Yogurt has certainly been around for a while. We know that cultured milk product dates back thousands of years. What are the real health benefits and how do you know which yogurt to choose?
Yogurt is a good source of calcium, protein, potassium and B vitamins that help keep you healthy. Multiple studies have shown that yogurt may be beneficial for treating several ailments.
· Yogurt may improve gastrointestinal problems. Yogurt is made with millions of live strains of bacteria cultures. These bacteria help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal system, which can aid digestion and prevent constipation, diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease.
· Yogurt may boost the immune system. Studies have shown that certain bacteria used in some yogurts help the body produce infection-fighting cells.
· Yogurt may help prevent vaginal infections. Research suggests that a live bacterial culture found in unsweetened yogurt may decrease or counteract yeast growth in women.
· Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis. Studies show that calcium and vitamin D found in yogurt can help preserve bone mass.
· Yogurt may reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Yogurt has calcium, potassium and magnesium, which have all been shown to reduce hypertension. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health says that three daily servings of nonfat dairy products may lower blood pressure.
· Yogurt may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Research suggests that a diet high in calcium and vitamin D helps slow the abnormal cell growth that leads to colorectal polyps.
Other claims indicate that yogurt may help prevent and heal arthritis, ulcers, and urinary tract infections; increase fat loss; deter gingivitis; and help you feel fuller. Despite the controversy over some of these studies, it’s safe to say that yogurt is a healthy choice for your dairy needs.
How to Choose Yogurt
Yogurt comes in many varieties. The first step is to choose between regular, low-fat and nonfat yogurt. Low-fat and nonfat products contain less fat and cholesterol but may not be as creamy as whole-milk varieties.
The second step is to select your sweetener. Many low-fat and nonfat flavored yogurts contain artificial sweeteners or even corn syrup. If you are sensitive to these products, consider whole-fat flavored varieties or choose unsweetened yogurt and add your own fruit. And be aware that some flavorings contain more sugar than others.
For optimal health benefits, be sure that the product contains live, active cultures. The National Yogurt Association (NYA) created a Live & Active Cultures seal that appears on some labels. While you’re at it, be sure to choose a yogurt that’s high in calcium and fortified with vitamin D.
There are also many organic yogurts and goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurt. For those who avoid dairy products, soy yogurt is available. And, there’s good news for those who are lactose intolerant – yogurt with live, active bacteria cultures can be eaten by more than one quarter of adults who normally experience lactose intolerance, according to the NYA. This is because the cultures used to make yogurt also help facilitate lactose digestion.
Tips to Add Yogurt to Your Diet
· Create a low-fat smoothie by combining yogurt, fresh fruits and ice.
· To make a healthier mayonnaise spread combine one part mayonnaise with one part yogurt.
· Substitute yogurt in place of sour cream on baked potatoes or Mexican dishes.
· Make a low fat salad dressing or dip for vegetables or meats by combining herbs, spices, cucumber and lemon juice.
· Replace yogurt for some of the oil or butter in baked goods.
· Use yogurt as a marinade for meat and poultry.
· Mix unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit and flax seed or wheat germ for a healthy, well-rounded treat.