12 Amazing Health Benefits of Yogurt
In a recent debate with my friends over the health benefits of yogurt instigated a thought of writing this article. I came across certain beliefs that are not at all correct and you all need to know about those.
Article Information: This article is written by Nikita Mayuresh Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist.
One of my friends said ” Its a dairy product and you shall avoid every white food if you want to lose weight”. But as a registered dietitian, I can confirm this notion is not at all correct.
Yogurt contains various important nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, protein, etc. Various studies and researches have found a connection between yogurt consumption and better heart and bone health.
Today we are going to discuss the health benefits of yogurt that are scientifically proven and studied.
Yogurt: What is it?
The fermentation of milk by bacteria or yogurt culture results in the yogurt.
The yogurt was accidentally discovered by Asian civilizations. You might find a reference to Ayurvedic scriptures from 6000 BC, talking about the health benefits of yogurt (1).
You might notice the plain yogurt has a creamy texture and tangy taste. Bacteria in the yogurt culture ferment the lactose sugar found in the milk to produce lactic acid.
Lactic acid performs a key role in the coagulation of milk protein to form the yogurt, giving it a unique texture and flavor.
It contains calcium which is good for bones and protein which boosts the energy.
Its balanced consumption helps you lose weight, whereas its excess intake can even result in weight gain.
Since, Yogurt boosts your immunity, stimulates vitamin B production, and aids digestion, therefore, it should be a part of everyone’s diet.
Yogurt is a rich source of fats, protein, whey, casein, ruminant trans fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and Minerals.
Specifically, 100 g of low-fat plain yogurt contains various components in the following amounts (2):
Because of a low-calorie content, consumption of yogurt can help you limit the calorie intake and aid in weight loss.
Protein: 5.25 g
Protein aids the metabolism process. It helps to burn the calories faster than usual.
Calcium: 183 mg
Calcium helps in maintaining bone health. Low calcium intake can lead to lower bone density (osteoporosis) especially in the elderly population.
Other nutrient contents in yogurt are,
- Carbs: 7.04 g
- Phosphorus: 144mg
- Potassium: 234 mg
- Fat: 3.3 g (break up below)
- Saturated fats: 2.1 g
- Monounsaturated fatty acids: 0.89 g
- Polyunsaturated: 0.09 g
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 0.03 g
- Omega-6: 0.07 g
Health Benefits of Yogurt
You noticed in the previous section the amount of nutrition yogurt has in it. It contains almost all the essential nutrients we all need in our day to day life (3).
In the further sections of this article article, I have listed the health benefits of yogurt that are backed by science, proven by studies or researches (4).
I have spoken to various medical professionals, doctors, and physicians to confirm the health benefits are based on facts. I will mention those where ever required.
1. May help in better bone health
Yogurt being an excellent source of calcium ensures the calcium levels in your body stay normal. Thus, it reduces the risk of osteoporosis, a condition wherein the bones get brittle and weak (5).
A study with 10038 participants suggests that a daily intake of dairy products can help in reducing the effect of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women (8).
Regular consumption of yogurt increases bone density by providing the required amount of calcium and minerals to the body. There are so many other calcium-rich foods that can help you increase the calcium levels.
2. Vitamin B12 and Synthesis
Yogurt is a good source of essential vitamins such as vitamin B12 that keeps heart diseases and neural tube birth defects at a bay. There are various health benefits of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B-12 is mostly found in foods obtained from animal sources. Therefore, vegetarians experience deficiency of vitamin B12 as they are majorly dependent on the plant sources for their diet.
A study focused on the requirement of vitamin B12 for hematopoiesis, neuro-cognitive functions, and genetic integrity, yielded the affirmative results (9).
An 8-ounce serving of yogurt contains 1.3 mcg (which is 53% of the recommended dietary allowance) of Vitamin B12.
Additionally, yogurt helps in the absorption of Vitamin B12 from other foods by promoting the release of stomach acid, required enzymes, and the intrinsic factor.
3. Rich Source of Protein
As I mentioned above, yogurt contains a high amount of protein, 15 g of protein per cup (245 g of yogurt). Protein is required by the body to repair tissues/muscles (10).
Yogurt proteins are mainly of two types, casein, and whey.
Casein is a water-insoluble protein, whereas whey readily dissolves in water. Both of them are easily digestible and contain essential amino acids.
