The Super Food in Your Fridge

The world around us provides practically all the nutritionally sound foods, supplements and even many of the natural medicines we need to survive . . . if only we take the time to learn about and understand them, respect their value and benefits, and resist the smorgasbord of unhealthy alternatives that tantalize us every minute.

A great example of one of nature’s almost perfect foods – after a little human intervention — is yogurt.  Whether you prefer it smooth and creamy or thick like custard, tangy, plain, sweet or overflowing with fruit and granola, yogurt is packed with nutrients, including vitamins and chemicals that help build strong bones and reduce blood pressure. It also contains friendly bacteria that aid in digestion and benefit our bodies in myriad other ways.

Yogurt contains probiotics, bacteria that are good for our health. They can help reduce inflammation, and improve how our bodies react to insulin, a hormone that manages the amount of sugar in our blood. Eating yogurt regularly is helpful for warding off type-2 diabetes, aids in digestion, and helps keep weight off over time. And the probiotics help regulate bowel movements, fight infections and can restore balance to our digestive systems after a round of antibiotics, reducing the likelihood of developing diarrhea, a common side effect from antibiotics.

Yogurt is made from milk, which contains calcium, an alkaline earth metal. Calcium is good for bone growth and health. Many dairies add vitamin D to their milk as well, another bonus. Eating yogurt, especially when we’re young, can reduce our risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease. Additionally, yogurt contains potassium, which helps keep blood pressure in check by flushing salt from our bodies.

Besides lowering blood pressure, yogurt has been linked to lower cholesterol levels. And according to some studies, yogurt consumers appeared to have a better metabolic profile such as lower BMI, waist circumference, levels of triglycerides, fasting glucose and insulin, and lower blood pressure but higher HDL [good] cholesterol.

These studies measured people who ate more yogurt and less processed meat and refined grains. When combined with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, whole grains and other healthy foods, participants had higher levels of potassium (which helps flush excess salt from our body), vitamins B2 and B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc and other micronutrients.

Something for everyone

Shopping at the supermarket for yogurt can be confusing – there are many brands, varieties and styles, and more seem to be added every day. Yogurt, like all milk products, has natural sugar called lactose. Six ounces of plain yogurt has about 12 grams, but sweetened yogurts have considerably more.  Plain yogurt topped with fruit is a healthier alternative, or even mixing a sweetened yogurt with plain yogurt is preferable to reduce the amount of sugar.

Greek yogurt is strained to make it thicker — it has more protein but less calcium. Many brands boost their Greek yogurts with extra calcium, so it’s important to read labels. Also, the label should tell you if the yogurt contains live and active cultures, which are important for digestion. And when it comes to fat, low-fat yogurt is your best option, since whole-milk yogurts have more saturated fat, which isn’t good for our hearts.

Mixing yogurt with nuts like walnuts or almonds, as well as fresh fruit, enhances its benefits.  Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats and contain higher amounts of antioxidants than most other foods. Eating walnuts may improve brain health while also helping to prevent heart disease and cancer.

Like other nuts, most of the energy or calories in walnuts come from fat. This makes them an energy-dense, high-calorie food. However, even though walnuts are rich in fat and calories, studies indicate that they do not increase the risk of obesity when replacing other foods in the diet. They also are richer than most other nuts in polyunsaturated fats.

So, think about adding yogurt to your diet as a breakfast staple, for lunch, or as a healthy snack. And no matter how or when you enjoy it, know that it’s healthy, easy to prepare or mix with other foods, and comes in so many flavors and varieties that you can enjoy it for years to come!


 

Be sure to check out the CBIA Healthy Connections wellness program at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!