Picture the dairy aisle at your local grocery store. Traditionally, this would have been filled with an abundance of butter, cottage cheese and a small selection of yogurt. However, lately an influx of new yogurt products have started to dominate the shelves.
When you learn about to the vast amount of health benefits yogurt has to offer, it's no wonder this creamy favorite is starting to take command of the dairy arena.
What is Yogurt?
Simply put, yogurt is fermented milk. Doesn't sound very appealing when I put it that way, eh? Despite its unusual origins, I think yogurt tastes pretty great.
Yogurt's thick creamy texture and tangy flavor are actually a result of colonies of "good" bacteria introduced during production. These bacteria digest the carbohydrates in the milk and produce lactic acid. This in turn causes the milk to gel.
It's hard to believe, but the origins of yogurt trace back as far as 5000BC! It was used both for its health benefits and pleasant taste across Europe and the Middle East (source).
Why Say Yes to Yogurt?
Once upon a time, many turned their noses up at yogurt. However, it has become more apparent over recent years just how good for us yogurt can be. Even those who once dismissed the Greek goodness are turning to it to reap its healthy rewards.
Truth be told, all of us should strive to add some yogurt to our lives. From boosting our essential nutrients, to improving our immune system and even aiding weight loss, yogurt packs a healthy punch in a small package.
But what are the health benefits of yogurt I hear you say? Well, let's find out.
It's All About The Probiotics
Probiotics are a big thing in the health and wellness space at the moment. And rightly so - these little "good bacteria" are pretty awesome!
The National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health tells us that "although people often think of bacteria and other microorganisms as harmful "germs," many microorganisms help our bodies function properly."
Most of these good bacteria are found in our intestines. As 70% of our immune system is located in our gut, eating probiotic foods like yogurt actually encourages more good bacteria to grow, keeping our immune system strong.
Probiotics are also great for your digestive system and can prevent a whole host of gut issues. As over 60 million Americans are thought to struggle with digestion, adding probiotics into your diet can have a huge positive impact on your health.
Yogurts With Active Cultures Improve G.I. Conditions
The Jean Mayer U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded that yogurt can help a number of gastrointestinal (G.I.) conditions, including:
- Lactose intolerance
- Colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- H. pylori infection
This result was attributed to changes in gut microflora, enhancements to the bodies immune system and the time it takes food to go through the bowel.
The Power of Protein
Most of us know how important protein is to our diets. Regardless of our particular lifestyle, we all need protein. It's necessary for building and repairing every cell in our bodies as we age. Those who workout a lot need even more protein.
Although there are numerous sources of dietary protein, yogurt is a great light alternative to heavy, meals packed with meat. A bowl of plain yogurt with walnuts and blueberries thrown in is a light, protein packed breakfast of champions.
Get Some Vitamin B12
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists vitamin B12 deficiency as one of the most common deficiencies among Americans. According to a report from the CDC, more than 2% of the entire population are severely deficient in this essential nutrient. Getting more B12 into our diets should most definitely be a priority.
Vitamin B12 has a major role in ensuring the brain and nervous system develop and function correctly.
Yogurt (particularly Greek yogurt) is an excellent natural alternative to vitamin B-12 supplements. This can be incredibly beneficial to vegetarians as B-12 is most commonly found in meat, therefore, yogurt can be a great meat-free alternative.
Yogurt is also filled with some other essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, vitamin B-2, potassium and magnesium. All of these play vital roles in the body making yogurt a powerful natural alternative to multivitamins.
Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects millions of men and women. The International Foundation for Osteoporosis defines osteoporosis as "a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced" (source).
As we get older, the quality of our bones is reduced in comparison to during childhood or adolescence. Therefore, our risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age. This is especially the case with women who have gone through the menopause, due to the vast hormonal changes they encounter.
One way to lower your risk of osteoporosis is to make sure you're getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D is essential in order for our body to absorb calcium.
We've already established that yogurt is a great source of calcium. However, it's even better to select a yogurt with added vitamin D. A daily fortified yogurt can be an excellent alternative to using supplements.
Boost Your Metabolism and Keep Your Waistline in Check
Due to yogurt's essential nutrient content, including fat-burning nutrients like calcium, plus protein to help build muscle, yogurt can help boost your metabolism.
Moreover, yogurt is packed with iodine which is essential for thyroid function. Deficiency in iodine can lead to thyroid issues where one of the most common problems is rapid fluctuations in weight.
Plus, eating yogurt leaves you feeling fuller for longer. So all of these benefits mean eating yogurt daily could help you stay slim.
Get The Benefits After A Workout
For those who are fanatical about fitness, you probably already use a post workout shake. For many, those shakes are thickened with milk or even low-fat ice cream.
However, one alternative is to use yogurt in your after fitness fix. When going cup to cup, light and low-fat yogurt is higher in protein and calcium and lower in saturated fat and calories than low-fat ice cream. It will also give a thick and creamy consistency that will fill you up. All round, it's a win-win.
Why Not Try Some Today
With so many health benefits, it is easy to see why adding yogurt to your weekly shopping list can have a positive impact on your life. The hardest decision is whether to go for full fat, Greek or filled with live cultures. But choosing to say yes to yogurt is one decision that is easy!
Here's an interesting infographic from health.clevelandclinic.org