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Yogurt is one of the oldest foods consumed in various parts of the world.
It is prepared through fermentation, by adding a strain of bacteria to heated milk. This milk is then left to incubate to let the bacteria grow and convert the milk sugars into acid. This process reduces the pH of the milk.
In addition to yogurt, some other fermented milk products include kefir, buttermilk, and cultured cream. (1) A lot of health benefits are linked to the consumption of fermented foods.
First, they are a great aid to the already existing colony of microorganisms in the gut. These microorganisms are essential to digestion and the maintenance of overall health.
Second, foods like yogurt also have a rich nutritional profile and can offer health benefits for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart diseases.
Nutritional Content of Yogurt
About 100 g of yogurt contains 63 calories, 7 g of carbohydrates, 5.3 g of protein, and 1.6 g of fat. It provides 14% (183 mg) of the daily requirement of calcium, 12% of phosphorus, and 5% of potassium. (2)
It also contains many vitamins including B2 (0.214 mg), B5 (0.59 mg), and B12 (0.6 mg). It also has a rich amino acid profile, making it a great protein-filled snack. (2)
Health Benefits of Yogurt
Including yogurt in your daily diet can give you the following health benefits.
1. Supports bone health
The minerals in yogurt such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, along with protein, help in building bones and increasing bone strength. (3)
In one study, the intake of yogurt resulted in improved bone density and reduced risk of fractures. (4)
2. Improves gut health
The live bacteria in yogurt influences gut microorganisms to bring about weight loss and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. (5)
A recent study done in the UK on the health benefits associated with yogurt consumption revealed that regular consumption of yogurt reduced fat stores and improved gut microorganisms. (5)
3. Provides protein
Protein is the building block of the body. Intake of adequate amounts of protein (1.5–2.2 g/kg body weight depending on the level of activity) is critical in maintaining body functions and preventing wear and tear. (7)
Yogurt can be a good addition to the diet of the elderly to prevent the consequences of age-related physical degeneration due to a lack of protein and other nutrients that yogurt can provide. (8)
4. Aids weight management
Yogurt is a great snack to include in a weight management diet. Not only is it a great and easy source of protein and other nutrients, but it can also help with losing weight. (9)
In several studies, eating yogurt was linked to a lower BMI, lesser weight gain, smaller waist circumference (indicating lower abdominal weight gain), and lower overall weight gain. (9)
5. Helps in the management of cholesterol
Keeping total cholesterol at optimal levels is important for overall health. Elevated lipid levels are a risk factor for heart diseases and obesity. (10)
The Korea National Health Study found that people who consumed yogurt had lowered triglyceride levels. (10)
6. Supports immunity
Yogurt can directly impact the inflammation in the intestines by modulating the immune cells responsible for it, reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (12)
Regular consumption of yogurt also improves the population of gut microorganisms that can improve overall host immunity. (13)
ALSO READ: 11 Foods That Boost Your Immune System
7. Improves diabetes
Yogurt also influences the insulin and glucose responses in people with no diabetes but who generally have higher blood sugar levels after meals. (15)
8. Maintains heart health
High blood pressure is one of the most common chronic conditions and a major risk factor for heart diseases. The DASH diet prescribed for improving heart health recommends the use of fermented dairy products such as yogurt. (16)
Population studies have reported consumption of more than 2 servings of yogurt each week resulted in a lower risk of heart attack and stroke in people with high blood pressure. (16)
9. May reduce the risk of cancer
Due to the prominent role yogurt plays in the gut, yogurt consumption is linked to a lowered risk of colorectal cancer, as shown by some studies. (17)
How to Consume
Yogurt can be consumed alongside meals; used as a salad dressing and toppings for oatmeal, parfaits, and smoothies; or mixed with fresh fruit and consumed as dessert.
More About Yogurt
You may have already come across various types of yogurt including Greek yogurt, skyr, coconut yogurt, and soy yogurt. How are they different from plain old regular yogurt?
Greek yogurt is made in a similar way to yogurt but does not contain the watery whey that contributes to its carbohydrate content. Because of this, it is a great protein-rich source and a favorite choice of many athletes and fitness enthusiasts. (18)
Skyr (fresh cheese) is an Icelandic yogurt that has emerged on the market for its incredible protein content, being even higher than that of its Greek counterpart. (19) The need for plant-based yogurt has arisen due to the emergence of veganism.
Since plant-based milk does not have similar components as animal milk, different strains of bacteria are used for the fermentation process to produce a product similar to yogurt. These yogurts may or may not be fortified, but it is likely that the protein content will not be as rich as regular animal milk yogurt. (20)
Precautions to Consider
Since yogurt’s lactose is converted to lactic acid, it can be well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance. However, it is important to identify your lactose threshold to figure out the amount of yogurt you can tolerate.
It is also important to remember that if you are allergic to lactose, then you need to avoid yogurt altogether. Fortunately, you can include many other probiotic-rich foods in your diet such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha, which can provide the body with similar benefits as fermented dairy.
Most-Asked Questions About Yogurt
What is the best time to eat yogurt?
Eating yogurt on an empty stomach will allow the probiotics to reach the large intestine without interference to improve gut diversity.
Which yogurt is the healthiest?
All yogurts are healthy, but you can choose which yogurt you prefer based on your nutrient needs and economic feasibility.
Should I drink water after eating yogurt?
Just as it is suggested to avoid drinking water after meals, it is better to avoid drinking water after eating yogurt, though there is no scientific claim backing this.
Is it okay to eat yogurt at night?
Some traditional medicine systems believe that eating yogurt at night may cause congestion in the lungs in some people. Therefore, it may be a better idea to eat yogurt during the day.
Why do I feel sleepy after eating yogurt?
Yogurt contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which is involved in producing brain chemicals that induce sleep, although one serving of yogurt at a time is not likely to cause such an effect.
Is yogurt the same as curd?
Curd is prepared at home by using an acid such as lemon or vinegar, whereas yogurt is made by using strains of bacteria to induce fermentation. It is better to choose yogurt or curd with no added sugars to prevent the consumption of added sugar in the diet.
Yogurt is one of the easiest-to-consume protein-rich foods. Aside from containing many nutrients, it is also filled with probiotics that are advantageous for human health.
From being beneficial in weight management to regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart diseases, yogurt can do it all. Since yogurt is still a dairy food, it may exacerbate the symptoms of lactose intolerance.