|Yogurt is a tasty treat with a dose of nutrition in every bite. Whether plain, vanilla, or berry … fruit on the bottom or blended … Americans love yogurt.
We spoon up a whopping 1.4 million pounds of the stuff each year, with no sign of slowing down. Since 1995, yogurt and organic yogurt sales have risen more than 80 percent in the United States. In fact, yogurt is such a terrific source of protein for kids that the United States Department of Agriculture considers it a meat alternative in the nation's public-school meals program.
ENJOY THE BENEFITS
From a nutritional standpoint, a growing body of evidence shows that yogurt provides a range of health benefits. For instance, it:
Helps build strong bones. As an excellent source of the bone-building mineral calcium, yogurt may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Yet most women take in less than 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day, the recommended daily amount for adults ages 19 to 50. Yogurt can help: One cup supplies as much as 450 milligrams of calcium. Calcium-seekers should look for Stonyfield Farm organic yogurts (sold at your neighborhood Publix) - the only brand that contains a natural dietary fiber called inulin, which increases calcium absorption.
Boosts the immune system. A study by Tufts University researchers, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (April 2000), suggests that in some circumstances yogurt may bolster the body's ability to resist conditions that affect the immune system, such as cancer and infection. This may be especially true for infections that develop in the gastrointestinal tract.
Helps prevent yeast infections. Some research suggests that regularly eating yogurt - which contains living organisms called L. acidophilus - may decrease the growth of vaginal yeast in some women.
Can ease lactose intolerance. More than a quarter of Americans suffer from lactose intolerance - abdominal cramping, bloating, and diarrhea that occur after consuming dairy products. They suffer from the gut's inability to break down lactose, the sugar in dairy products. For them, yogurt can be a good option. The living organisms found in many yogurts, dubbed "live and active cultures," break down lactose, easing digestion.
LOOK FOR "LIVE & ACTIVE"
For the greatest health benefit, choose low- or no-sugar organic yogurts with "live and active cultures," as these organisms provide many of yogurt's health benefits. Although all yogurts start with live cultures, some are heated, which destroys the organisms.
The National Yogurt Association has created a Live & Active Cultures seal to help consumers identify products containing the health-boosting cultures. Refrigerated yogurt products that bear this seal must contain at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. Frozen products must carry 10 million cultures per gram.