In many Indian families, there is a practice to eat yogurt after a heavy meal if not every day but very often. It is also served after main course in various traditional occasions like in marriages, family gatherings, parties etc. Although, this practice is thought to be a mere tradition, many are unaware of the scientific reason behind it. Well, it is not simply a dessert served after food for its taste but because of its health benefits. Yogurt is loaded with nutrients, minerals and vitamins and hence eating a bowl of yogurt is considered to be very healthy and beneficial for health. Therefore, taking its great taste and therapeutic potentials into account, today I will be discussing about the top 11 scientifically proven health benefits of yogurt. Apart from the major health benefits of yogurt, we’ll also discuss about the various nutrients and vitamins that it has to offer.
Yogurt is one of the oldest dairy products made by the fermentation process. When fresh pure milk is kept in a vessel together with the friendly bacteria called “yogurt cultures”, they ferment the natural sugar “lactose” found in the milk. Slowly the milk thickens and develops a sour taste that is very delicious. In this process of fermentation, we get lactic acid that acts as a preservative and allows the cultured milk to remain fresh for a longer period.
Plain yogurt that is devoid of any artificial colorants helps in proper digestion of food and hence it is served after heavy meals. Yogurt is also very good for your heart, bones, obesity and your overall immune system.
You can make yogurt with different types of milk. If you use skimmed milk, it is going to be free of fat and if you use whole milk, it will have full fat. Yogurt was originally eaten in the Eastern European countries but later became popular with the people of the rest of the world and is today a favorite food recipe of many. It is eaten as a dessert or used in various other recipes to add on to the flavor.
There is no doubt about the great taste and the health benefits of yogurt which I will be discussing in details but before that, we will learn about the various nutrients present in it, that makes yogurt an important product for our health.
Constituents of yogurt
Yogurt contains many nutrients and antioxidants very healthy for our wellbeing. It is rich in calcium, protein, vitamins, carbohydrates etc that helps in strengthening our immune system and helps our body prevent diseases.
For detailed information regarding all the nutrients found in plain yogurt, you may visit the USDA site. However, main constituents in yogurt are as follows:
- Amino acids
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Now that you have known the various nutrients in yogurt, let us proceed with the health benefits of eating yogurt.
Health benefits of yogurt backed by science
We know that yogurt is a powerhouse of nutrients and all these together foster healthy living. It promotes the optimum functioning of human heart, central nervous system, digestive system, brain etc. It gives us the stamina and the energy to stay active throughout the day.
Here are 11 top health benefits of yogurt that you must know.
Strong digestive system
Yogurt is extremely beneficial for your digestive system and that is one of the top health benefits of yogurt. This property of yogurt is mainly due to the presence of probiotics or good bacteria that facilitates healthy gut. ‘Bifidobacteria’ and ‘Lactobacillus’ in yogurt also prevent the occurrence of the discomfort due to the irritable bowel movements, which in turn helps to protect your colon.
The good bacteria Bifidobacteria further gives relief from stomach bloating and maintains proper stool frequency. Moreover, you get rid of diarrhea or constipation issues as well with adequate consumption of yogurt. In short, yogurt is good for your digestive system and protects you from the gastrointestinal disorders and their symptoms.
Protects your heart
The fat content in yogurt have often put it under controversies regarding its efficiency in protecting our heart. In fact, it was previously thought to be the cause behind several cardiovascular diseases. However, recent modified studies have refuted such claims and instead associated its consumption with healthy heart.
Yogurt has also been proved to regulate cholesterol levels in body that helps keeping our hearty healthy. Researchers have found out that the milk fat may increase the LDL cholesterol but since it also increases the levels of good cholesterol HDL, the overall cholesterol levels in body remain balanced.
High blood pressure that puts our heart at great risk can also be protected and maintained with yogurt consumption. According to “U.S. National Library of Medicine”, the probiotic bacteria help to lower high blood pressure levels in hypertensive subjects. Other studies also suggest that various other nutrients like potassium, calcium and magnesium possess blood pressure lowering potential, all of which is present in yogurt. Hence, we can say yogurt to be heart friendly.
Promotes weight loss
Obesity is a major problem that is increasing on an alarming rate but with yogurt you can put your weight issues at bay. This is actually in contrary to the popular belief about the intake of fat leading to obesity. The presence of the high levels of protein together with the calcium stimulates hormones like peptide YY (PYY) and peptide (GLP)-1 that curbs our appetite. So the less calorie intake, the more will be your weight loss.
Not only does yogurt controls our appetite, but also helps in lowering the body mass index, body fat percentage and even fights the stubborn belly and waist fat. Other studies on American men and women also proved that yogurt consumption leads to better diet quality and proper metabolism in body. However if you are having weight issues, you must go for the unsweetened plain yogurt.
Good for your bones
Yogurt can help you in keeping your bones strong and prevent it from breaking easily. It is rich in calcium that is the primary component behind stronger bones. In fact, according to reports, not just dietary calcium alone, but the presence of dietary protein and potassium also aid to strengthen human bones and maintain bone mass.
The presence of calcium, vitamins and minerals can also prevent the risk of the age related osteoporosis that makes the bones weak and more susceptible to breakage. Yogurt can give you protection from osteoarthritis as well.
Boosts oral health
Eating a bowl of fresh yogurt is good for your oral health. If you eat yogurt that has no fat or low fat, you will be able to fight several gum problems like periodontal disease. According to studies, probiotic yogurt consumption reduces the demineralization of the teeth enamel and prevents its erosion. Thus, it is good in giving protection against the cavities and easing its pain. In fact, it keeps your mouth less acidic, which further aids in preventing the growth of cavity causing bad bacteria.
Yogurt also has the ability to eliminate bad breath and saves you from public embarrassment. Also, it is highly nutritious and is rich in calcium and iron that keeps your gums and teeth strong and prevents tooth decay and early falling of your teeth. The lactic acid present in it also plays an important role in boosting your oral health.
Stronger immune system
A healthy human body is an asset to the society and in order to maintain a healthy living, a stronger immune system is mandatory. If you have a strong immunity power, you will be able to fight the germs and prevent several diseases from occurring. According to studies yogurt possess immune-enhancing properties that is highly beneficial for human health. This is mainly due to the presence of the three important compounds magnesium, selenium and zinc that stimulates your immune system and fosters good health.
Infections are quite common with lot of pathogens entering your system. However, according to reports, yogurt is very efficient in fighting various infections. The probiotics or the good bacteria present reduces any kind of inflammation or swelling and prevent the occurrence of gut disorders or infections. Yogurt is also rich in Vitamin D that along with the probiotics aids your body to cure the respiratory infections and give you fast relief. You can also protect yourself from yeast infections like vaginal infections with yogurt.
Protection against common cold and fever
Talking about infections you certainly cannot miss the common problem of cold and cough but you can prevent it with adequate consumption of yogurt. Yogurt is highly nutritious and the presence of Vitamin D is great to treat the severity of the cold. In fact, Vitamin D can also help to reduce the fever that often accompanies common cold. It also inhibits the risk of the flues and the epidemic influenza. However, it is not Vitamin D alone; the probiotics also help your body in the whole process.
Boosts your cognitive functioning
You can protect your brain and enable better functioning of your cognitive system with the help of yogurt. Studies conducted by the University of California shows that the good bacteria or the probiotics stimulates brain functions.
It can also help you to combat chronic stress, depression and anxiety that can put your brain at risk. In other words, it can regulate your mood and allow you to have better control of your emotions in extreme emotional situations. In addition, further studies have also proved its efficiency to improve your mental capacity and other brain injuries. Regular consumption of yogurt will also aid in better concentration power and retention of memory.
Protection against diabetes
The increasing problem of diabetes, mainly Type II can be prevented with yogurt. Studies have shown that probiotic yogurt is efficient in reducing the risk of the Type II diabetes and its associated health symptoms. Yogurt is good for the digestive system and helps in better absorption of the nutrients. It contains all the healthy antioxidants that help to regulate the sugar levels in body and hence put the deadly disease diabetes at check.
