By: Kimberly Bond White
It is a tasty and healthy snack option with numerous health benefits, and many popular treats now include yogurt in their ingredients. However, like everything else, too much of a good thing may have as many pitfalls as benefits. Is this new health food really good for you?
Yogurt is a high-protein food that is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. It is made using active and good bacteria, known as probiotics. Probiotics help to maintain a healthy balance of live bacteria in your intestines by reducing harmful bacteria and organisms. They can also strengthen your immune system.
Vitamins & Minerals
This nutrient-dense food is a significant source of potassium, riboflavin, zinc, vitamin B5 and also contains B12, which is essential for maintaining red blood cells and keeping your nervous system functioning at its best. Studies on the therapeutic and preventative effects of yogurt and lactic acid bacteria published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April 2000, show that yogurt consumption may enhance immune response, which increases resistance to immune related diseases. The added vitamin D and calcium found in yogurt may assist in reducing the onset of osteoporosis in some individuals. The active cultures found in yogurt offer yet another health advantage: they help relieve gastrointestinal conditions such as constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and diarrhea. Yogurt is extremely beneficial to women as the active cultures tend to discourage vaginal infections. It also increases satiety, helping to resist cravings for sweet foods.
The Downside of Yogurt
Despite the numerous health benefits associated with yogurt, you have to be careful to choose the right type. Sugar, additives, and whether the yogurt is organic are the main things to look out for. Depending on the brand, sugar content ranges from 3 grams to 40 grams per 8-ounce serving (about 225 grams). The World Health Organization recommends that we consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day. Non-organic dairy comes from animals that are given artificial feed and antibiotics, traces of which end up in the food we eat. Some “diet” or “fat-free” yogurts may also contain artificial sweeteners—while they may be low in calories, these can, ironically, contribute to weight gain and other health conditions. High fructose corn syrup, artificial food flavoring and food dyes are also included in certain brands.
It’s therefore essential to take the time to check the label—avoid yogurts that contain added sugar or artificial ingredients.
So, what is the alternative? Simply: plain, organic yogurt. And it doesn’t have to be boring, far from it! Add fresh fruit like strawberries, blueberries, coconut, chopped apple, banana; sprinkle a handful of nuts or seeds; drizzle some natural sweeteners like organic maple syrup or honey. You can add yogurt to a healthy breakfast smoothie, or use it as a substitute for sour cream over oven-baked potatoes. The possibilities are endless!
Like any food, there are healthy and not so healthy versions available. A balanced diet is achieved not by eradicating certain food groups from our life, but rather ensuring we include a variety of foods. Yogurt can be a part of your healthy lifestyle, the trick is to choose natural, organic, plain versions that are packed with nutrients and probiotics. What will you add to yours?