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Health Benefits of Dairy


Yogurt was a long-established staple in Eastern Europe and the Middle East before it reached our shores. And there was a time when yogurt eaters in this country were considered "health nuts." Our attitudes have changed considerably. Today, yogurt is commonly consumed by men, women, and children of all ages. Walk into any supermarket today, and you'll see the varieties and flavors of this nutritious food take up considerable space in the dairy section.

Friendly Bacteria

Yogurt may not be the miracle food some have claimed, but it certainly has a lot to offer in the health department. Besides being an excellent source of bone-building calcium, it is believed that the bacterial cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus), that are used to make yogurt, carry their own health benefits.

For example, research has suggested that eating yogurt regularly helps boost the body's immune-system function, warding off colds and possibly even helping to fend off cancer. It is also thought the friendly bacteria found in many types of yogurt can help prevent and even remedy diarrhea.

For people who suffer from lactose intolerance, yogurt is often well tolerated because live yogurt cultures produce lactase, making the lactose sugar in the yogurt easier to digest (see Lactose Intolerance for advice on coping with this condition). Be sure to check the label on the yogurt carton for the National Yogurt Association's Live and Active Cultures (LAC) seal. This seal identifies products that contain a significant amount of live and active cultures. But don't look to frozen yogurt as an option; most frozen yogurt contains little of the healthful bacteria.

Yogurt Selection and Storage

There is a dizzying array of brands and flavors and varieties of yogurts in most supermarkets. But there are some basic traits to look for when deciding which to put in your grocery cart. Choose a yogurt that is either low fat or fat free. It should contain no more than three grams of fat per eight-ounce carton.

Some yogurts are also sugar free (these are often signaled by the term "light," but check the label carefully to be sure, since this term might also refer to fat content) and contain an alternative sweetener instead of added sugar. Consider choosing plain, vanilla, lemon, or any one of the yogurts without a jamlike fruit mixture added. The mixture adds mainly calories and little if anything in the way of vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Your best health bet is to add your own fresh fruit to plain fat-free yogurt.

Yogurt must always be refrigerated. Each carton should have a "sell by" date stamped on it. It should be eaten within the week following the "sell by" date to take full advantage of the live and active cultures in the yogurt. As yogurt is stored, the amount of live and active cultures begins to decline.

Preparation and Serving Tips

Yogurt can be enjoyed as a low-fat dessert, snack, or meal accompaniment; just add sliced berries, nuts, wheat germ, bananas, peaches, fruit cocktail, mandarin-orange slices, pineapple chunks, low-fat granola, or bran cereal. Yogurt also works well as a low-fat substitute in a lot of recipes that call for high-fat ingredients such as sour cream or cream. Yogurt is especially well-suited as a base for vegetable and/or chip dips and salad dressings.

Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all important sources of calcium. Selecting and consuming the right amounts are important for a strong body. A well-balanced diet will always include servings of each.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.