9 Health Benefits of Yogurt – Proven by Science (and 4 Delicious Recipes to Try at Home)
Yogurt is a pretty conventional item that most people have in their refrigerator at least some of the time. It’s a food that’s made by bacteria fermenting milk. Despite the unpleasant sounding process, yogurt is actually quite healthy – the bacteria present help your body digest food and produce enzymes necessary for proper metabolism.
Yogurt cultures – the type of bacteria that is used in the production of yogurt- are made by fermenting lactose. The bacteria produce lactic acid during the fermentation process, which reacts with the protein in milk. This reaction gives yogurt the texture and flavour that it is well-known for.
Yogurt is most commonly made with cow’s milk, since it’s available all over the world. It’s also possible to make yogurt from the milk of other animals, including camels, goats, and buffalo – to name a few. You can even make yogurt from human breast milk! That might sound gross, but it’s actually a very nutritious thing to feed a newborn child.
Yogurt is known for its high calcium content. Introducing your children to yogurt at a young age can help them develop strong bones and teeth that will last them throughout their adulthood.
Selecting yogurt for maximum nutrition
Yogurt comes in a number of varieties, depending the milk used to produce it, how it is processed, and how it’s packaged. For the healthiest yogurt, you’ll want to make sure that whatever type you choose to purchase is organic. This makes the food less likely to have been made from animals fed unhealthy food, and typically has a higher density of nutrients.
- Grass-fed yogurt is the healthiest – a step ahead from typical organic yogurt. It’s made from the milk of grass-fed cows and doesn’t contain any byproducts that could result from the commercial grade animal feed that ows are fed in bulk production. Grass-fed yogurt has only emerged recently in American markets.
Grass-fed cows produce milk that makes for a healthier yogurt, containing more omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure you look for a label that states 100% Grass-fed, since laws in North America allow improper labeling, using terms like “pasture-raised” to pretend that their food is entirely grass-fed.
- Non dairy yogurts are for vegans and vegetarians. They can be made from soy milk coconut milk, even almond milk. Almond yogurt is made from ground-up almonds and water, is low in calories, and infused with active cultures to make it probiotic like dairy yogurt.
- Greek yogurt, which has become a huge hit in the last decade, now takes up almost half the entire yogurt market. Greek yogurt has a very high protein content with less sugar and carbs than yogurt made from normal cow’s milk. Greek yogurt doesn’t have any specific regulations to live up to, so make sure you check the label for its protein content and nutrients. As long as the two main ingredients are milk and active cultures, you’re good.
The main difference between Greek yogurt and others is that, during processing, the liquid whey is separated. This makes the yogurt thicker and provides a higher protein content.
- Traditional, unstrained yogurt is typically thinner than other varieties. Since it’s unstrained, it has a higher amount of liquid than Greek or other types of yogurt. Unstrained yogurt is extra good for children – a lot don’t like the thickness of regular yogurt.
The significance of grass-fed yogurt
Most of the nutritional information and health studies in this article have been done on grass-fed yogurt. It’s becoming wildly popular, and consistently demonstrates a higher nutritional profile than other varieties of yogurt. There’s a ton of reasons that grass-fed yogurt is better for you than other types.
- Grass fed cows have a higher amount and higher quality of fat in their bodies. This makes the milk that these cows produce a better source for healthy fats when making yogurt.
- The bacteria used in the fermentation process take some of these fats and turn them into a substance known as conjugated linoleic acid. This compound is shown to lower the risk of lots of health issues – diseases, heart attacks, inflammation, and high blood sugar – to name a few. Regular varieties of low-fat yogurts don’t offer the same amount of CLA – they are still great for you, though.
- Grass fed yogurt contains a healthy dose of quite a few vitamins and minerals, as well as a decent amount of protein.
47% of your daily intake of iodine, a mineral that’s responsible for regulating the production of growth hormones through the thyroid gland.
38% of your daily intake of vitamin B12. This vitamin can be tricky to obtain in the average diet, and deficiency isn’t uncommon. Vitamin B12 is important in the production neurotransmitters and supporting the cardiovascular system.
