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Feeding and Diet

Yogurt Nutrition

Yogurt is often included on healthy food lists ... and for good reason. Yogurt is highly nutritious and is an excellent source of protein, calcium and potassium. It provides numerous vitamins and minerals and is relatively low in calories. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals ages 9 and older consume 3 servings of milk, cheese or yogurt each day; children 4-8 years should consume 2-1/2 servings. One serving of yogurt is one 8-ounce cup or container.

Yogurt is a cultured milk product that is soured and thickened by the action of specific lactic acid-producing cultures added to milk. The lactic acid produced by the culture coagulates the milk protein, thickening the milk and adding the characteristic sour flavor. The starter cultures—or probiotics—used to make yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus.

Health Benefits of Yogurt

Other probiotics are often added to yogurt for their health effects. Some common ones are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Bifidus. These probiotics can help maintain the balance of bacteria necessary for a healthy digestive system; boost the immune system, shortening the length and severity of sickness; and may reduce eczema in babies.

When taking antibiotics, many people suffer unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, intestinal pain and/or bloating. This is because some antibiotics upset the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract. Eating foods rich in probiotics may help relieve these side effects of antibiotics.

Yogurt is a component of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet designed to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. This diet, which includes three servings a day of low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, and 8 to 10 servings daily of fruits and vegetables, has also been shown to reduce other risk factors for heart disease.

What about Greek Yogurt?

Some consumers are choosing Greek yogurt because of its creamier texture and higher protein content. Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt contribute to a healthy diet (see table below). Greek yogurt has about twice the protein, half the sodium and half the carbohydrates as regular yogurt. Both products start with the same raw ingredient—milk. The difference is caused by the processing; Greek yogurt is strained three times instead of two. The extra protein makes Greek yogurt an attractive snack for young athletes or seniors who are trying to boost their protein intake. It is still a great source of calcium (25 percent of the Daily Value—the amount most people need in one day). As with any food, you should read the label and make sure you are buying the level of fat content that you want, as most Greek yogurts include fat-free and low-fat options.

Yogurt and Lactose Intolerance

Many people who are lactose intolerant can enjoy yogurt. Yogurt contains lower amounts of lactose than milk because the lactose in yogurt is converted to lactic acid by the bacterial cultures. Lactic acid bacteria in yogurt, acidophilus milk and fermented milk products such as kefir can help lessen the effects of lactose intolerance.

Ways to Eat Yogurt

Yogurt is extremely versatile. You can dip it, spread it, freeze it, add fruit to it or eat it plain. Here are some other ideas:

    Make a breakfast parfait by layering yogurt, dry cereal or granola, and topping with your favorite fruit
    Top waffles or pancakes with yogurt and sliced strawberries
    Enjoy a mid-day snack by blending yogurt, fruit and juice to make a delicious smoothie
    Dip raw vegetables in plain yogurt
    Use yogurt for salad dressing and dips
    Serve plain yogurt on quesadillas, tacos, soups and chili—as an alternative to sour cream