Many of us think of yogurt as a healthy snack. As a healthcare provider, I have advised many of my patients to eat yogurt. So what is so special and beneficial about yogurt? Why should we make it a part of our daily diet? Let me share with you the well known and the not-so-well-known powers of yogurt.
How is yogurt made?
Two living organisms, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, convert the pasteurized milk to yogurt during the fermentation process. Traditional fermentation processes are needed to produce good, quality yogurt full of live and active cultures. With heat-treated yogurts, the live and active cultures are killed, bringing you little to no benefit.
Which yogurt to buy?
Any of the ones that meet the National Yogurt Association’s criteria for live and active culture yogurt. The refrigerated yogurt has to contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture, and the frozen yogurt has to contain 10 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. Next time you are in a grocery store look for the “Live and Active Cultures” seal on your yogurt container.
What are the known powers and hidden powers of yogurt?
Yogurt is rich in Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. Calcium is a very important element in bone formation and mineralization. It is a vital nutrient for kids and for women who are pregnant, lactating, or post-menopausal. Phosphorus is a mineral that plays a vital role in the formation of bones and teeth, kidney function, muscle contraction, heart function and nerve signaling. Magnesium is the 3rd important mineral in our diet, responsible for maintaining normal neuromuscular functions, cardiac functions, immune system functions and helps with production of energy.
Recent research showed that yogurt consumption is linked to less weight gain over time. How does this happen? How can yogurt help you maintain a healthy weight? Because yogurt is a healthy snack. People that eat yogurt on a regular basis tend to eat less of the unhealthy foods.
You can also substitute higher-fat products like sour cream, mayonnaise and cream cheese with yogurt. By having yogurt for a snack you provide your body with high-quality protein and achieve satiety. In addition, protein from yogurt is oftentimes easier to digest than the protein from milk.
Our kids can also substitute their regular snacks at home or school, which are often full of “empty calories”, with a yogurt, a nutrition-rich snack. According to research, kids that consume healthy snacks (to include yogurt) maintain a healthier weight.
Yogurt also provides your gut with “good bacteria” (Lactic acid-producing bacteria), which in turn helps with the metabolism and with many gastrointestinal conditions like constipation, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance, colon cancer, and allergic reactions in the gastrointestial tract, to name a few.
Yogurt is considered a probiotic, because it contains a live micro-organism that brings health benefits to the consumer. Yogurt also has higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA - chemical found in fatty acids). This “magic” acid can help decrease body fat, promote immune response and is believed to have some anti-cancer properties.
Adding fruits or vegetables to your yogurt gives an additional benefit of increased fiber intake. Dietary fiber helps with the maintenance of bowel health, normalizes bowel movements and can aid in achieving a healthy weight. It is also important to look at the content of your yogurt, as some manufacturers do add lots of sugar and other artificial ingredients. Look at the containers and see how many calories, sugar, fat and protein is in the yogurt. Low calorie, low sugar, and low fat content yogurts can help with healthy weight maintenance.
Where can I get more information about yogurt?
Here are some free resources available online: