If you are one of those conscious people who are serious about their health, chances are that you have plenty of yogurt stashed in your refrigerator. It is one of the most popular fermented dairy products in the world and is created by adding live bacteria to milk. And it is for a good reason that yogurt is added to the list of healthy foods; apart from being an excellent source of potassium, calcium and protein, it is also extremely nutritious. It is also low in calories and provides a number of minerals and vitamins.
Yogurt is, and has been the heart of countless recipes around the world throughout the ages and is used as a snack or a meal across cultures and continents. It has been found mentioned in Indian, Turkish and Persian texts. And there is plenty of proof that it has been around for centuries, and was most likely created by mistake, probably while trying to store milk in a warm climate. Whatever the history may have been, it remains as popular as ever: according to a report, the yogurt industry in the United States fell just short of $9 billion in 2017! Now that is some serious business.
This protein-rich thick and somewhat sour liquid also functions as a probiotic, meaning, it is useful in the treatment or prevention of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, urinary tract infections and many other such conditions. So how healthy is yogurt? Let’s find out.
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Yogurt & Health: Fat, Sodium, Vitamins
Yogurt is sometimes called “dense with nutrition” because it is packed with nutrients including good fats and protein. It also makes for an excellent substitute for sugary snacks because of these very reasons.
Vitamin B12 is water soluble and is essential for preventing anemia and formation of red blood cells, proper functioning of the central nervous system and metabolism. Even though you do not need a lot of vitamin B12 in your diet, it is essential that you have it in your diet, because its deficiency can lead to serious health issues in your later years. If you are a regular consumer of seafood and meats, you are taking more than enough intake of this vitamin, compared with vegans who may find it difficult to fulfill their B12 requirement through food alone. But, by adding yogurt to their diet, they can achieve this requirement.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, your daily intake of vitamin B12 is around 6 micrograms. Yogurt is a valuable source of this vitamin, and in addition, contains vitamins B-2 and B-5. You can get your daily requirement in about a 7-ounce portion, or roughly a small container. If you are buying your yogurt commercially, make sure you scrutinize the nutritional chart (on the box) before purchasing the product.
Yogurt contains numerous minerals that include calcium and potassium. Other than these two, yogurt is also a rich source of zinc, iron and magnesium. A cup of non-fat or low-fat yogurt contains 30-40% of calcium (very essential for healthy bones and teeth) that is adequate for your body. The frozen yogurt variety contains about 10% of this calcium. What is more is that for people who are lactose intolerant, yogurt comes as a boon as it is easy to digest and they get a calcium-rich and lactose-free food. A 7-ounce portion of yogurt would contain about 400 milligrams of potassium, which is about 8% of the required value of your daily intake.
Yogurt also is a rich source of phosphorus, that boosts digestion, strengthens teeth and bones, reduces weakness and is vital in other biological processes. It also contains riboflavin, otherwise known as vitamin B2 which is an energy booster, increases blood circulation and is crucial in preventing diseases.
Normally, you can find an active strain of “good bacteria” in most yogurt, but you may have seen some packaging screaming “probiotic” on the box. The reason for this is that probiotics are these “good bacteria” that are beneficial for your health. Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are the two basic cultures that are found in ordinary yogurt, but other strains such as Bifidus, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus acidophilus, which not only boost the immune system but also promote a healthy digestive tract. The also prevent constipation, lactose indigestion and colon diseases.
A recent study highlighted that probiotics may have a positive study on mental health, which showed that a couple of strains improved obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Though, it should be kept in mind that yogurt is a food product and is not a cure for the above mentioned conditions, and if you are suffering from any of these, you will be better off consulting a healthcare professional.
Keep in mind that all the health benefits that we listed here or you may have read elsewhere may or may not apply because some yogurts that are available on the market may have been pasteurized, a process which would actually kill the probiotic bacteria.
This would depend entirely on what kind of milk was the yogurt made from, and it can be made from all kinds of milk, regardless of it being fat-free, low-fat or full milk. The bulk of the yogurt sold in the United States is made up of fat-free or low-fat milk, and the fat content in yogurt can vary from 0.3-0.4% as opposed to their full-fat cousins, that can contain as much as 3-3.5% fat. Compared with animal fat, milk fat can contain as many as 400 fatty acids, making it one of the most complex fats.
If you are tired of eating eggs in your diet and want to make up for that protein, plain Greek yogurt is a great replacement. If you are a vegetarian, yogurt is a great choice for you because of the high level of protein in it. This protein is essential for your body for the repair of tissue and its replacement and is an important component of every cell in your body. We stress on the plain part because some commercial products come loaded with lots of sugar which is not great for you if you are health conscious. A normal cup of low-fat yogurt has about 12 grams of protein.
Depending on their solubility in water, proteins are divided into two categories; whey and casein. Wheys are water-soluble proteins, while caseins are insoluble milk proteins and they are both rich in amino acids and are digested easily.
Whey accounts for about 20% of the protein found in yogurt and otherwise are very well known among professional bodybuilders and athletes as a supplement. And there is a good reason for it because of its various health benefits that include weight loss and lower blood pressure. Whey is very high in isoleucine, leucine and valine; all the branched-chain amino acids that are helpful for maintaining mass (if you are on a diet).
Alpha-casein is one of the most abundant proteins present in yogurt. It is a slow-release protein, which means it provides your bloodstream with a slow and steady flow of amino acids. A study also found that a higher intake of casein also increases metabolism and a great fat balance. According to another study, casein also inhibits the erosion of enamel and produces better strength in the body. But before you stock up on casein-rich products, you need to find out if you are allergic to it.
As we know now, the lactose content in yogurt is lesser than milk, but the carbohydrates present in yogurt are mostly in the form of galactose and lactose. This mainly happens because of the bacterial fermentation, the lactose encounters a breakdown and glucose and galactose are formed. The glucose is formed into lactic acid, which is why yogurt in its natural form is slightly sour.
Most of the commercially available yogurts have added sugar and flavors to make them more palatable, and it can vary from brand to brand. This is one of the main reasons that the sugar content in these yogurts can vary from 4.5% to as high as almost 19%.
Health benefits of Yogurt
Now that you know what yogurt comprises, let us take a brief look at its health benefits.
When yogurt is free of added sugar, it is probably one of the healthiest of all dairy products, and making your own at home with a yogurt maker is probably the healthiest yogurt you can get! It is rich in calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and protein and contains all kinds of nutrients that are essential for your well being. So if you are not lactose intolerant, try including yogurt in your diet.