Walk down the dairy aisle of any grocery store and you’ll see a dizzying array of yogurts. While yogurt’s popularity is partly due to its creamy texture and yummy taste, it’s main claim to fame is its health benefits. Because yogurt is high in calcium, eating yogurt regularly is good for your bones. Some research suggests yogurt may also benefit your digestive system, help immunity and offer protection from certain infections. Registered dietitian Beth Reardon recommends enjoying yogurt at least three times a week for optimum health benefits.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, calcium and vitamin D are essential for reducing the risk of osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease that often strikes postmenopausal women, leading to fractures. One 8-ounce container of yogurt supplies 415 milligrams of calcium, which is 42 percent of the Daily Value, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements. A glass of 2 percent milk has only 293 milligrams of calcium, making yogurt a better source than milk. Vitamin D is needed for your body to absorb calcium, and yogurt can also be a good source of this nutrient because some yogurt is fortified with vitamin D. Check the yogurt label to see if it contains vitamin D, recommends Reardon, who is also director of nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Regularly eating yogurt with calcium and vitamin D may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Yogurt is made by bacterial fermentation of milk, a process that may boost digestive health because it produces the same good bacteria found in the gut. Plus, some yogurt contains additional good bacteria known as probiotics. MayoClinic.com reports that probiotics may help with digestion and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as diarrhea following treatment with antibiotics, which kill off both good and bad bacteria. According to a report in the November 2011 issue of “Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care,” most systematic reviews indicate that probiotics help irritable bowel symptoms, abdominal pain and gas, although the benefits may depend on the strain of probiotics.
According to NBCNews.com, the extra bacteria, or probiotics, added to yogurt have been shown to enhance immunity, perhaps by producing more infection-fighting white blood cells or antibodies in the gut. A number of human studies have found that Lactobacillus acidophilus, a strain of probiotics commonly added to yogurt, can benefit bacterial vaginosis, an infection of the vagina afflicting many women. However, MayoClinic.com notes that more studies are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn. Still, it can’t hurt to eat yogurt regularly for its potential immune-boosting and infection-fighting properties, notes Reardon.
If you shy away from dairy products because you’re lactose intolerant, the Office of Dietary Supplements says you may be able to eat yogurt on a regular basis because yogurt is low in lactose. Some yogurt is high in calories and added sugar, increasing the risk of weight gain and tooth decay, so choose plain low-fat yogurt and add your own fresh berries, Reardon suggests. All yogurt contains some natural sugar, but Greek yogurt is lowest in sugar, highest in protein and has a super-creamy consistency. All in all, yogurt has a lot going for it, offering many reasons to eat this tasty dairy food on a regular basis.