Yogurt's Amazing Benefits
Yogurt has been consumed for thousands of years, but scientists have only recently begun to reveal its ability to dramatically increase your overall health. Yogurt contains valuable nutrients and can help you lose weight, boost immunity, ward off fungus and infections, and fight cancer.
Researchers have studied countries in which fermented dairy products (including yogurt) are eaten on a regular basis and have found a direct correlation between the consumption of these products and a longer life span. So what is so special about yogurt that it helps improve health and prolong life?
Yogurt is made by adding living bacteria cultures to milk, which turns the sugar in milk (lactose) into lactic acid. While we usually consider bacteria as something to avoid, these are good bacteria that provide a wealth of health benefits. And it is safe to eat throughout pregnancy, unless you are specifically allergic.
The bacteria present in yogurt can help prevent yeast infections during pregnancy and boost overall immune system health. A recent study of women who were at a high risk of yeast infections showed a threefold decrease in infections in women who ate eight ounces of yogurt a day for six months.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that yogurt fights off pneumonia in animals. Malnourished mice that were fed the live cultures present in yogurt were able to clear the pneumonia pathogen from their blood and had less lung damage than the control group. The result was the control group took 21 days to recover from pneumonia while the mice given yogurt cultures recovered in just 7 days. In another study involving healthy women aged 22 to 29 daily yogurt consumption was proved to stimulate cellular immunity, a benefit that persisted even after the women stopped eating yogurt every day.
Although low-fat foods are recommended as part of a healthy diet, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even full-fat dairy foods may significantly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and other diseases. The fat found in these products, known as conjugated linoleic acid, has been shown to be cardioprotective.
Yogurt has also been shown to be beneficial for inflammatory diseases like inflammatory bowel disorders and arthritis. Israeli researchers reported in the Journal of Nutrition that the probiotic (friendly) bacteria, Lactobacillus, found in yogurt have "remarkable, preventative and curative" effects on arthritis. Yogurt can also shut down the bacterium responsible for ulcers, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Yogurt is a great source of calcium which is especially important for pregnant women whose calcium reserves are used by their growing baby. One study of young girls going through puberty growth spurts found that yogurt is better for building bone than calcium supplements. It's also a good source of phosphorous, riboflavin-vitamin B2, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid-vitamin B5, iodine, zinc, potassium, protein and molybdenum.
Calcium-rich foods such as yogurt can also help you lose weight around the midsection. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity of 16 obese women and men on a reduced calorie diet lost 61 percent more fat and 81 percent more abdominal fat in three months when consuming yogurt daily, compared with 18 participants that ate the same number of calories but little to no dairy products.
When you purchase yogurt, look for brands made from organic milk and avoid those that contain artificial colors, flavorings or sweeteners. Most yogurt is pasteurized, which kills harmful bacteria; however, the process also kills many of the beneficial bacteria which reduces its health benefits. However, pregnant women can still benefit from eating pasteurized yogurt on a daily basis - just look for yogurt that contains "live active cultures" or "living yogurt cultures."
Try yogurt with a handful of fruit and granola for a quick and healthy breakfast, or top off your baked potato with a dab of plain, low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream.