Weight control? Yep. Stronger bones? You got it. Lowered risk of heart disease? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
Yogurt is enjoyed around the world, and was actually invented by accident sometime around 5,000 BC when milk was improperly stored in a warm climate. When they realized it tasted so good and was satiating, they kept making it.
Yogurt forms when bacteria ferments the milk. These bacteria are called yogurt cultures, and you can buy different strains from a variety of vendors online. You can also make a new batch of yogurt from adding a few spoons of yogurt to milk that has been heated and cooled (read more here on the simple way to make yogurt).
So what’s so good about eating yogurt? Let’s explore.
Yogurt is touted as a beneficial food to eat for weight management mostly due to its high content of protein. If you’ve ever tried any type of modern diet, you’ve probably been told to eat more protein because of regulates your appetite and signals to your brain that you’re full.
It’s worth noting here that this does not apply to yogurt that has a lot of added sugar in it. Plain yogurt that you buy or make at home will provide these benefits.
There are several important nutrients you can get from eating yogurt:
Calcium – we all know that calcium is good for your teeth and your bones. One cup of yogurt provides about 49 percent of the recommended daily calcium amount
Vitamin B – yogurt is high in riboflavin and vitamin B12 which is said to offer protection against heart disease and for those mamas-to-be — it also protects against neural tube birth defects.
Magnesium, potassium and phosphorus – these are known for not only promoting bone health and boosting your metabolism, but also regulating your blood pressure. Potassium has decreases the re-absorption of sodium in the body, and also stimulates nervous system cell function.
Vitamin D – while yogurt by itself isn’t guaranteed to have Vitamin D, it may be fortified with it or if you make it at home using milk with Vitamin D, it will be present. This nutrient is important for a variety of reasons including prevention of heart disease and depression, in addition to promoting immune system health and bone health.
There’s been a lot of chatter about gut health and the “microbiome” that impacts your overall health in a number of ways. Generally speaking, having a healthy gut = healthy life. One way to promote your gut health is to eat foods that have probiotics, and that includes fermented foods like kimchi (I will be sharing a great kimchi recipe soon), and you guessed it — yogurt. You can read on the side of the any store-bought yogurt if there are life active cultures (usually Bifidobacteria or Lactobacillus).
If you suffer from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), studies have shown yogurt containing bifidobacteria can help with relieving symptoms. Interestingly enough, eating yogurt can help get help both with diarrhea, as well as constipation.
The probiotics in yogurt that help aid digestion also aid in preventing colorectal cancer, and lowering the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by promoting the proper absorption of nutrients in the digestive tract.
Immune System Strength
Having healthy gut and microbiome is also said to promote immune health. They same probiotics in yogurt that aid your gut health reduce inflammation that cause disorders in the gut, as well as viral infections including the common cold.
Other nutrients previously mentioned like Vitamin D (if present) are known to enhance immune health, as well as magnesium, selenium and zinc — all which can be consumed in yogurt.
Heart Disease Prevention
For many years, the notion of eating saturated fat has been connated has being highly negative and the cause of obesity, heart disease and more. However, further research is starting to tear down this theory.
As yogurt can be high in saturated fat (especially if it is whole-milk yogurt, less common than the low-fat yogurt that is still highly popular here in the U.S.), it may give you pause if you’re in the low-fat camp on the nutrition-science spectrum. However, numerous studies have shown that “good” fats, like that in avocados or in whole-milk dairy products can actually increase the “good” HDL cholesterol. This can actually promote heart health, and several studies have found that yogurt can help with high blood pressure and reduce the overall risk of heart disease. The Lactobacillus Acidophilus probiotic in yogurt decreases the “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood linked to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
Skip the Sugar
Now that we’ve covered all of the wonderful health benefits that yogurt can provide, it’s important to stress that many of the most popular yogurt products you’ll find at the grocery store can actually be detrimental to your health. Yes, the probiotics may be present but if you’re ingesting them with loads of sugar or artificial sweeteners, you’re eating substances that are inflammatory for your gut and increase your risk of weight gain, diabetes and more.
There may be some natural sugars in your yogurt, but be on the lookout for anything higher than 15 grams of sugar or artificial sugar. If you’re eating yogurt as a treat, try eating plain yogurt with a little fruit, or a dab of honey.