Why You Need a Serving of Yogurt Every Day
Yogurt is more than just a creamy indulgence. Made from fermented milk, yogurt is a rich source of probiotics, friendly bacteria that include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are similar to the varieties of probiotics found naturally in your digestive system. Having enough of these "good bacteria" in your body can help prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea.
Even people with lactose intolerance are often able to eat yogurt because the bacteria helps with digestion. Probiotics are also vital to your immune system: A recent Swedish study found that people who were given Lactobacillus got sick less often and missed fewer work days.
A recent study at the University of Tennessee found that obese men and women on a reduced-calorie diet that included three daily portions of yogurt lost 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more belly fat over a three-month period than study participants who ate a reduced-calorie diet that included little or no dairy.
We recommend incorporating at least one six-ounce container of yogurt into your daily diet to reap the rewards. These days you'll find dozens of choices in the dairy aisle. Some are loaded with added sugars and artificial colors and flavors, but many are natural. When choosing a yogurt, follow these tips:
- Choose nonfat Made with skim milk, which means its saturated fat has been skimmed off, nonfat yogurt has all the protein and calcium of regular yogurt. If you don't eat dairy, soy and coconut milk yogurts are great alternatives.
- Check for live active cultures Look for the Live & Active Cultures seal, which guarantees a minimum level of friendly bacteria at the time of manufacture, or check the ingredients for bacteria such as L. Acidophilus, B. Bifidus, S. Thermophilus and L. Bulgaricus.
- Limit sugar Since most flavored yogurts have added sweeteners, be careful to limit your sugar to about 25 grams per serving. Even better, buy plain yogurt and fold in your own honey, maple syrup or other natural sweetener.
- Go organic It's worth the 10 cents more per six-ounce container to buy yogurt made with organic milk. Studies reveal it has higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3s and disease-fighting antioxidants—and no toxic pesticide residue.
Written by: Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D. From our sister publication, REMEDY (Summer 2011)