The Benefits of Yogurt
What's tasty, easy, and has lots of health benefits? Yogurt!
Have you noticed that the yogurt section of most grocery stores has
practically taken over the dairy aisle? It’s getting harder to find more
traditional dairy foods, such as cottage cheese and sour cream, amid the sea of
yogurt options. But it only makes sense that a food with as many health
benefits as yogurt be given prime real estate in the supermarket.
And just what are the health benefits of yogurt?
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 yogurt 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 yogurt eaters 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, the health benefits of yogurt are so impressive that many
health-conscious people make it a daily habit. Here are five possible
health benefits of having a yogurt a day:
Benefit No. 1: 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.
''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
Nieves believes that older people specifically can benefit from more vitamin
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.