4. Can be Good for Digestion
If you are on antibiotics you might experience stomach upset. The probiotic helps you improve your stomach and gut health.
If you are buying the yogurt from the market make sure it has active bacteria present.
The yogurt formation process involves heat treatment which kills all the bacteria present in it. Certain products add the bacteria after the heat treatment.
5. Mey Help to Enhance Immunity
Consuming yogurt on a daily basis can support your immune system and may reduce your likelihood to get ill with its probiotic activity (16).
A study was conducted to understand if there is any connection between yogurt consumption and immune system boost. The study suggested improvements in cytokine responses and clinical scores in patients with allergic rhinitis (17).
Probiotics which are the health-promoting bacteria can reduce inflammation which is caused due to viral infections and various gut disorders. Probiotics also help you cope with the common cold and upper respiratory infections (18) (19).
Moreover, yogurt contains selenium, zinc, and magnesium that play an important role in boosting your immunity.
6. Potentially Helps in Weight Management
Your goal of healthy weight loss or healthy weight gain can be reached with proper diet, exercise, and a regular intake of yogurt. As yogurt contains fat it is advisable to practice portion sizing and do not overeat.
A study conducted in 2014, showed a positive correlation between higher consumption of yogurt and weight loss in overweight men. But is also revealed that higher consumption of yogurt in normal-weight people can lead to weight gain (20).
Another study recommends including yogurt as part of a healthy balanced diet (21).
It also reduces obesity by lowering your body fat, and waist circumference.
With yogurt, your body gets all the essential nutrients without getting more of the calories. Thus, it efficiently helps you in your weight management.
7. Can be Good for Heart
I discussed with Dr. Russell MD Cardiologist about how yogurt can help in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The saturated fat in yogurt helps your body raise its levels of good HDL cholesterol.
Recent studies support that consumption of saturated fat can lower the risk of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke (24).
Another study suggests that saturated fatty acids along with some amount of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids can lower cardiovascular disease risk (25).
The risk of developing heart disease due to the over-consumption of salt is also lowered considerably.
This is done by the potassium in yogurt that assists your body to flush out the excess sodium. Thus, eating yogurt is a great way to maintain a healthy heart.
8. Promotes Fast Recovery Post-Workout
After an intense workout, your muscles undergo damage and stress. Proper nutrition helps your muscle fibers in its healing.
Yogurt contains proteins that can be assimilated by your body to repair the muscles.
Also, your body parallelly begins to synthesize proteins by itself to further boost the repair process. There are many more pre-workout foods also which you can try and satisfy your taste buds.
Besides, the carbohydrate content of yogurt helps your body replenish its depleted energy levels. Thus, your body recovers efficiently after your workouts with yogurt.
9. Controls Blood Pressure
Yogurt is also beneficial for healthy individuals as it lowers the risk of developing high blood pressure by 50%.
It keeps your blood pressure within a normal range and thus protects you from diseases caused by hypertension.
10. Helps in the Formation of Healthy Gut Bacteria.
Eating fermented foods such as yogurt can benefit your health by increasing the number of healthy gut bacteria.
It also decreases the number of Enterobacteriaceae, bacteria which causes inflammation and other diseases.
Plain yogurt is the best choice over flavored yogurt. Plain yogurt don’t have added sugar and regarded as healthy compared to other varieties of fortified yogurt.
The soy yogurt stimulates the growth of other beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and at the same time decreases the disease-causing bacteria.
11. May Prevent Gastrointestinal Diseases
The yogurt is rich in good bacteria and fights from your side with the harmful bacteria that are trying to make you sick.
It restores the required number of good bacteria in your intestines that have anti-inflammatory powers and acts as a natural antibiotic.
Gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease are prevented effectively by this yummy snack. These disorders occur due to less microflora or good bacteria in your gut (29).
This shortage makes you prone to such diseases. Thus, yogurt prevents the onset of gastrointestinal diseases and reduces their intensity as well.
12. Potentially help in Healthy Active Aging.
Yogurt is a good source of calcium, vitamin B12, zinc, and prebiotic.
As per recent studies, it is observed that the nutrition composition of yogurt supports active aging. It helps in reducing the general health issues related to aging (30).
The general health issues like constipation, weak bones, etc are common after the age of 50. With the right diet and nutrition, you can keep these health problems away.