33% of your daily intake of phosphorus. Phosphorous is a very common mineral that’s present in every cell in the body, and is responsible for modulating genetic processes and other body systems. Without enough phosphorous, your cells won’t function as well as they could.
30% of your daily intake of calcium, which is responsible for the production and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth, and hair.
27% of your daily intake of vitamin B2, which is also known as riboflavin. Yogurt is one of the highest riboflavin containing foods in the world. Riboflavin helps your body produce energy efficiently, and also helps with the absorption and metabolism of iron.
25% of your daily intake of molybdenum, which is necessary for the body to produce certain enzymes which organ systems rely on for functioning.
19% of your daily intake of Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid. This is one of the more important B vitamins. Like many other B vitamins, it helps the body produce energy effectively and efficiently. It’s metabolized into Coenzyme A, which is a vital component of life – some scientists even believe that it’s the key that led to the evolution of living creatures.
13% of your daily intake of biotin, also known as vitamin B7. Biotin helps maintain healthy skin and can regulate blood sugar, fighting against diabetes.
13% of your daily intake of zinc which helps the body build its immune system, keep the senses sharp and keep the skin looking young.
9 grams of protein per 100 grams of yogurt, Protein is the most vital component for the support and maintenance of tissues and muscles in your body.
The range of vitamins and minerals isn’t hugely diverse, but the nutrients yogurt does contain are quite densely packed in. Besides – that’s not what yogurt’s specialty is. One of the things yogurt is touted for is its use as a probiotic. Not all yogurts are as powerful probiotics as others. Make sure the label informs you that your yogurt contains active cultures.
Probiotics – the word meaning to (pro) life (biotic) – help improve digestion by managing and strengthening the intestinal flora. There are certain types of bacteria in our gut that we require for proper digestion
Yogurt helps control and maintain healthy blood sugar
While yogurt doesn’t contain a whole lot of fiber – the nutrient often touted for helping maintain blood sugar – they boast a mean combination of protein and bacteria. The live bacterial cultures help the body break down and absorb carbohydrates and nutrients more efficiently. Protein’s a good food for those looking to keep their blood sugar low, because it digests quite slowly and thus makes it easier to control your appetite.
These bacteria – there are millions in a cup of probiotic yogurt – can take sugars from our gut and turn them into useful fatty acids. The fatty acids are then used to energized the cellular structure in our lower intestine, which greatly assists the body in its breakdown of food and vitamins. However, once the bacteria have consumed the sugar, they won’t be absorbed by the body. This will prevent a rapid rise in blood sugar!
Conclusion: Even when eating meals high in carbohydrates or sugar, yogurt can work to prevent blood sugar spikes by regulating and modulating the way carbohydrates are processed. Including yogurt in your diet can offset some of the unhealthy risks from eating too many cookies.
2. Yogurt is a powerful probiotic that keeps you regular
Probiotics are quite powerful, interesting foods. Probiotics are foods that have live bacterial culture in them. These micro-organisms (which can also include yeast) help the body in a number of different ways.
Most yogurt does contain at least a few live bacterial cultures. However, you don’t want to think that means that yogurt all contains the same amount of bacteria. Ones that are labeled as probiotics often contain millions upon millions of live bacteria. For a yogurt to be considered effectively probiotic, you’re looking to have a million bacteria per gram.
Most companies measure their bacterial content in units known as colony forming units. CFUs are basically bacteria that are able to multiply and thus create larger colonies. You’ll often see the number 106 on containers of yogurt. This is the scientific way of writing a million. It’s indicative of how many CFUs are in the yogurt at the time of its production – so, a million CFUs is going to be a huge amount of bacteria by the time the yogurt is shelved and eaten.
Anyway, enough about counting bacteria and more about how it works. The bacteria in yogurt become active as a part of our metabolism once they reach our digestive tract. This helps speed along digestion, and increases the rate at which nutrients can be absorbed. Probiotics keep you ‘regular’ as well – they can prevent bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
The probiotic cells are also responsible for yogurt’s effect on blood sugar. Furthermore, bacteria eat the lactose in the yogurt – this means you’ll end up with less lactose (which is milk sugar) with a cup of yogurt than you would with a cup of milk.
