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Traditional probiotic yogurt is made from dairy that’s fermented into a creamy food packed with beneficialprobiotics and is a balanced sourceof protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Yogurt is considered a superfood. When it’s sourced from grass-fed cows or goats, then yogurt’s nutrition is maximized, supplying omega-3 fatty acids, whey protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, enzymes and probiotics.
Dairy-based yogurt can be made from goat’s milk or sheep’s milk, but traditional cow’s milk is still the most popular. Also, yogurt is the most consumed fermented dairy product in the United States today, with the second being kefir.
It’s believed that the fermenting of dairy milk dates back over 6,000 years to Central Asia as a way to preserve milk. Historical records place yogurt in India, Persia and Turkey not long after it was seen in Central Asia.
Yogurt was prized for its creamy texture and multitude of uses. Back then, fresh milk was often carried in the stomach linings of animals, where many believe the healthy bacteria, along with the climate, contributed to the fermentation.
Today, however, the process is much different! Dairy milks are heated to the point of killing the existing bacteria, a process known as pasteurization. A starter culture of live bacteria is introduced, and the milk is allowed to ferment for several hours, until it is thick, rich and tart.
10 Proven Probiotic Yogurt Benefits
So why is probiotic yogurt so good for you? In a study published inNutrition Research, 6526 individuals were studied, andyogurt intake was directly associated with better overall diet quality, healthier metabolic profiles, healthier blood pressure and triglyceride levels. In addition, yogurt was found to be an excellent source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B2and B12. (1) Yogurt is great for overall health and wellness, andprobiotic-rich foods are central to the GAPS Diet Plan. Here are 10 proven yogurt health benefits:
1. Supports Healthy Digestion
Healthy bacteria that are added to yogurt help to improve the microflora in the gut, which is responsible for digestion and a healthy digestive tract. These active cultures may help with certain gastrointestinal conditions, including colon cancer, IBS, constipation, diarrhea and lactose intolerance. (2) Many individuals that struggle with lactose intolerance find that yogurt is a soothing food, not one that causes digestive distress.
2. Lowers the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
In a recent study, higher intake of probiotic yogurt is directly associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. (3) Yogurt supports digestion and the absorption of nutrients throughout the digestive tract; this is essential for healthy blood sugar regulation.
3. Lowers the Risk of Colorectal Cancer
In a large study of over 45,000 individuals published in theInternational Journal of Cancer, yogurt consumption was shown to protect against colorectal cancer. Researchers indicated “the protective effect of yogurt was evident in the entire cohort”. (4) The reason for this is a healthier digestive tract, due to the probiotics and healthy bacteria in yogurt.
4. Increases Bone Density & May Help Prevent Osteoporosis
According to Jeri Nieves, Ph.D, MS and director of the Bone Density Testing Helen Hayes Hospital in New York, “Adequate nutrition plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and the micronutrients of the greatest importance are calcium and vitamin D. The combination of calcium and vitamin D has a clear skeletal benefit, provided the dose of vitamin D is sufficiently high.” Dairy yogurts are high in calcium, and many dairy yogurts are fortified withvitamin D, however raw cow’s milk yogurt doesn’t need fortification as it contains 38IU per quart!
5. Supports Weight Loss and Increases Fat Loss
According to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, yogurt increases fat loss. The study showed that three- to six-ounce servings a day for 12 weeks nearly doubled the amount of fat lost versus others in the study. The group that consumed the probiotic yogurt and additional calcium to reach 1,100 milligrams lost 22 percent more weight and 61 percent more body fat. The study also found the belly region and the waist circumference were particularly affected. (5)
6. Boosts the Immune System
In a recent study, researchers found that probiotics found in yogurt and other fermented milk products can improve the gut mucosal immune system by increasing cytokine producing cells in the intestine. Researchers stated that “Supplementation of probiotic organisms in infancy could help prevent immune-mediated diseases in childhood.” (6) Another study on infants found that probiotics added to formulas had a significant decrease of number days with fever, antibiotic prescriptions, clinic visits and child care absences.(7) For adults, yogurt’s probiotics help to keep the digestive tract free of disease-causing bacteria. A randomized and placebo controlled study in Sweden of shift workers found that the placebo group reported more than twice the number of sick days than those who were taking probiotics. (8)
7. Reduces High Blood Pressure
Yogurt has over 600 milligrams ofpotassium per eight ounces! In 36 clinical trials and 17 studies, potassium intake and blood pressure reduction are evident. (9) The potassium is believed to help decrease sodium reabsorption, while influencing nervous system cell function important in lowering blood pressure and improving heart health. A study from Harvard School of Public Health led by Alvaro Alonso, MD, Ph.D, found that people that eat two to three servings (or more) per day of low-fat dairy experience a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure. So, if you have high blood pressure, start eating yogurt, and if you want to keep a healthy blood pressure, eat yogurt.
8. Reduces Bad Cholesterol
The live probiotics in yogurt, including Lactobacillus Acidophilus, decrease cholesterol levels, with just one 200-milliliter (seven ounces) serving per day! In a controlled clinical study, researchers witnessed a 2.4 percent reduction in serum cholesterol. They believe that regular intake of probiotic yogurt has the potential of reducing the risk for coronary heart disease by 6 percent to 10 percent. (10)
9. Regulates Moods
The effects of probiotics on the digestive tract and blood sugar levels have already been discussed, but as it turns out, the health of our gut is directly related to our mood. In a study from UCLA’s Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress that studied brain scans during and after the study, researchers found healthy women who regularly consumed probiotics through yogurt showed more control in emotions and less anxiety when introduced to emotional events. (11) The group that consumed yogurt ate two servings per day for four weeks.
10. May Help Treat Chronic Pain & Brain-Related Illnesses
In the same study mentioned above regarding mood regulation, researchers noted that probiotics have the potential to help with chronic pain, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and autism. (11) Researchers also raised the question of whether repeated courses of antibiotics can affect the brain. Antibiotics are prescribed to kill the dangerous bacteria but also kill the healthy bacteria that reside in our guts. This reinforces my recommendation that yogurt and other probiotic-rich foods should always be consumed and especially taken after courses of antibiotics.