Have you noticed that the yogurt section of most grocery stores has practically taken over the dairy aisle? I have at least five different brands of yogurt in my refrigerator now (see image posted). It only makes sense that a food with as many health benefits as yogurt be given prime real estate in the supermarket.
Here are some of the health benefits of yogurt:
First off, let us not forget that yogurt comes from milk. So yogurt eaters will get a dose of animal protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium.
But one of the words we’re hearing more and more of regarding yogurt is “probiotics.” Probiotics are “friendly bacteria” that are naturally present in the digestive system. Live strains of these “good bacteria” are also found in many yogurt products. While more research needs to be done, there’s some evidence that some strains of probiotics can help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Benefit No. 1: Yogurt With Active Cultures May Help the Gut
While more study is needed, there’s some evidence that yogurt with active cultures may help certain gastrointestinal conditions, including:
- Lactose intolerance
- Colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- H. pylori infection
Benefit No. 2: Yogurt With Active Cultures May Discourage Vaginal Infections
Candida or “yeast” vaginal infections are a common problem for women with diabetes. In a small study, seven diabetic women with chronic candidal vaginitis consumed 6 ounces of frozen aspartame-sweetened yogurt per day (with or without active cultures).
Even though most of the women had poor blood sugar control throughout the study, the vaginal pH (measure of acidity or basicity) of the group eating yogurt with active cultures dropped from 6.0 to 4.0 (normal pH is 4.0-4.5). These women also reported a decrease in candida infections. The women eating the yogurt without active cultures remained at pH 6.0.
Benefit No. 3: Yogurt May Help Prevent Osteoporosis
“Adequate nutrition plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and the micronutrients of greatest importance are calcium and vitamin D,” says Jeri Nieves, PhD, MS, director of bone density testing at New York’s Helen Hayes Hospital.
Calcium has been shown to have beneficial effects on bone mass in people of all ages, although the results are not always consistent, says Nieves, also an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University.
“The combination of calcium and vitamin D has a clear skeletal benefit, provided the dose of vitamin D is sufficiently high,” she adds.
And what qualifies as “sufficiently high?”
Currently, 400 IU per day is considered an adequate intake of vitamin D for people ages 51-70, Nieves says. (Look for the Daily Value amount listed on food labels.) But more may be better.
Benefit No. 4: Yogurt May Reduce the Risk of High Blood Pressure
One study, which followed more than 5,000 university graduates in Spain for about two years, found a link between dairy intake and risk of high blood pressure.
“We observed a 50% reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure among people eating 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy a day (or more), compared with those without any intake,” Alvaro Alonso, MD, PhD, a researcher in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, says in an email interview.
Although most of the low-fat dairy consumed by the study subjects was as milk, Alvaro believes low-fat yogurt would likely have the same effect. Dutch researchers recently reported that higher dairy consumption (mainly from milk and yogurt) was modestly linked to lower blood pressure in 2064 Dutch men and women ages 50 to 75.
Benefit No. 5: Yogurt May Help You Feel Fuller
A study from the University of Washington in Seattle tested hunger, fullness, and calories eaten at the next meal on 16 men and 16 women who had a 200-calorie snack. The snack was either:
- Semisolid yogurt containing pieces of peach and eaten with a spoon
- The same yogurt in drinkable form
- A peach-flavored dairy beverage
- Peach juice
Although those who had the yogurt snacks did not eat fewer calories at the next meal, both types of yogurt resulted in lower hunger ratings and higher fullness ratings than either of the other snacks.
- Source: 2008 WebMD.