Conclusion: Probiotic yogurt is a must-have for anyone looking to improve their digestion. It betters your ability to absorb nutrients, helps manage blood glucose, and makes your metabolism more effective.
3. Some strains of probiotics can strengthen your immune system
There have been a number of studies linking probiotics to improved immune function. Certain diseases, like inflammatory bowel syndrome, can get worse as an effect of the immune system’s automatic response. Probiotics can help prevent this.
Probiotics also make people more resistant to infections, and allow them to heal faster. Elderly people studied were shown to maintain their illnesses for much less time when they were consuming probiotics on a daily basis. They were studied on winter sicknesses – pulmonary and digestive issues, mainly – and there was up to a 20% reduction in the length of these illnesses.
Probiotics have been shown to be effective in fighting certain bacterial infections that are resistant to drug treatment. H. Pylori is a bacterium that can cause ulcers and eventually lead to stomach cancer. In people resistant to the medications used to treat H. Pylori infections, probiotics were effective at killing of some of the bacterium.
Conclusion: Regular consumption of yogurt containing active bacterial cultures can bolster your immune system and help you fight off disease that you might otherwise struggle with.
4. Probiotic yogurts can prevent and fight against vaginal infections
A good portion of vaginal infections are caused by yeast. Vaginitis – an infection that results in inflammation of the genital area, along with itching and discharge – is commonly found in women who have diabetes. A small group of diabetic women was tested to see if regular consumption of yogurt had a positive effect on their yeast infections.
Vaginitis causes an abnormally high pH in the genital region. The study group that was consuming probiotic yogurt with active cultures showed a significant decrease – pH was returned either to baseline or very close to it (around 4.0-4.5.) The symptoms of their infections were also reduced.
Conclusion: Probiotic yogurt can be an effective tool for fighting inflammation-based illnesses.
5. Yogurt can help fight against osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease that results in the gradual degradation of bones. It can be observed by weight loss, brittle movements, and pain in the bones. Calcium deficiency can cause the blood to leach calcium from the bones to supply the cardiovascular system with the necessary amount of calcium to function.
Yogurt is quite a good source of calcium. Even without osteoporosis, calcium has positive effects on bone mass and strength. The results may not be the same for everyone, but the bottom line is – calcium is necessary for proper development of bones and teeth.
Yogurt and other dairy products are often supplemented with vitamin D. Vitamin D has a synergistic effect with calcium. The two nutrients allow each other to be transported and absorbed more effectively.
Conclusion: Yogurt includes ample amounts of calcium – enough to actively prevent osteoporosis from developing, or to slow its progress in those who have already succumbed to it.
6. Yogurt can reduce blood pressure
A fairly large study done on over five thousand people spanning two years confirmed a positive link between dairy products reducing blood pressure. High blood pressure was a problem only half as often for the study group that ate two or three servings of dairy daily.
High blood pressure is an issue because it puts stress on the cardiovascular system. It makes it more difficult to transport nutrients and proteins, allows buildup of cholesterol and blood fats, and slows circulation and metabolism. This can result in hardened arteries, a higher chance of having a hemorrhage, and other disease.
Women see more benefit from yogurt’s effects on blood pressure. Women who ate five or more servings of yogurt weekly showed a much lower rate of developing high blood pressure. It’s undetermined why women see more benefit than men – it’s possible that the men just consumed smaller amounts of yogurt or had diets with more carbohydrates.
There have been a lot of studies done on dairy products in general affecting blood pressure – but only recently has yogurt been studied extensively for its own benefits. These benefits seem to increase with higher consumption of yogurt. People who eat single servings of dairy products weekly show a much less significant decrease in blood pressure than those who ate five or more.
Conclusion: Yogurt with active bacterial cultures is a powerful agent for regulating blood pressure. Consuming yogurt or other dairy products on a daily basis can almost halve your chances of developing high blood pressure.
7. Yogurt can combat nausea caused by many different things
Yogurt is a food that’s very easy to digest. It also contains calcium, which can have an anti-emetic effect. Yogurt can prevent nausea if it’s eaten before consuming salty foods, or anything else that causes excess production of saliva – sometimes nausea can be caused by saliva filling an empty stomach.
If you have an illness like the flu, wait until you’re able to keep some liquids down without throwing up. At this point, you’ll probably be able to stomach yogurt. It’s a protein-rich food with a lot of calcium – this will help keep you full and feel a bit less queasy.
Conclusion: If you’re having trouble keeping down solid food, you might want to consider eating yogurt. It’s simple enough to digest but manages to keep you full without contributing to the queasiness.
8. Yogurt can help you maintain your weight by keeping you full for longer
The University of Washington tested a group of 32 people – 16 men and 16 women. Each individual was given a snack of 200 calories. They were either given semi-solid yogurt with pieces of fruit, drinkable yogurt, an imitation peach-flavoured dairy drink, or regular peach juice.
The group was tested before the first meal and before the next meal. The study group, who had consumed yogurt, ultimately consumed the same amount of calories – however, they were shown to have lower rates of hunger and ended up more full than the control groups.
Conclusion: Yogurt can help you feel full for longer, allowing you to shed some calories from your meals or separate your meals further apart. This can help you lose weight.
9. Yogurt can revitalize and strengthen your skin
If you don’t want to pay big sums of money for skin lotions and treatments, you might be in luck. You don’t have to search any further than your local supermarket to find an ingredient that can make awesome face masks and skin lotions: yogurt!
Yogurt is high in lactic acid. This is a chemical used in a lot of pharmacy bought skin lotions, moisturizers and creams – without all the preservatives and colourings. Lactic acid exfoliates the top layers of the skin, getting rid of blotches and off-colour spots – it can even get rid of small wrinkles.
A recipe for an easy skin mask you can make at home:
You will need
A cup of greek yogurt
Two or three drops of almond oil or olive oil
A tablespoon of honey
Simply mix the ingredients together until they’re blended together evenly, lather onto your face and let sit for around 30 minutes. Afterwards, just rinse it off and you’ll notice your skin will be smooth, sharp and glowing.
Conclusion: Yogurt is an affordable alternative to mass-produced skin products, that can be just as effective in removing or repairing imperfections on the skin. Making a face mask from yogurt is simple and worth the time.
How to use yogurt for maximum nutritional benefit
You must first choose what type of yogurt you want to use. There are dairy and non-dairy varieties. The non-dairy varieties are typically less dense in protein, but they have more fiber and can battle high blood sugar very well. Non-dairy yogurts must have the bacterial cultures added to them, so make sure you’re reading the label before purchasing.
You will want to make sure you store your yogurt properly, and purchase a variety that suits your needs. Most companies add bacterial cultures to their yogurt, so you don’t necessarily need to seek out unpasteurized yogurt to find ones rich in live cultures. The best bets are grass-fed and organic yogurts. Greek yogurt and unpasteurized are still great for you, though.
Make sure your yogurt’s not expired! Despite being a thriving conglomeration of bacterial culture, letting your yogurt go moldy does not improve the benefit.
Watch out for yogurt that’s sweetened. Yogurt made with fresh fruit can contain some extra vitamins and nutrients, and while they might be high in sugar, yogurt’s effective at managing blood sugar and the detrimental symptoms brought on by high blood sugar.
How to make your own yogurt
It’s quite simple to make your own yogurt. I’ll include this here so you can use your own homemade yogurt without having to resort to store bought products if you don’t want to.
All you really need is milk, heat, and your basic starter culture. Starter cultures have lactic acid bacteria in them, and are what starts the fermentation process that results in yogurt. The two most common bacteria included in starter culture are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles.
Heat up your milk – use about a quart, and it doesn’t matter if it’s whole or skim. The fattier the milk, the smoother your yogurt will be. When the milk is heated to around 180 degrees, then cool it down to 110 degrees (both fahrenheit.) Add the starter culture and keep it on the same temperature for 3-5 hours. This is the incubation period. After the incubation is finished, you can put your yogurt in the refrigerator to cool it before eating.
This site offers more tips and tricks about making your own yogurt.
Simple serving suggestions for a quick fix of yogurt
Cucumber and dill weed, chopped up and mixed with yogurt, can make a nice salad. IT’s good by itself, and makes a great accompaniment to grilled meats.
