Why You Should Say Yes to Yogurt
Yogurt’s growing health benefits and the wide variety of yogurt products available to meet consumers’ tastes and nutrition goals have led to increased demand for this dairy product. Yogurt, an ancient food, is the fastest growing segment in the dairy category. According to 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, per capita consumption of yogurt has increased more than 400% during the past 30 years.
What is Yogurt? Yogurt is a cultured milk product made by fermenting pasteurized milk with the two lactic acid starter cultures or probiotics (health-promoting bacteria), Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The live and active cultures in yogurt are responsible for many of its health benefits. Other probiotics, as well as fiber, protein, calcium, and vitamin D may be added to some yogurts. Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained to remove most of its whey (watery liquid), resulting in a thicker, creamier, and stronger flavored yogurt. Compared to its regular yogurt counterpart, Greek yogurt is higher in protein, and lower in sugar and some nutrients such as calcium.
Yogurt’s Growing Health Benefits. The health effects of consuming yogurt were at the heart of two recent summits organized by the Yogurt in Nutrition for a Balanced Diet Initiative. The proceedings from the first summit are published as a supplement to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Here are some of the findings presented at the summits:
- Yogurt is a good marker of diet quality, helping children to older adults achieve better diets overall. Yogurt is a nutrient-rich food providing high-quality protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, riboflavin, and potassium, among other nutrients.
- Yogurt helps to improve the digestion of lactose (milk sugar) and reduce gastrointestinal symptoms caused by lactose malabsorption.
- Yogurt is associated with reduced risk of weight gain and obesity. Yogurt is a rich source of high-quality protein, which has been shown to increase satiety (feeling of fullness).
- Yogurt may help reduce adults’ risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Yogurt Products and Uses Expand. There’s an abundance of yogurts to choose from – regular (traditional) yogurt, Greek yogurt, frozen yogurt, drinkable yogurt, yogurts with different fat levels (i.e., whole, reduced, low-fat, fat-free), yogurts with usual (e.g., plain, vanilla, strawberry) and unusual (fig, rhubarb, pomegranate) flavors, and “functional” yogurts containing ingredients added for specific health benefits.
In addition to being a stand-alone snack or meal, yogurt is an ingredient in a variety of foods, including smoothies, parfaits, sauces, dips, salad dressings, and soups. For quick and easy yogurt recipes that deliver great taste and nutrition, visit National Dairy Council and the Milk Means More websites.
The Bottom Line. Consuming fat-free or low-fat yogurt as part of an overall healthful diet can help meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation to consume three daily servings of milk and milk products.