The Impact on Your Health from Daily Yogurt Consumption
In 2021, the average American consumed approximately 14.3 pounds of yogurt. It’s not surprising considering the versatility of this dairy product. Whether you enjoy it with granola for breakfast, as a convenient snack, a healthy dessert, or even as a base for salad dressing or marinades, yogurt offers numerous options. Nowadays, there are more yogurt varieties than ever, ranging from Greek to Icelandic skyr, full-fat to non-fat, and high-protein to lactose-free. Whatever type of yogurt you prefer, you probably know that it comes with various health benefits. Yogurt is rich in nutrients like protein, calcium, and probiotics, which have long been associated with bone strength, gut health, and weight management. However, there is much more to learn about the potential benefits and side effects of daily yogurt consumption.
According to Brooke Glazer, RDN, frequent yogurt consumption has been linked to improved cardiovascular health, lower risk of diabetes, and enhanced immune function. If you’re a yogurt lover or looking to incorporate it into your daily diet, continue reading to discover more about its potential benefits and side effects. To help you make informed choices, check out The 13 Best Yogurt Brands—and 3 To Avoid.
Yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr, can provide a protein boost with low levels of sugar and fat. For example, a 5.3-ounce container of Chobani Nonfat Greek Yogurt contains 14 grams of protein. Protein helps reduce hunger hormones and cravings, making yogurt an ideal morning meal or mid-afternoon snack that keeps you satisfied until dinner, as suggested by Lisa Young, PhD, RDN.
Research indicates that yogurt is beneficial for heart health and blood pressure management. A study published in the Journal of Hypertension in 2018 found that consuming dairy products, especially yogurt, was associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure. Following the “Dash Diet” and increasing yogurt intake was linked to a 30% reduced risk. Another study suggested that higher protein consumption may also contribute to lower blood pressure levels.
In addition to blood pressure, yogurt can potentially help manage blood cholesterol levels. A study published in the Journal of Dairy Sciences discovered that daily consumption of probiotic yogurt led to lower LDL and total cholesterol levels among participants with type 2 diabetes.
Besides protein, yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which is crucial for muscle, nerve, blood vessel, and bone functions. When your body lacks sufficient calcium from food, it extracts it from your bones. Therefore, regular consumption of dairy yogurt (as plant-based yogurts may not contain calcium) can ensure you get enough calcium.
While the word “bacteria” often carries negative connotations, certain beneficial bacteria called probiotics are essential for a healthy digestive tract. Probiotics, found in specific foods and supplements, can increase levels of these beneficial bacteria. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome promotes bowel regularity, reduces bloating, and alleviates symptoms associated with various gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS, explains Lindsey Kane, MS, RD, LDN, the Director of Nutrition at Sun Basket.
Unfortunately, not all yogurts contain probiotics as they are often destroyed during pasteurization. To ensure you’re getting live and active cultures, choose a yogurt with a label indicating the presence of probiotics. It’s also beneficial to select a yogurt with multiple strains of bacteria to diversify your gut microbiome, much like building a versatile sports team.
As long as you choose a yogurt with minimal added sugar, it can be a healthy component of your daily diet. An optimal gut plays a significant role in boosting your immune system by filtering harmful bacteria from entering your bloodstream. By promoting a healthier gut, yogurt enhances immune function, says Glazer. Probiotics present in yogurt stimulate the synthesis of antibodies and immune cells, which combat invading viruses and toxins, adds Kane.
Probiotics not only impact physical health but also mental well-being. Research suggests a connection between the gut and brain, and probiotics have shown promise in improving anxiety, depression, stress, mood, and memory. Although these effects may not be immediately noticeable after a single serving of yogurt, regular consumption can make a difference over time.
Given its protein content, yogurt can help you feel satisfied after eating. This is especially true for yogurt that contains some fat. Kane describes yogurt as a nutritional powerhouse due to its combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, which provides prolonged satiety and energy. Therefore, yogurt is an ideal snack for curbing hunger.
Furthermore, yogurt offers many other beneficial nutrients. It contains phosphorus for bone health, magnesium for energy metabolism and sleep, potassium for blood pressure regulation and muscle function, and even produces vitamin K for blood clotting and healing.
However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the added sugar in store-bought yogurts. Some varieties, like Dannon Fruit On The Bottom, may be high in sugar and low in protein. Opt for plain yogurt and sweeten it with fresh fruit or a small amount of honey or maple syrup. Vanilla or cinnamon can add sweetness without sugar, as suggested by Kane.
In conclusion, yogurt is a versatile and nutritious food with numerous health benefits. Incorporating it into your daily diet can improve heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, gut health, and immune function. Additionally, it can provide essential nutrients and help with satiety. However, be cautious of added sugars in certain yogurts and choose options that contain live and active cultures. With these considerations in mind, yogurt can be a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle.