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Friday, June 9, 2023

Household treasures: Yogurt, health and probiotics

Yogurt is a dairy product made by fermenting milk. Natural probiotic yogurt with live and active cultures is one of the healthiest dairy products, especially when it's free of added sugar. It has various digestive benefits and may reduce blood pressure and your risk of osteoporosis along with moisturizing your skin.

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Yogurt has been consumed by humans for hundreds of years. It is very nutritious and eating it regularly may boost several aspects of your health.

For example, yogurt has been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, as well as aid in weight management. This article explores science-supported health benefits of yogurt.

What is Yogurt and How is it Made?

Yogurt is a popular dairy product that’s made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are called “yogurt cultures,” which ferment lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. This process produces lactic acid, a substance that causes milk proteins to curdle, giving yogurt its unique flavor and texture.

Yogurt can be made from all types of milk. Varieties made from skim milk are considered fat-free, whereas those made from whole milk are considered full-fat. Unfortunately, most commercial brands contain added ingredients, such as sugar and artificial flavors. These yogurts are not good for your health. On the other hand, plain, unsweetened yogurt offers many health benefits.

Here are a few of the many benefits of routinely using yogurt:

May Benefit Digestive Health

Some types of yogurt contain live bacteria, or probiotics, that were either a part of the starter culture or added after pasteurization. These may benefit digestive health when consumed.

Yogurt’s fat content is one of the reasons why its healthiness is often controversial. It contains mostly saturated fat, with a small amount of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Unfortunately, many yogurts have been pasteurized, which is a heat treatment that kills the beneficial bacteria they contain. To ensure your yogurt contains effective probiotics, look for one that contains live, active cultures, which should be listed on the label.

Some types of probiotics found in yogurt, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, have been shown to lessen the uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a common disorder that affects the colon.

One study had IBS patients regularly consume fermented milk or yogurt that contained Bifidobacteria. After only three weeks, they reported improvements in bloating and stool frequency — effects seen after six weeks, as well. Another study found that yogurt with Bifidobacteria improved digestive symptoms and health-related quality of life among women who did not have a diagnosed digestive condition.

Furthermore, several studies have found that probiotics may protect against antibiotic-associated diarrhea, as well as constipation.

Summary: Some types of yogurt contain probiotics, which may boost digestive health by reducing the symptoms of common gastrointestinal disorders, such as bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

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It May Strengthen Your Immune System

Consuming yogurt — especially if it contains probiotics — on a regular basis may strengthen your immune system and reduce your likelihood of contracting an illness.

Probiotics have been shown to reduce inflammation, which is linked to several health conditions ranging from viral infections to gut disorders. Research shows that in some instances, probiotics may also help reduce the incidence, duration and severity of the common cold.

Moreover, the immune-enhancing properties of yogurt are partly due to its magnesium, selenium and zinc, which are trace minerals known for the role they play in immune system health. Vitamin D-fortified yogurts may boost immune health even further. Vitamin D has been studied for its potential to prevent illnesses such as the common cold and flu.


It’s High in Protein

Yogurt provides an impressive amount of protein, with about 12 grams per 7 ounces (200 grams). Protein has been shown to support metabolism by increasing your energy expenditure, or the number of calories that you burn throughout the day.

Getting enough protein is also important for appetite regulation, as it increases the production of hormones that signal fullness. It may automatically reduce the number of calories you consume overall, which is beneficial for weight control.

In one study, subjects who snacked on yogurt were less hungry and consumed 100 fewer calories at dinner, compared to those who ate lower-protein snacks with the same number of calories.

Yogurt’s fullness-promoting effects are even more prominent if you eat Greek yogurt, which is a very thick variety that has been strained. It is higher in protein than regular yogurt, providing 22 grams per 7 ounces (200 grams). Greek yogurt has been shown to influence appetite control and delay feelings of hunger more than regular yogurt with less protein

It May Benefit Heart Health

Yogurt’s fat content is one of the reasons why its healthiness is often controversial. It contains mostly saturated fat, with a small amount of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Studies suggest that regular consumption of yogurt may lower blood pressure in people who already have high readings.

Saturated fat was previously believed to cause heart disease, but current research shows that this isn’t the case. Nevertheless, fat-free and low-fat varieties of yogurt are still popular in the US. There is no clear evidence that the fat in yogurt is harmful to your health. In fact, it may benefit heart health.

Some research shows that the intake of saturated fat from whole-milk products increases “good” HDL cholesterol, which may protect heart health. Other studies have found yogurt intake to reduce the overall incidence of heart disease.

Furthermore, dairy products like yogurt have been shown to help reduce high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease. The effects seem to be most prominent in those already diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Summary: Regardless of its fat content, yogurt appears to benefit heart health by increasing “good” HDL cholesterol and reducing blood pressure.

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It May Promote Weight Management

Yogurt has several properties that may help with weight management. For starters, it is high in protein, which works along with calcium to increase levels of appetite-reducing hormones like peptide YY and GLP-1. Furthermore, several studies have found that yogurt consumption is associated with lower body weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference.

One review found that the intake of full-fat dairy products, including yogurt, may reduce the incidence of obesity. This is contrary to what was previously believed about fat intake and weight gain.

Other studies have found that those who eat yogurt tend to eat better overall, compared to those who do not eat it. This is partly due to its higher nutrient content, compared to its fairly low calorie content

Blood Pressure

Abnormally high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease. Studies suggest that regular consumption of yogurt may lower blood pressure in people who already have high readings.

However, this effect is not limited to yogurt. Studies on intake of other milk products have provided similar results.


Skin and Hair

Many of the same properties that make unsweetened yogurt a great dietary choice also make it an excellent skin and hair care product. According to Livestrong, yogurt has mild astringent qualities, and its high quantities of zinc and lactic acid make it a great (and natural) hydration treatment, both for your skin and your hair. Yogurt can give your hair a soft sheen and make skin feel supple and moisturized at all times.

You can mix it with honey or lemon and leave it on your face as a mask or use it as a natural conditioner in the shower! The bacterial cultures do wonders in getting rid of dry flaky skin.