Yogurt is made through heating and fermenting milk. Bacteria that is found in yogurt, also known as 'live cultures', ferment lactose (milk sugars), to produce lactic acid that causes milk to curdle and produce tangy yogurt. There are many different varieties of yogurt on offer for consumers – from Greek and Greek-style, to fat-free, low fat, natural, farmhouse and unsweetened. Here are some of the health benefits that yogurt has to offer...
Yogurt contains lots of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy. This includes calcium for strong bones and teeth – just 236 ml of yogurt provides almost half of your daily calcium requirement. Yogurt also has the benefit of being high in vitamin B12, which helps protect against heart disease. It also contains magnesium and potassium, which are essential for helping to regulate blood pressure and metabolism. After pasteurisation, some yogurts have vitamin D added to them, which helps to encourage strong bones and immune system health.
Yogurt is packed with protein, with a 200g pot offering 12g of protein. Protein is essential for supporting the body's metabolism, appetite and the way our bodies use energy. Greek yogurt is the most protein-full yogurt, with 22g of protein per 200g pot. Protein is great for suppressing the appetite, therefore those wanting to lose weight may find it easier to do so when eating yogurt frequently.
Many types of yogurt contain natural gut-friendly bacteria known as probiotics. These probiotics are either made in the yogurt as a result of a starter culture, or are added following pasteurisation. Probiotics are great for gut health and promoting the balance of good and bad bacteria in the body. Live cultures such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus are known to help relieve symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions such as diarrhoea and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's Disease. It has also been suggested that eating yogurt containing probiotics and vitamin D on a daily basis can help to boost the immune system and help increase resistance to the common cold.
Yogurt generally contains lots of calcium and protein, as well as potassium and phosphorus, all of which are benefits that can contribute to bone health and strength. It has been suggested that consuming yogurt on a regular basis can help prevent the development of osteoporosis – a condition that affects bone strength and which is common in the elderly. Those with osteoporosis have a higher risk of bone fractures, but consuming at least three servings of dairy foods per day such as cheese, milk and yogurt, may help to increase bone strength.
Yogurt does contain saturated fat, but that said, there is no evidence to suggest that yogurt is harmful to health or contributes to conditions such as heat disease. Some research has even suggested that the saturated fat from yogurt and other dairy products actually increases the levels of 'good' cholesterol in the body, promoting heart health. Yogurt can also help to reduce high blood pressure if consumed frequently.
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