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The Benefits of Yogurt

What's tasty, easy, and has lots of health benefits? Yogurt!
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 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. 

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