Yogurt benefits the nervous, digestive/detoxification, and musculoskeletal immune centers.
Did you know that if you’re the average American eater you will consume a total of twenty tons of food during your lifetime? This job is made possible only because of the trillions of bacteria in your gut. Actually, there are more probiotics than cells in the human body. There are a total of 2.2 pounds of probiotics in your gastrointestinal tract. These tiny organisms, the chief reason most of us eat yogurt, support healthy digestion and immune function, ease allergies, tame inflammation, lower cholesterol, eliminate bad bacteria such as E. coli, and lots more. Who could ask for anything more?
Consider calcium. You get 35 to 40 percent of your daily value (DV) from a cup of cultured milk (i.e., yogurt). There are 389 milligrams of calcium per cup, more than in a cup of low-fat or skim milk. Even better for skeletal health, that cultured milk comes packaged with bone-building vitamin K and phosphorus.
More Calcium, Less Lactose. Consider the lactose factor. Some 50 million of us are lactose-intolerant. But yogurt, because of its reduced lactose (milk sugar), is often tolerated. (The bacteria consume much of the milk sugar.) If even this doesn’t make dairy more gut-palatable, there is always sheep yogurt, goat yogurt, soy yogurt, even rice and oat yogurt out there. What’s the dose that does it? For maintenance, pick a product that delivers 1 to 2 billion colony-forming units (cfu) daily. To recolonize the intestines after a bout of antibiotics, for example, you need 10 billion cfu each day for fourteen days.
Is it any wonder the French call yogurt “the milk of eternal life”? It should certainly add a year or two to yours if you take it seriously and spoon it up regularly.
Seven Reasons Yogurt Should Be One of Your One-a-Day Foods
- Yogurt bacteria help tame inflammation in arthritis, suppress the bacteria H. pylori that triggers ulcers, and reduce the odor-causing bacteria in halitosis.
- In human studies, yogurt daily for a month improved the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol, as well as lowered homocysteine levels. Also, in some animal studies it helped decrease tumor activity in colon cancer.
- A regular intake of this microorganism-rich food can help clear up your complexion. (Use it as a moisturizer externally.)
- Yogurt is good preventive medicine for vaginal yeast infections, thrush, and vaginitis in women.
- L. acidophilus (one of the good bacteria found in all true yogurts) provides a hostile environment for disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and other types of toxins that cause food poisoning. Yogurt triggers your immune center to make more antibodies and slows the growth of harmful bacteria by as much as 75 percent.
- Yogurt protects you from diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera, as well as everyday gas and bloating.
- Yogurt may be a tool in the fight against colon cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Harvard Medical School researchers say yogurt is especially effective against women’s reproductive cancers.
Yogurt like products also deserve space in your fridge. Other probiotic foods include kefir (read labels for sugar content before buying flavored varieties), miso, sauerkraut, and some cheeses.
Buying, Storing, and Preparing
- Look for brands with the “live and active cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association. These products must contain 100 million live bacteria per gram at the time of manufacture. Look for the expiration date no more than 10 days ahead.
- Buy organic to avoid the genetically modified animal growth hormone rBGH used in much commercial dairy milk (it’s not required to be listed among the ingredients).
- Try the new specialty yogurts such as Activia and DanActive, which guarantee they contain the number of organisms listed on the label (the well-researched B. animalis and L. casei).
- Eat your yogurt with some prebiotic fiber for maximum benefits. Prebiotics are soluble dietary fibers that stimulate the growth of good bacteria. Look for FOS, XOS, GOS, or inulin among the ingredients.
- Try a super-yogurt like kefir (a type of fermented milk), which can offer 3 billion bacteria per serving.
- Aged cheeses like cheddar and blue are also rich in good bacteria—usually 3 to 10 million, depending on the length of aging.