Skyr (pronounced “skeer”) is a traditional Icelandic dairy product, which has been part of Icelandic cuisine for over a thousand years. It is marketed as yogurt but is actually a type of cheese which has been around Scandinavia since the Viking settlement of Iceland in the 9th Century. 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.
Probiotics are the new super food hailed for promoting weight loss, protecting against cardiovascular risks, promoting good bacteria and raising our immunity levels. The most well-known among them, however is the Greek yogurt which has been highly publicized in the healthy arena of foods. Traditional Greek yogurt contains a pack of proteins but also has a high fat content. But, unlike Greek yogurt, which may or may not contain fat, Skyr is only made from skim milk. It also has some of the lowest amounts of calories, carbohydrates and sugar out of any yogurt out there.
Skyr beats Greek yogurt when it comes to its macronutrient profile. Its calcium and protein content are exceptional, while low sugar levels make it a healthy snack choice. Skyr is also high in riboflavin which is a vitamin responsible for absorbing nutrients in our diet. One serving of Skyr contains 17 grams of protein, 4 grams of sugar, 7 grams of carbohydrates and often 0% fat.
How Is Skyr Made?
Traditionally, skyr was made with raw milk, however pasteurized skim milk is used to make modern skyr. It has a slightly sour dairy flavor, with a hint of residual sweetness. It was created more than 1,000 years ago by farmers who poured skim milk over meat stored in wooden barrels, hoping it would act as a preservative. After six to eight weeks, a thick, tangy white substance coated the inside of the barrels, and the intrepid (and hungry) farmers ate it.
Today, Skyr is produced from skimmed milk or spray dried skim milk powder. The skimmed milk is heated to 90-95°C and kept at that temperature for 30-40 minutes. It is then cooled to 43-40°C. Then, some amount of fresh skyr is mixed with a five-fold amount of cool skimmed milk or clean, cold water. When the mixture is smooth, cheese rennet is added and the mixture is poured into the container of hot skimmed milk at 40°C and stirred thoroughly.
The final mixture of cheese rennet, fresh skyr and skimmed milk must be kept at a temperature of 43-40°C for 4-5 hours; the curd then becomes smooth on the surface, fine and firm with a bit of yellow whey. The curd must then be cooled quickly to prevent it from becoming too acidic, and stored overnight. The following morning the curds are filtered for 24 hours to drain the whey. The skyr solids that remain should be approximately 18-20% of the total. The grade of acidity should be at a pH 3.8-4.
Can Infants Have Skyr?
Yes, in fact Skyr has been a popular infant food for centuries, and still is. It is also Iceland’s most popular fast food. Today, you can get skyr in a variety of flavours and many healthy additions like berries, fruits and various types of grains have been integrated.
Nutritional Benefits of Skyr
.Packed with Protein
A 6-ounce container of plain, skim-milk Icelandic yogurt contains 17 grams of protein. That’s three times more protein per serving than regular non-fat yogurt, and a couple of grams more than a serving of Greek yogurt. For the average woman on a 2,000-calorie diet, this amount would be about 37 % of her daily protein requirement. If you’re watching your calorie intake; including more dairy products like skyr in your diet, will lead to better weight loss (a 2012 study).
Skyr is a great food to eat when trying to lose weight in a healthy manner. This is because a diet rich in lean protein, like low- or non-fat dairy products such as skyr, is proven to give you the feeling of being fuller for longer. The probiotics in skyr also help to line the gut with healthy bacteria that can fend off unwanted intruders and keep your digestion at a high functioning level.
.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 bacteria in skyr is a type of probiotic. 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 bacterial 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.
.Ideal for Vegetarians/Vegans
Most yogurts contain rennet, which is derived from the stomach of mammals, to maintain their creamy texture. However, Skyr is only made with vegetable rennet and uses hormone-free milk.
Low- or non-fat Icelandic yogurt gives the body the needed fat to help power the body and strengthen it in a number of ways. All of these benefits come with just roughly 5 percent of your daily fat and 10 percent of your saturated fat recommended limit, with each serving. It also will have only 2 percent of your recommended cholesterol limit for the day which 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. It’s common knowledge 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.
How Does Skyr Have So Much Protein?
When making skyr- whey and water in the milk are taken out (around 75%). So, in order to make 1 cup of skyr, it will require about 3 – 4 times the amount of milk required to make a regular cup of yogurt. Thus, skyr contains 2-3 times protein than that of a standard yogurt.
The protein quality is excellent and it’s much easier than making a protein shake. One serving of skyr yields 15 to 18 grams of protein. You can mix it with walnuts, sunflower seeds, or almonds as a pre-workout snack, or a quick protein-rich breakfast.
Skyr has recently become popular in our supermarkets due to its high nutritional value, good taste, and health benefits. With next to no fat and exceptional levels of calcium and protein, Skyr is an ideal food for a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps that’s why Iceland tops the life-expectancy charts and why you need to get a cup of skyr today.