Yogurt makes a great addition to breakfast cereals or granola. It adds a heap of protein to the carbohydrate-rich cereal, allowing for an energizing meal that will last you for quite a while.
Yogurt parfaits are always a favourite. Simply layer yogurt and fruit on top of each other in a nice glass, and enjoy – guaranteed to taste better than the parfait you can get at a fast-food restaurant.
Yogurt can make some great salad dressings. Blend your yogurt with water until you reach a desired thickness, then mix with your favourite spices. A green salad with the probiotic benefits of yogurt? Doesn’t get much healthier.
Yogurt can always be enjoyed by itself, with a little cinnamon and brown sugar or honey sprinkled on top. This makes a tasty dessert that’s not only low in calories but high in nutrients and protein.
Amazing Yogurt Recipes for You to Try at Home
Now that you’re educated about yogurt’s impressive nutritional profile, you’re probably wondering how to include it in your diet. There are many more ways to introduce yogurt into your daily meal plan besides just eating it by the spoonful. Yogurt can be a great base for sauces, can accompany entrees, and can be used to make a ton of great desserts. Here’s a few of my favourite recipes. I’ve included some desserts, an entree, and a salad – you could potentially make a yogurt-based full-course meal if you wanted to.
This is a very interesting dessert with a very delicate and unique flavour profile. It wafts with a pleasant aroma that could pique curiosity in the most seasoned of food critics. This cake, soft and fluffy, shows that being creative can still get you some good results in the kitchen. This recipe takes about an hour to prepare and fully cool, and only ten minutes to prep. You’ll be left with two mini loaves of your lemon-lavender cake!
One and a half cups of all purpose flour
A quarter teaspoon of baking powder
An eighth of a teaspoon of baking soda
A quarter teaspoon of salt
Half a cup of butter
A cup of sugar
Three quarters of a cup of Greek yogurt (probiotic)
One tablespoon of lemon juice
One teaspoon of vanilla extract
One teaspoon of lemon zest
One tablespoon of dried lavender
For the glaze:
A quarter cup of powdered sugar
Two tablespoons of milk
A few drops of vanilla extract
First, preheat your oven to 325 fahrenheit. Take a 9×5 loaf pan. Grease the pan in preparation.
In a bowl, mix your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl – preferably that of a standing mixer – whip the butter. Slowly add the sugar and cream. When the mixture is nice and fluffy, you can add the eggs one-by-one. Mix each egg until it’s fully blended in with the other ingredients before adding the next one.
Once the eggs are added, begin mixing the dry ingredients in. Make sure to alternate between the yogurt and the rest of the ingredients. Once the mixture is just about evenly distributed, add the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla. Blend or beat until it’s mixed evenly.
Finally, mix in the lavender – crush the dried leaves first, if you prefer.
Pour your mixture into the pans and bake for about half an hour. The edges should be brown after this long. Let the dessert cool for at least ten minutes before transferring it out of the pan.
While it’s cooling, you can make your glaze. Just mix the powdered sugar with the milk and vanilla extract and stir until it’s evenly distributed. You can tweak the ratio of sugar and milk until you reach your preferred thickness.
2. Nigel’s Yogurt Brulee
This delectable treat can make either a fine breakfast or a fine dessert – or both. This recipe is based on one coined by Nigel Slater, in his book Real Fast Food. That should tell you that this recipe is a quick fixer-upper!
This recipe doesn’t call for any specific amounts. Preheat your broiler. Use a shallow, oven-safe dish and layer the bottom with berries. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries – pick your favourite, or mix them up. Put your yogurt on top of the berries until it nearly reaches the rim of the dish, and then sprinkle sugar on top of the yogurt.
Broil the yogurt until the sugar begins melting and you end up with a caramelized, crispy top. That’s it! These are single servings, so eat at your leisure.
3. Roasted Veggie Tacos with Avocado Cream
These great tacos – eaten as a snack or an entree – combine a myriad of delightful spices and vegetables. The end result is colourful, incredibly tasty, and quite healthy. The recipe written here makes enough for four servings of two tacos each. The recipe is a bit ingredient-heavy, but the finished product is well worth the search for the perfect flavours. It packs a good amount of protein into a delicious, hands-on snack.
