…years maybe.  But yesterday I laughed until I cried.

It all started after opening an e-mail from my friend, Julie. Along with a cheery greeting and update from Denver, she attached a link to a YouTube video and wrote, “for a good chuckle, check this out.”

I wasn’t really in the mood for a silly video and had work to do but Julie has a wonderfully bizarre sense of humor and I figured I could probably use a smile.  What I got was a gift! As the goofy Saturday Night Live parody played out, I got to laughing so hard I could barely breathe!

Tears streaming down my face, I caught my breath and re-played the video.  I don’t know what hit me, but by the end of the second view, I was literally from-the-gut guffawing…alone in my office…teardrops splashing all over my computer keyboard.  

As ridiculous as my uncontrolled laughing jag must have looked I couldn’t have cared less.  All I knew is I felt great! Refreshed, energized and in much better spirits, I got back to work. 

I’ve certainly heard about the healing power of laughter but just never gave it much thought.  So I did a little checking.  Turns out, it’s no joke. There’s a growing body of research that shows a good yuk may improve immune function, help lower blood pressure, boost mood and reduce stress and depression. 

Dr. Michael Miller, a cardiologist from the University of Maryland School of Medicine has done extensive research on the healing potential of laughter.  He says studies point to an upside in terms of both vascular and overall health. “These findings,” says Dr. Miller, “certainly support laughter as a reasonable prescription for heart health and health in general, especially since there’s no downside.”

A new study from Oxford University supports a long-held theory that laughter triggers an increase in endorphins…the brain chemicals that can help you feel good, distract you from pain and perhaps deliver other health benefits.

But apparently, it’s got to be more than a snicker here and there.  According to Dr. Robert Provine, the author of “Laughter: A Scientific Investigation,” the bigger the belly laugh, the bigger the health benefit.  A gentle ha-ha won’t do it. That guffaw’s gotta be real and unforced. “It should include strong vocalization, says Provine,” with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle contractions all over the body.”

Having a down day? Maybe you just need a good laugh. Rent a funny movie. Watch your favorite sit-com. Or try checking your e-mail.  There’s healing power in those forwarded YouTube videos of laughing babies or cats playing with printers.  Then, instead of writing LOL in response – why not “laugh out loud” for real?!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.

Shingles Prevention
By Carol LeBeau
11/3/2012 2:13:50 PM

Happy to report my annual physical went pretty well recently.  My blood pressure and heart rate are good, my cholesterol numbers are just fine and my blood work unremarkable. (The one time “unremarkable” is a good thing!)

But just when I thought it was safe to shed my paper gown, my doctor apparently, wasn’t quite finished with me.  First he reminded me it was time to schedule a colonoscopy.  (Oh joy!) Then, as I was about to head for the door, he handed me a sheet of paper from his prescription pad and informed me I needed to get a shingles vaccine. 

What? I thought only old people had to be vaccinated against shingles! You know…people over 60! My doctor smiled as he pointed out that I’m only months from turning 59 and things have changed when it comes to shingles.

Turns out, the vaccine, Zostavax, has recently been approved for people from 50-59 who had chicken pox as children. I remember my childhood bout with chicken pox so I know I’m at risk for developing shingles as an adult.  And from what I’ve heard, it’s no fun.

The first signs of shingles can indicate other health ailments but once the painful red blisters show up on the skin, there’s no mistaking the familiar rash.  It starts with three days of pain, tingling, deep soreness and burning.  Then the blisters appear.

If you’ve had chickenpox, the shingles virus is lurking in your body. Under certain conditions that stress the immune system, the virus is awakened in the form of shingles and the throbbing pain, tingling, itching and burning begin.

There’s no cure for shingles, but there are treatments. Antiviral drugs taken at the onset of symptoms can shorten the intensity and duration of the virus. The vaccine, Zostavax can reduce the risk of shingles by half. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a million cases of shingles occur each year in the United States – half of those among people 60 years or older.  It’s known as herpes zoster, but is NOT herpes simplex (oral or genital.)  It spreads along nerves appearing most often on the back or chest.

How long shingles last depends on the outbreak.  The blisters dry up within a couple of weeks, but the pain, itching and tingling can last for months.  It can also recur.

Bottom line – You don’t want shingles. Me either. So I’m going to take my doctor’s prescription to my local Rite Aid pharmacy and get the vaccination.  Afterwards, I’m told I could have a mild headache or a little redness and itching at the site of the shot. 

But that’s nothing compared with the pain of shingles I’ve heard described as “worse than passing a kidney stone.”


To learn more go to shinglesinfo.com.

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.