~~~ Probiotics deliver Cellular Bio-Availability. Vitamins Protocol provide Healing Nutrients. Synergy for Cure. Heal Chronic Conditions. ~~~
Have you noticed that the yogurt section of most grocery stores has practically taken over the space of dairy aisle? It’s getting harder to find more traditional dairy foods, such as cottage cheese and sour cream. But it only makes sense that a functional food with as many health benefits is given prime real estate in the supermarket.
And just what are the health benefits of this healthy food?
First off, your body needs to have a healthy amount of ''good'' bacteria in the digestive tract, and many yogurts are made using active, good bacteria. One of the words you’ll be hearing more of in relation to it is ''probiotics.''
Probiotic, which literally means ''for life,'' refers to living organisms that can result in a health benefit when eaten in adequate amounts.
Miguel Freitas, PhD, medical marketing manager for Dannon Co., says the benefits associated with probiotics are specific to certain strains of these "good" bacteria. Many provide their benefits by adjusting the microflora (the natural balance of organisms) in the intestines, or by acting directly on body functions, such as digestion or immune function. (Keep in mind that the only yogurts that contain probiotics are those that say "live and active cultures" on the label.)
And let us not forget that yogurt comes from milk. So consumers of such products will also 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, B-12, potassium, and magnesium.
In fact, its health benefits are so impressive that many health-conscious people make it a daily habit. Here are five possible health benefits when one have it once a day:
Benefit No. 1: 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.
''This amount is likely to be sufficient for most young adults for skeletal health, although many would argue that for overall health, more than the 400 IU may be required, even at these younger ages,'' Nieves said in an email interview.
Nieves believes that older people specifically can benefit from more vitamin D.
Many dairy products, including some yogurts, are made with added vitamin D. Find out which brands have added vitamin D by checking out the table below, and by reading labels when you shop.
Benefit No. 2: May Reduce the Risk of High Blood Pressure
A recent study, which followed more than 5,000 Spanish university graduates 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, said 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.
Benefit No. 3: Active Bacterium Cultures Helps the Gut
Yogurt with active cultures may help certain gastrointestinal conditions, including:
That's what researchers from the Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded in a recent review article.
The benefits are thought to be due to:
A recent Taiwanese study looked at the effects of the bacterium called lactobacillus and bifidobacterium on 138 people with persistent H. pylori infections.
The researchers found that the yogurt improved the efficacy of four-drug therapy.
H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can cause infection in the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. It can lead to ulcers and can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
Benefit No. 4: Active Bacterium 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 specimen 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 specimens without active cultures remained at pH 6.0.
Benefit No. 5: 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:
Although those who had the yogurt snacks did not eat fewer calories at the next meal, both types of consumption resulted in lower hunger ratings and higher fullness ratings than either of the other snacks.
10 Tips to consider when Buying and Eating Yogurt
1. Decide Between Whole-Milk, Low-fat or Nonfat type
When buying, your first decision is whether you want regular-fat, low-fat, or fat-free. You probably have a favorite brand, with just the right texture or tang for your taste buds. If so, stick with it. But do check the label for sugar content. Some flavors and brands have more than others.
2. Choose Your Sweetener
The other decision is whether you want artificial sweeteners (which are used in most ''light'' versions) or whether you’re OK with most of the calories coming from sugar. If you are sensitive to after-tastes, you may want to avoid the light versions. If you don't mind NutraSweet, there are lots of light yogurts to choose from, and all taste pretty good.
3. Look for Active Cultures and Probiotics
To make sure your yogurt contains active cultures, check the label. Most brands will have a graphic that says ''live and active cultures.''
If you want to know which specific active cultures it contains, look to the label again. Under the list of ingredients, many brands list the specific active cultures. For Activia by Dannon, for example, L.Bulgaricus, S.Thermophilus, and bifidobacterium are listed. This particular yogurt contains the probiotic culture bifidus regularis, which works to regulate your digestive system. So if constipation is your challenge, this might be the probiotic for you.
4. Enrich it With Flaxseed
Get in the habit of stirring in a tablespoon of ground flaxseed every time you consume one. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed will add almost 3 grams of fiber and approximately 2 grams of healthy plant omega-3s, according to the product label on Premium Gold brand ground golden flaxseed.
5. Look for Vitamin D
When enjoying calcium-rich types, why not choose one that also boosts your intake of vitamin D? Some brands list 0% of the Daily Value for vitamin D; others have 20%.
6. Make it Part of the Perfect Snack
Make the perfect snack by pairing high-protein cultures with a high-fiber food like fruit (fresh or frozen) and/or a high-fiber breakfast cereal. You can find many lower-sugar breakfast cereals with 4 or more grams of fiber per serving.
7. Whip it Up a Creamier Smoothie
Make your smoothie creamy and thick by adding yogurt instead of ice cream. Cup for cup, light and low-fat type is higher in protein and calcium than light ice cream. It's also usually lower in fat, saturated fat, and calories.
8. Customize by create different menu with it
If you want to create your own flavor, start with your favorite plain yogurt and stir in all sorts of foods and flavors. Here are a few ideas:
9. Eat it at Work
Buy some and keep it in the office refrigerator (don’t forget to put your name on it). On those days when you need a morning or afternoon snack, that healthy option will be ready for you.
10. Use it in Recipes
Yogurt works as a substitute ingredient in all sorts of recipes. Plain types can take the place of sour cream in a pinch (over baked potatoes or garnishing enchiladas). You can also substitute a complementary flavor of this creamy healthy paste for some of the oil or butter called for in a muffin, brownie, or cake recipe. It can replace all of the fat called for in cake mixes, too.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Published March 7, 2007.