You will need:
For the taco filling
One summer squash
Three quarters of a red onion
One head of sweetcorn (or a small can, for the frugal)
A four-ounce container of cherry tomatoes, halved
A medium red pepper
Two garlic cloves
Two teaspoons of cumin
A quarter teaspoon of salt
A tablespoon of olive oil
A 15-oz can of chickpeas
For the avocado cream
A small avocado
A third of a cup of Greek yogurt
A quarter cup of cilantro
Juice from one lime
For garnish / optional ingredients / taco shells
A quarter cup of Feta cheese
Eight corn tortillas
First, preheat your oven to 400 fahrenheit. While it’s heating up, prepare your vegetables. The zucchini should be diced, along with the squash and the onion. If you used fresh corn, remove it from the cob. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half, dice your red pepper, and mince your garlic.
Combine all the vegetables and toss them with the olive oil, salt, cumin and garlic. You can then roast the vegetables on a baking sheet coated in tinfoil. It should take about half an hour for them to be slightly browned.
While the veggies are in the oven, you can make your avocado sauce. Simply combine the avocado, cilantro, yogurt and lime juice in a bowl and whip them until they’re smooth.
When the sauce is done, heat the chickpeas up in a microwave for two minutes before adding to the vegetables. Warm up the tortillas in a microwave -wrapped in a moist towel to prevent them from drying out – and then spread the veggies evenly among them along with the avocado cream. You can garnish them with chopped cilantro and crumbled feta if you like.
4. Pasta with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Creamy Lemon-Yogurt Sauce
This is a vegetarian dish that combines a heck of a lot of flavours in a perfect balance. The cooking time is quite fast, even considering the time it takes to make your own lemon-yogurt sauce. You can’t use regular lemon-flavoured yogurt because the sweetness will throw off the recipe. This makes enough for 4 servings, weighing in at just over 300 calories each.
8 ounces of your favourite whole wheat pasta
Half a cup of Greek yogurt
A quarter cup of parmesan cheese
A teaspoon of lemon zest
A quarter teaspoon of saltA quarter teaspoon of ground pepper
A teaspoon of olive oil
Two cloves of garlic
Half a pint of cherry tomatoes
First, get your pasta ready. Put a big pot of water on to boil, and once it’s bubbling, add your pasta. Cook it according to the directions. When the pasta’s cooked, take a quarter cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta through a sieve and let sit.
In a big mixing bowl, add the Parmesan and lemon zest after grating them. Mix in the yogurt and salt and pepper, then let sit.
Slice the zucchini into thin slices and mince your garlic, and dice your tomatoes. In a big pan, heat your olive oil up on medium-high. Once it’s hot, add the zucchini and fry until it begins to wilt. Make sure to flip them a couple times to ensure even heat distribution. They’ll be nearly see-through when they’re cooked.
Push the zucchini to one side of the pan. Add your minced garlic and cook for half a minute until it’s a nice golden colour, before mixing it into the zucchini. Add the tomatoes and cook until they’re soft, then transfer the whole mixture into the yogurt sauce, stir it, add your pasta, stir again. If the sauce is too thick, you can add pasta water by the tablespoon to dilute it.
Not only is yogurt a great source of certain minerals and nutrients, it boasts an impressive amount of healthy bacteria. These probiotic cultures help your body metabolize food better and absorb the nutrients from other things in your diet.
Yogurt can fight quite a variety of diseases, and it does it quite well. Whether it’s protecting your cardiovascular system to prevent strokes and heart disease, or clearing out your gastrointestinal tract to make your guts smooth and squeaky clean.
Aside from that, yogurt’s flavour – distinct, but not overpowering – can be blended with all sorts of different cuisines. It can be used to make sweet desserts, can be used as a base for delicious curries and pasta sauces, or can be whipped up into salad dressings. The potential applications for yogurt in the kitchen are almost endless.
If you’re looking to double up on your intestinal health, strengthen your bones, or fight back against cardiovascular disease, you should consider keeping a healthy supply of probiotic yogurt in your kitchen. Remember – you want the kind that specifies live bacterial cultures are included. Other yogurts are still good for you – but these will be even better.