Yogurt, Nonfat Organic
(And its “Sidekicks:” Kefir, Greek Yogurt, Soy Yogurt, DanActive Immunity, and Nonfat Organic Milk)
A source of:
- Live active cultures
- Complete protein
- B2 (riboflavin)
- Conjugated linoleic acid
Yogurt is most commonly made from cow’s milk, but it can also be made from goat, sheep, or buffalo milk. Yogurt is, quite simply, milk that has been curdled. To make yogurt, pasteurized, homogenized milk is inoculated with bacteria cultures and kept warm while the lactose or milk sugar turns into lactic acid. This process thickens the yogurt and gives it its characteristic tart, tangy flavor.
Many of the benefits of yogurt are due to the power of two substances—prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are live organisms—bacterial strains—that have certain proven health benefits. Prebiotics are, in effect, food for those beneficial probiotics. Prebiotics can benefit the body by, for example, promoting the absorption of calcium.
One of the most important benefits of including yogurt in your diet is that it is a great source of probiotics, the health-promoting bacteria that keep our gastrointestinal system at peak performance in efficiently processing calories and nutrients. Nonfat organic yogurt plays a role in controlling weight and blood pressure as well as in preventing osteoporosis.
Much has been written lately about the possible relationship between the consumption of dairy products and an increased risk for various cancers, but that may be related to the hormones administered to cows in increase milk production. So look for organic dairy or at least rBGH-free dairy products.
Dairy products are the best source of calcium and a good source of protein, magnesium, the B vitamins, and vitamins A and D. In fact, studies have shown that dairy products may well protect the body from some types of cancer. Two Norwegian studies indicated that premenopausal women who had a high consumption of milk had a lower rate of breast cancer than women who had low or no milk consumption. Low-fat or nonfat dairy seems to have a better anti-breast cancer effect, and the fat from milk and butter does seem to be positively correlated with breast cancer.
The incidence of colon cancer is also reduced in subjects with high and regular consumption of dairy products, and fermented milk or yogurt seems to provide a protective effect. In a study evaluating the links between dairy product consumption and cancer, the authors concluded that “among all dairy products available, cultured milk, yogurt, and low-fat dairy products seem to be better choices for providing nutrients to prevent not only cancer but other chronic diseases as well.”
Some people lack the enzyme that enables them to digest the sugar (lactose) in milk. In America, primary lactose intolerance occurs in 53 percent of Mexican Americans, 75 percent of African Americans, and only 15 percent of whites. Lactose intolerance occurs in more than 50 percent of adults in South America and Africa, approximately 2 percent of Scandinavians, and about 70 percent of southern Italian adults. Lactose intolerance approaches 100 percent in some Asian countries. This can be a problem because it limits a source of highly bioavailable calcium in the diet. Yogurt solves this problem, since the probiotics in yogurt have already digested the lactose, allowing even those unable to digest milk to enjoy this calcium-rich food. As significant numbers of the lactase (the enzyme that “digests” lactose)-producing bacteria survive for less than an hour after ingestion, it is important to consume probiotics frequently if you suffer from this malady.
Interesting evidence points out that probiotics in yogurt reduce bile acids, which in turn decrease the absorption of cholesterol from the gastrointestinal tract, thus reducing cholesterol levels. This effect is most apparent in those who already have elevated cholesterol. As an added bonus, yogurt helps lower blood pressure.
Other Benefits of Yogurt
A small study in Japan found that yogurt could be helpful in fighting bad breath (halitosis). The participants ate yogurt twice a day for six weeks. Eighty percent of those who had had halitosis showed lower levels of sulfide compounds that contribute to bad breath compared with samples taken during a time when no yogurt was consumed. The folks who had eaten yogurt also had less plaque and gingivitis, indicating that yogurt can make a real contribution to oral health when eaten regularly.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
An important function of probiotics is to help regulate the body’s inflammatory response. The probiotics in yogurt seem to be able to help maintain remission in those who suffer from IBD.
Vaginal Infections and Urinary Tract Infections
Again, we see that the probiotics in yogurt can work to help balance the bacteria in the urogenital system, crowding out the “bad” bacteria and encouraging the proliferation of the “good” bacteria.
The evidence has been mounting that yogurt can play a role in a weight-reduction diet. A recent study showed that obese people on a low-calorie diet who included three 6-ounce servings of nonfat yogurt daily for twelve weeks lost 22 percent more weight than dieters who ate little or no dairy foods. Perhaps more important, they lost 60 percent more body fat and maintained more lean muscle mass. It does seem that calcium-rich foods are helpful in reducing or controlling weight. Nonfat yogurt is a low-calorie, high-protein, high-calcium food that may make a significant contribution to your efforts at weight control.
*This brief summary contains copyrighted material from SuperFoods HealthStyle by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews. Copyright © 2006 by Steven G. Pratt, M.D. and Kathy Matthews Inc., published by HarperCollins; and from SuperFoods Rx For Pregnancy by Steven Pratt, M.D. Copyright © 2013 by SuperFoods Partners, LLC, published by Wiley. All rights reserved.