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7 Impressive Health Benefits of Yogurt

Yogurt has
been consumed by humans for hundreds of years.

It’s very nutritious, and eating it regularly may boost several
aspects of your health.

For example, yogurt has been found to reduce the risk of heart
disease and osteoporosis, as well as aid in weight management.

This article explores 7 science-supported health benefits of
yogurt.

Yogurt, Granola and Berries in a Bowl

What Is Yogurt and How Is It Made?

Yogurt is a popular dairy
product
that’s made by the bacterial fermentation of milk.

The bacteria used to make yogurt are called “yogurt cultures,”
which ferment lactose, the natural sugar found in milk.

This process produces lactic acid, a substance that causes milk
proteins to curdle, giving yogurt its unique flavor and
texture.

Yogurt can be made from all types of milk. Varieties made from
skim milk are considered fat-free, whereas those made from
whole milk are considered full-fat.

Plain yogurt without added colorants
is a white, thick liquid with a tangy flavor.

Unfortunately, most commercial brands contain added
ingredients, such as
sugar
and artificial flavors. These yogurts are not good
for your health.

On the other hand, plain, unsweetened yogurt offers many health
benefits.

So without further ado, here are 7 science-based health
benefits of natural yogurt.

1. It’s Rich in Important Nutrients

Fresh Yogurt

Yogurt contains some of nearly every nutrient that your body
needs.

It’s known for containing a lot of calcium, a mineral necessary
for healthy teeth and bones. Just one cup provides 49% of your
daily calcium needs (1, 2).

It is also high in B vitamins, particularly vitamin B12 and
riboflavin, both of which may protect against heart disease and
certain neural tube birth defects (2, 3, 4).

One cup also provides 38% of your daily need for phosphorus,
12% for magnesium
and 18% for potassium. These minerals are essential for several
biological processes, such as regulating blood pressure,
metabolism and bone health (2, 5, 6, 7).

One nutrient that yogurt does not contain naturally is vitamin
D, but it is commonly fortified with it. Vitamin D
promotes bone and immune system health and may reduce the risk
of some diseases, including heart disease and depression
(8, 9, 10).



Summary: Yogurt provides almost every
nutrient that your body needs. It is especially high in
calcium, B vitamins and trace minerals.

2. It’s High in Protein

Yogurt provides an impressive amount of protein,
with about 12 grams per 7 ounces (200 grams) (2).

Protein has been shown to support metabolism by increasing your
energy expenditure, or the number of calories that you burn
throughout the day (11).

Getting enough protein is also important for appetite
regulation, as it increases the production of hormones that
signal fullness. It may automatically reduce the number of
calories you consume overall, which is beneficial for weight
control (11, 12, 13).

In one study, subjects who snacked on yogurt were less hungry
and consumed 100 fewer calories at dinner, compared to those
who ate lower-protein snacks with the same amount of calories
(14).

Yogurt’s fullness-promoting effects are even more prominent if
you eat Greek yogurt, which is a very thick variety that has
been strained. It is higher in protein than regular yogurt,
providing 22 grams per 7 ounces (200 grams) (15).

Greek yogurt has been shown to influence appetite control and
delay feelings of hunger more than regular yogurt with less
protein (16).

Summary: Yogurt, especially the Greek
variety, is very high in protein. Protein is helpful for
appetite and weight control.

3. Some Varieties May Benefit Digestive Health

Yogurt and Blueberries

Some types of yogurt contain live bacteria, or probiotics,
that were either a part of the starter culture or added after
pasteurization.

These may benefit digestive health when consumed (17).

Unfortunately, many yogurts have been pasteurized, which is a
heat treatment that kills the beneficial bacteria they contain.

To ensure your yogurt contains effective probiotics, look for
one that contains live, active cultures, which should be listed
on the label.

Some types of probiotics found in yogurt, such as
Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, have been
shown to lessen the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS), which is a common disorder that affects the
colon (18, 19, 20, 21).

One study had IBS patients regularly consume fermented milk or
yogurt that contained Bifidobacteria. After only three
weeks, they reported improvements in
bloating
and stool frequency — effects seen after six
weeks, as well (21).

Another study found that yogurt with Bifidobacteria
improved digestive symptoms and health-related quality of life
among women who did not have a diagnosed digestive condition
(22).

Furthermore, several studies have found that probiotics may
protect against antibiotic-associated diarrhea, as well as
constipation (23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28).

Summary: Some types of yogurt contain
probiotics, which may boost digestive health by reducing the
symptoms of common gastrointestinal disorders, such as
bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

4. It May Strengthen Your Immune System

Consuming yogurt — especially if it contains probiotics — on a
regular basis may strengthen your immune system and reduce your
likelihood of contracting an illness.

Probiotics have been shown to reduce inflammation,
which is linked to several health conditions ranging from viral
infections to gut disorders (29, 30, 31, 32).

Research shows that in some instances, probiotics may also help
reduce the incidence, duration and severity of the common cold
(33, 34, 35, 36, 37).

Moreover, the immune-enhancing properties of yogurt are partly
due to its magnesium, selenium and zinc, which are trace
minerals known for the role they play in immune system health
(38, 39, 40).

