Yogurt and Its Many Health Benefits (cont.)

Benefit No. 3: Yogurt With Active Cultures May Discourage Vaginal Infections

Candida or "yeast" vaginal infections are a common problem for women with diabetes. In a small study, seven diabetic women with chronic candidal vaginitis consumed 6 ounces of frozen aspartame-sweetened yogurt per day (with or without active cultures).

Even though most of the women had poor blood sugar control throughout the study, the vaginal pH (measure of acidity or basicity) of the group eating yogurt with active cultures dropped from 6.0 to 4.0 (normal pH is 4.0-4.5). These women also reported a decrease in candida infections. The women eating the yogurt without active cultures remained at pH 6.0.

Benefit No. 4: Yogurt May Help Prevent Osteoporosis

"Adequate nutrition plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and the micronutrients of greatest importance are calcium and vitamin D," says Jeri Nieves, PhD, MS, director of bone density testing at New York's Helen Hayes Hospital.

Calcium has been shown to have beneficial effects on bone mass in people of all ages, although the results are not always consistent, says Nieves, also an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University.

"The combination of calcium and vitamin D has a clear skeletal benefit, provided the dose of vitamin D is sufficiently high," she adds.

And what qualifies as "sufficiently high?"

Currently, 400 IU per day is considered an adequate intake of vitamin D for people ages 51-70, Nieves says. (Look for the Daily Value amount listed on food labels.) But more may be better.

"This amount is likely to be sufficient for most young adults for skeletal health, although many would argue that for overall health, more than the 400 IU may be required, even at these younger ages," Nieves said in an email interview.

Nieves believes that older people specifically can benefit from more vitamin D.

Many dairy products, including some yogurts, are made with added vitamin D. Find out which brands have added vitamin D by checking out the table below, and by reading labels when you shop.

Benefit No. 5: Yogurt May Reduce the Risk of High Blood Pressure

One study, which followed more than 5,000 university graduates in Spain for about two years, found a link between dairy intake and risk of high blood pressure.

"We observed a 50% reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure among people eating 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy a day (or more), compared with those without any intake," Alvaro Alonso, MD, PhD, a researcher in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, says in an email interview.

Although most of the low-fat dairy consumed by the study subjects was as milk, Alvaro believes low-fat yogurt would likely have the same effect. Dutch researchers recently reported that higher dairy consumption (mainly from milk and yogurt) was modestly linked to lower blood pressure in 2064 Dutch men and women ages 50 to 75.

Benefit No. 6: Yogurt May Help You Feel Fuller

A study from the University of Washington in Seattle tested hunger, fullness, and calories eaten at the next meal on 16 men and 16 women who had a 200-calorie snack. The snack was either:

  • Semisolid yogurt containing pieces of peach and eaten with a spoon
  • The same yogurt in drinkable form
  • A peach-flavored dairy beverage
  • Peach juice

Although those who had the yogurt snacks did not eat fewer calories at the next meal, both types of yogurt resulted in lower hunger ratings and higher fullness ratings than either of the other snacks.

10 Tips for Buying and Eating Yogurt

Here are 10 things to consider when buying and eating yogurt.

1. Decide Between Whole-Milk, Low-Fat, or Nonfat Yogurt

When buying yogurt, your first decision is whether you want regular-fat, low-fat, or fat-free. You probably have a favorite brand, with just the right texture or tang for your taste buds. If so, stick with it. But do check the label for sugar content. Some flavors and brands have more than others. And if you like a lower-fat yogurt, even better. There's some question that while other components in dairy may be helpful to your health (calcium, vitamin D, probiotics, etc.), dairy fat may increase your risk of heart disease. Harvard University researchers recently analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study and concluded the data do suggest that a high intake of dairy fat is associated with a greater risk of ischemic heart disease in women.

Here are a few examples of some lower fat choices:

LOW-FAT YOGURT (6 ounces) Calories Fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) % Calories from sugar Calcium (% Daily Value) Vitamin D (% Daily Value)
Dannon Creamy Fruit Blends, Strawberry flavor 170 1.5 1 10 70% 20% -
Dannon Activia, Blueberry flavor 165 3 1.5 7.5 62% 23% -
Yoplait Original 99% Fat Free, Fruit flavored 170 1.5 1 10 63% 20% 20%
Yoplait Yo Plus Raspberry 165 2.2 1.5 15 58% 23% 15%
Stonyfield Farms Organic Low-Fat, Fruit flavored 130 1.5 1 5 68% 25% -
"LIGHT" YOGURT (6 ounces) Calories Fat (g) Saturated fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) % Calories from sugar Calcium (% Daily Value) Vitamin D (% Daily Value)
Dannon Light 'n Fit, Fruit flavored 60 0 0 <5 47% 20% 20%
Dannon Light & Fit 0% Fat Plus 75 0 0 <5 56% 15% 15%
Dannon Activia Light Fat Free Raspberry 105 0 0 <5 46% 22.5% -
Yoplait Light, Fruit flavored 100 0 0 <5 56% 20% 20%
Yoplait Fiber One Nonfat Yogurt (with 5 grams fiber) 120 0 0 <5 55% 15% 22.5%
Yoplait Fiber One Nonfat Yogurt (with 5 grams fiber) 100 .5 0 5 48% 30% 30%

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