Yogurt, which has been part of the human diet since 2,000 B.C., was most likely discovered as a happy accident when bacteria in goatskin bags used to transport milk caused it to ferment. Though thought to have originated in Central Asia, yogurt has become associated more with Western than Eastern cultures. Convenient, healthy and versatile, eating yogurt regularly offers a variety of benefits.
Intestinal and Immune Health
Probiotic bacteria in yogurt promote healthy intestinal and immune function. These beneficial bacteria help digest food, maintain proper pH levels and crowd out pathogens. They also improve white blood cell function and increase antibody production. Researchers of a laboratory animal study published in the June 2012 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Immunology" found that Lactobacillus acidophilus, a common bacteria in yogurt, may improve immune function in ways that inhibit breast cancer. In the study, Lactobacillus acidophilus supplementation for 15 days caused an increase in white blood cell production and a concurrent increase in anti-tumor activity. Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary results.
Eating yogurt regularly is a convenient and cost-effective way to ensure that you get sufficient high-quality calcium and protein in your diet to keep your bones strong and reduce your risk for osteoporosis. Heart-healthy yogurt options are available in the form of low-fat and non-fat varieties. Calcium in yogurt is more absorbable than that found in high-calcium plant foods, such as broccoli and spinach, which contain compounds that may bind to calcium and prevent it from being absorbed.
Yogurt may reduce your risk for colon cancer caused by the consumption of fried foods, according to a study published in the April 2011 issue of the journal "PLoS One." Participants ate fried-meat diets supplemented with yogurt, cruciferous vegetables or chlorophyll tablets for four weeks. Results showed that all of the participants following supplemented diets saw decreased levels of DNA damage from the fried foods in comparison to this following unsupplemented diets. Researchers noted that this study was the first of its kind to show a protective effect of yogurt and other dietary factors against cancer caused by fried meat consumption.
Yogurt is a low-sugar dairy option that many people with lactose intolerance -- an inability to digest lactose, or milk sugar -- can eat, according to nutritionist Phyllis Balch, author of the book "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Lactose intolerance is common, affecting the majority of the world's adults, with the exception of Caucasians of northern European descent. You may also have a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose, if you are gluten-intolerant or have an inflammatory bowel condition. Eating yogurt provides all the nutritional and probiotic benefits of dairy products without the digestive upset caused by lactose.
- Journal of Clinical Immunology: Lactobacillus acidophilus Could Modulate the Immune Response Against Breast Cancer in Murine Model
- Kansas State University Research and Extension: Nutrition Topics
- PLoS One: Inhibition of Fried Meat-induced Colorectal Dna Damage and Altered Systemic Genotoxicity in Humans by Crucifera, Chlorophyllin, and Yogurt.
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Phyllis A. Balch
- Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation: Yogurt and Microorganisms
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.