Vitamin D-fortified yogurts may boost immune health even
further. Vitamin D has been studied for its potential to
prevent illnesses such as the common cold and flu (9, 41, 42, 43).

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Summary: Yogurt provides probiotics,
vitamins and minerals, all of which may boost immune health
and prevent certain illnesses.

5. It May Protect Against Osteoporosis

Two Jars with Yogurt, Granola and Berries

Yogurt contains some key nutrients for maintaining bone health,
including calcium,
protein, potassium, phosphorus and, sometimes, vitamin D.

All of these vitamins and minerals are especially helpful for
preventing osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakening
of the bones. It is common in the elderly (44, 45, 46).

Individuals with osteoporosis have low bone density and are at
a higher risk of bone fractures (47, 48).

However, research shows that consuming at least three servings
of dairy foods, such as yogurt, on a daily basis may help
preserve bone mass and strength (49, 50).

Summary: Yogurt is rich in vitamins and
minerals that play a key role in bone health. Consuming it
regularly may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

6. It May Benefit Heart Health

Yogurt’s fat
content is one of the reasons why its healthiness is often
controversial. It contains mostly saturated fat, with a small
amount of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated
fat
was previously believed to cause heart disease, but
current research shows that this isn’t the case. Nevertheless,
fat-free and low-fat varieties of yogurt are still popular in
the US (51, 52, 53).

There is no clear evidence that the fat in yogurt is harmful to
your health. In fact, it may benefit heart health (54, 55).

Some research shows that the intake of saturated fat from
whole-milk products increases “good” HDL cholesterol, which may
protect heart health. Other studies have found yogurt intake to
reduce the overall incidence of heart disease (55, 56, 57).

Furthermore, dairy products like yogurt have been shown to help
reduce high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for
heart disease. The effects seem to be most prominent in those
already diagnosed with high blood pressure (58, 59, 60).

Summary: Regardless of its fat content,
yogurt appears to benefit heart health by increasing “good”
HDL cholesterol and reducing blood pressure.

7. It May Promote Weight Management

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt has several properties that may help with weight
management.

For starters, it is high in protein, which works along with
calcium to increase levels of appetite-reducing hormones like
peptide YY and GLP-1 (61).

Furthermore, several studies have found that yogurt consumption
is associated with lower body weight, body fat percentage and
waist circumference (62).

One review found that the intake of full-fat dairy products,
including yogurt, may reduce the incidence of obesity. This is
contrary to what was previously believed about fat intake and
weight gain (63).

Other studies have found that those who eat yogurt tend to eat
better overall, compared to those who do not eat it. This is
partly due to its higher nutrient content, compared to its
fairly low calorie content (64, 65).

Summary: Yogurt is high in protein, which is
very filling, and may improve your diet overall. Both of
these aspects help with weight management.

Yogurt May Not Be for Everyone

Some people need to be cautious with their yogurt intake, as it
may cause adverse effects, especially in those with lactose
intolerance or a milk allergy.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose
intolerance
occurs when the body lacks lactase, the enzyme
needed to break down lactose, which is the sugar found in milk.
It leads to various digestive symptoms, such as abdominal pain
and diarrhea, after consuming milk products.

Therefore, those with lactose intolerance may need to avoid
yogurt.

However, some people who are lactose intolerant may be able to
tolerate it. This is because some of the lactose is broken down
during production, and probiotics may assist with its digestion
(66).

If you are lactose intolerant, it may be a matter of trial and
error to determine if eating yogurt works for you.

Milk Allergy

Milk
products contain casein and whey,
which are proteins that some people are allergic to. In these
cases, milk triggers a reaction that can range from hives and
swelling to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

For this reason, it’s best to avoid yogurt if you have a milk
allergy.

Added Sugar

Many types of yogurt contain high amounts
added sugar
, especially those labeled as low in fat. Excess
sugar intake is associated with several health problems,
including diabetes and obesity (67, 68, 69).

Therefore, it’s important to read
food labels
and avoid brands that list sugar in the
ingredients.

Summary: Yogurt may have adverse effects for
those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. Many types
also contain high amounts of added sugar, which may
contribute to certain health conditions.

How to Choose the Best Yogurt for Your Health

Pot of Yogurt

Less is more when it comes to choosing a healthy yogurt.

Plain, unsweetened varieties are best, since they contain
minimal ingredients without any added sugar.

Whether you choose low- or full-fat yogurt is a personal
choice.

Full-fat varieties contain more calories,
but that doesn’t mean that they’re unhealthy. Just make sure to
stick with the recommended portion size.

You should also look for yogurts that contain live and active
cultures to ensure you get your fix of health-promoting
probiotics.

Summary: The best yogurts for your health
contain few ingredients and no added sugar. Aim for a brand
that contains probiotics.

The Bottom Line

Yogurt is rich in nutrients and may boost your health when
consumed regularly.

It may help reduce the risk of some diseases, while also
benefiting digestive health and weight control.

However, make sure to choose your yogurt wisely. For maximal
health benefits, choose plain, unsweetened varieties that
contain probiotics.

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