Protects against colorectal cancer
Cancer is a deadly disease with colorectal cancer being one of the most common types. However, there is nothing to worry much as yogurt consumption is a good remedy to get protection against it. Yes, you have heard it right. According to the study published in “International Journal of Cancer”, yogurt can be recommended to be eaten on a regular basis to prevent the colorectal cancer for its great therapeutic potential to combat it. The efficiency of probiotic yogurt to boost human digestive system is said to be the main reason behind it.
How to choose the best quality yogurt?
Yogurt is healthy for your well-being but you need to choose the best one to reap the maximum benefits and I will help you in that. Here are the basis parameters or points you must keep in mind.
- Before buying the yogurt, please do not forget to read the level at first. This is important, as you must know what is included in your food. Read the ingredients list and choose a plain yogurt, which has fewer amounts of added ingredients. Check the sugar levels from the nutrition facts, and go for the ones having good amount of Vitamin D and calcium.
- Go for a plain yogurt that has least sugar per serving and avoid the ones containing too much added sugar. This is because the excessive sugar can turn the healthy yogurt to something that is injurious to your health.
- Yogurt can be made from all kinds of milk starting from whole milk to low fat milk to fat free milk. Both the full fat yogurt and low fat are healthy and hence can be chosen depending on your food preferences, dietary habits and calorie needs. However, if you are desperately trying to lose weight, go for the low fat yogurt with no added sugar.
- Choose the yogurts that has the seal of “Live and Active Cultures” on it and discard the ones that are pasteurized after its production. This is to get the benefits of probiotics or good bacteria.
- All yogurts are healthy but if you want the best then go for the Greek yogurt. This is because they are much more nutritious that regular yogurt and contain about twice protein, half the carbohydrates and half the sodium as that of the regular one.
- If possible, try to go for the raw yogurt made from the milk of the grass fed animals. This is because raw yogurt contains more nutrients and is healthier. However, in case raw yogurt is not available, buy the organic ones from the grass fed animals.
Precautions regarding yogurt
There are many health benefits of yogurt but as you know, nothing in excess is good so yogurt must also be eaten in moderate amounts to prevent adverse effects. According to the Dietary Guidelines (for Americans), little kids in the age group of 4-8 years can consume ½-2 servings of yogurt, milk and cheese per day while those 9 years and above can go for 3 servings daily.
There is no doubt that yogurt if chosen in the right way is healthy but despite that, it is not suitable for everyone. Here are the few precautions that you must remember.
- People who are lactose intolerant must avoid yogurt. This is because eating yogurt may result to digestive problems resulting to excessive pain in the abdomen and diarrhea.
However, there are exceptions where some people with lactose intolerance can still tolerate it. Studies say that this is perhaps due the fact that some lactose breaks during production and probiotics helps to digest them. Therefore, it is better to do a trial and error. If it suits you, then continue eating else avoid it.
- If you are allergenic to milk and dairy products do avoid yogurt. In such cases, if you eat yogurt, the milk triggers reaction that can result to hives, inflammation or anaphylaxis that can sometimes put your life at risk.
- If you have diabetes or have overweight issues, please avoid the yogurts with added sugars at any cost. You either go for the ones with no sugar or try to avoid its intake.
Yogurt is just not popular for its taste but is very nutritious for your health. It is good for your heart, your brain, digestive system, bones, teeth etc. You have to eat yogurt as per daily recommendations depending on your age and reap the maximum health benefits out of it.
In this article, I have discussed all the health benefits of yogurt backed by scientific facts in details but in order to pick the best, do go for the low fat, plain, unsweetened yogurt without much of the added ingredients. Greek yogurt is also a very healthy option for you. Less is definitely more so try to be careful while buying from the market especially if you are suffering from any health issues like diabetes, obesity etc.
Yogurt is extremely healthy but none can avoid the precautions. Those who are lactose intolerant or are allergenic to dairy products must be careful. However, if you really want to try it, then do a trial first or consult a doctor before consuming.
Do you love yogurt? Have you checked my list of health benefits of yogurt that are scientifically proven? Share me the feedback in the comments below and feel free to tell us any yogurt recipe that you think is unique and nutritious for health. Also do like and share if you find this post valuable.
Until then, stay healthy and enjoy the yummy taste of yogurt.
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.