The Health Benefits of Yogurt

Yogurt has been known as a healthy food almost since its discovery. Ancient Indian Ayurvedic scripts discuss yogurt's health benefits as far back as 6000 B.C. While ancient man may not have understood the why behind yogurt's health benefits, they knew that it helped to aid digestion and stomach health. Science now shows that in addition to aiding digestion, yogurt has many other health benefits.

Girl Eating Yogurt

When Nobel prize winning scientist Elie Metchnikoff began studying yogurt in the early 20th century it was because fermented milk products had long been credited with the longevity of the Bulgarian people. Metchnikoff determined that the yogurt cultures kept bad bacteria from thriving in the intestines.

The good bacteria in yogurt enters the gastrointestinal tract and not only helps to break down food, but also kills bad bacteria and parasites. In this way preventing infection. Yogurt is even believed to help fight cancer. In one study, the effect of yogurt has been seen to increase T-cell activity in otherwise healthy people. T-cells are specialized white blood cells that help fight infection. Strong T-cells can also resist cancer development.

Many scientists also believe that consuming yogurt can decrease bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. At least one study has had promising results, but not all of the information is consistent. This may be because some yogurts contain different strains of bacteria. Scientists are still studying yogurt to determine which particular culture may be responsible for this reduction in cholesterol.

High dairy consumption in general can also help increase weight loss in both adults and children. In a study on obese adults, all of the participants had their calorie consumption reduced by 500 calories each day, and the participants were put on a diet with either high, moderate or low intake of dairy products including yogurt. The participants who had low dairy diets lost about 15 pounds, the moderate dairy diet participants lost 19 pounds, and the high dairy diet participants lost 24 pounds over a 6 month period.

In another study the weight loss effects of yogurt were specifically studied and participants who ate a diet including yogurt 61% more fat that participants who ate few dairy products or yogurt. Additionally, those in the high yogurt intake group also had more lean muscle at the end of the study. Scientists believe that the high calcium content in yogurt inhibits cells' ability to store fat.

Yogurt contains high levels of calcium that help build strong bones. In addition, yogurt and other fermented milk products contain a substance called lactoferrin. Lactoferrin is a protien that binds to iron and increases the growth of osteoblasts, the cells that actually build bone in the body. The calcium in yogurt is also easily absorbed by the body because yogurt contains a high level of vitamin D, and is a more effective way to increase calcium intake than supplements.

People who are lactose intolerant are generally able to eat yogurt. Yogurt can actually help people with lactose intolerance and allow them to eat more foods which contain lactose. This is because the lactic acid contained in yogurt digests some of the lactose in other dairy products, making it easier for the intestines to process the remaining lactose.

Yogurt kills the bacteria Heliobacter pylori (H. Pylori), the most common cause of ulcers. Full fat yogurt also contains high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (LCA), which leaves behind a protective layer of fat in the intestines that is believed to protect against colorectal cancer. While removing most full fat foods is recommended in a healthy diet, full fat dairy products like yogurt have enough health benefits to outweigh the higher calorie count.

Most of the health benefits of yogurt are reliant on the live, active cultures, and the label will indicate whether the yogurt contains them. Most frozen yogurt and yogurt that has been heat processed no longer contains live cultures.

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WebMD: The Benefits of Yogurt
World's Healthiest Foods: Yogurt
Pure Inside Out: Feel Good Yogurt: Numerous Health and Anti-Aging Benefits
Medicinal Food News: Does Yogurt Reduce Cholesterol Levels
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Lactose Intolerance

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