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Nutritional Benefits of Yogurt

Rich in protein, calcium, B vitamins, and often fortified with vitamin D, yogurt is a nutrient-rich food routinely included on "super food" lists. An average 8-ounce serving contains between 8-12 grams of protein.

An excellent source of calcium, an average 8-ounce container contains one-third of the Daily Recommended Value. Yogurt has slightly more calcium than the same amount of cow’s milk. It is also a good source of potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.

A few servings of low-fat or nonfat yogurt a day helps fill in the calcium, potassium, and vitamin D nutrient gaps most adults and children have in their diets, says Elizabeth Ward, RD, nutrition expert and author of Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating, Before, During and After Pregnancy.

Friendly Bacteria a Bonus

Yogurt’s live and active cultures contribute friendly bacteria that promote digestive health by settling an upset stomach, promoting regularity, and possibly boosting immunity says Jo Ann Hattner, RD, author of Gut Insight.

Look for the "Live and Active Cultures" seal to be sure you are getting yogurts that have not been heat-treated after the fermentation process (similar to beer, wine, and cheese), which kills most of the beneficial active cultures.

People with limited lactose tolerance may tolerate yogurts with live and active cultures because the fermentation process helps to digest some of the lactose, making it more digestible.

Sorting Through the Yogurt Varieties

  • Greek yogurt, with its thicker, richer texture, is the latest newcomer garnering lots of attention. Choose nonfat or low-fat Greek style yogurt that contains up to twice the amount of protein and about half the sugar of regular yogurts.
  • Sheep milk yogurt is another option claiming to be richer and creamier than cow’s milk yogurt with double the calcium and more protein. Ideal for cooking, it stands up to higher temperatures without breaking down like other yogurts.
  • Goat milk yogurt is considered one of the most popular worldwide. Typically made from whole goat milk, it has a softer texture with a slightly sweet and salty flavor. It's lower in calcium and usually higher in fat, but you can lower the fat content by skimming the cream off the top.
  • Soy yogurt made from soybeans has no saturated fat or cholesterol, is lower in protein, and is usually fortified with calcium to compete with cow’s milk yogurt.

Best bets, experts say, are plain, low-fat varieties topped with your own fruit, nuts, whole-grain cereal, or granola.

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