How to consume?
A simple answer to this question is “Any way you like” :).
I am suggesting you some ways you can include it in your diet. There are different varieties of yogurts like low fat, greek, soy, etc. We discuss this in the further sections, check it out and opt for the variety you like.
Plain yogurt bowl
This is my favorite way to consume yogurt. The plain yogurt in itself is nutrition-rich and contains almost all the nutrients our body needs on a daily basis.
One of my readers asked me, “Shall we not opt for vitamin D fortified yogurt over the plain one?”.
My preferred way of getting any nutrition is from nature, so sunbath for a few hours a week can provide you enough vitamin D. You can surely opt for vitamin D fortified yogurt if you like, there is no harm in that when you take care of the portion sizing.
Mix with Fruits
This is another way of consuming yogurt.
I personally recommend eating the fruit and yogurt separately but if mixing it can help you consume well then that is fine.
Studies aimed at discovering the effect of mixing yogurt and fruit did not yield any conclusive result. The study focused on the potential health benefits of mixing yogurt and fruits based on their probiotic and prebiotic properties (31).
Types of Yogurt
1. Whole Milk Yogurt: Whole milk yogurt contains 6-8 g of fat per cup. Most of the time, the whole milk yogurt comes with a layer of creamy yogurt on the top.
2. Low-Fat Yogurt: Low-fat yogurt has 2-5 g of fat per cup.
3. Non-Fat Yogurt: Non-fat yogurt is less tangy than whole milk yogurt and low-fat yogurt. Also, its fat content is less than 0.5% by weight.
4. Greek Yogurt: It is a strained yogurt whose ‘whey’ has been removed to make it thicker. It can be made as sugary as the other conventional yogurts by adding fruit preservatives or sugar.
5. Whipped Yogurt: Whipped Yogurt has a lighter consistency due to more air content in it. It is low in calories, protein, calcium, and other nutrients.
6. Goat’s Milk Yogurt: It is full-flavored yogurt that may taste more like gamy.
7. Soy Yogurt: With a texture and consistency similar to dairy yogurt, it is made from soy milk.
8. Labneh (Labne): Labneh is smooth in texture and creamy with sour cream. It is found mainly in the middle east.
9. Sheep’s Milk Yogurt: Similar to the goat’s milk yogurt, it is also creamy and full-flavored with a slightly gamier flavor.
Which yogurt is the best
The answer depends on your need. If you are looking for fortified yogurts you can opt for one.
If you are purchasing the yogurt from the market, pay attention to the label. Yogurt which has live bacteria or active bacteria has more nutrition.
Try to avoid yogurt with sugar as this can do more harm than good, especially if you are suffering from diabetes.
My best variety as I told earlier is plain yogurt which has many required nutrients.
Who shall avoid
We have discussed so many health benefits of yogurt that you might be tempted to gulp it down at this moment. But wait, yogurt is not for everyone, especially if you are suffering from any health condition like lactose intolerance or allergy.
Milk product allergy
Some people can show an allergic reaction to casein or whey proteins present in yogurt. If you are allergic to these it better not to consume it.
You can try a small amount of yogurt and check if you are allergic. If it works for you, then add it to your diet.
If your body lack ‘lactase’ enzyme which is required to break down the milk sugar Lactose, the health condition is known as lactose intolerance.
You can try a small amount of yogurt and notice if that has any health reaction. Some people can tolerate yogurt but if it doesn’t work for you, stop consuming it.
- You can also provide your body with vitamin D by choosing the yogurt brands which contain this vitamin.
- You can pair the protein-rich yogurt with fiber-rich fruits or high-fiber cereal to make it a perfect snack for breakfast.
- Add low-fat yogurt to your smoothie to make it creamier.
- Low-fat yogurt is high in protein and calcium.
- Yogurt can be a perfect morning or afternoon snack at your work too. Store it in the office refrigerator.
- You can use yogurt as an ingredient in various recipes.
- Use it to replace fat content in cake.
Yogurt is an excellent food product with health-boosting nutrients. Its regular consumption reduces the risk of various diseases associated with the heart such as hypertension. It also helps in reducing your weight and keeps your digestion healthy.
However, it is necessary to be watchful while choosing the yogurt variety. Plain yogurt without the added sweeteners works best and contains the right amount of probiotics.