Lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, and more

Can you think of a food with a better reputation than yogurt? Whether it’s tangy, plain, thick Greek, or lying with bones and nuts, it’s become a symbol of healthy eating. You can not miss the buzz, and you probably know you should eat it, but why is it just so good for you?

Yogurt is full of nutrients, including some that build strong bones and help your blood pressure. Those little cups also have some friendly bacteria that might be good for your digestion. And research is beginning to show that it can be just the beginning of what it can do for your health.

How can it help you stay healthy

1. Reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. A 2014 study shows that you may be less likely to get this condition if you are a regular yogurt eater.

“Yogurt stands out in that it may have some unique health benefits that may not be shared by other dairy products,” says study researcher Frank Hu, MD, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Why yogurt prevents diabetes better than milk is not clear, but it may be because it has probiotics – bacteria that are good for your health. Hu says it is possible that they reduce inflammation and improve how your body responds to insulin, a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in your blood.

Another bonus: The study also shows that people who eat more yogurt gain less weight over time.

2. Get stronger bones. Like other dairy products, yogurt is great for your bones. It has calcium from the milk used to make the yogurt, and the manufacturer normally adds vitamin D.

Both are important nutrients for building healthy bones. Eating yogurt, especially early in life, can reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease, says Caroline Passerrello, a registered dietitian.

3. Improve your digestion, Probiotics – the “good” bacteria in yogurt – can be a friend to your stomach. “We’re learning more and more about this. These probiotics seem to be very healthy for the gut,” says Joan Salge Blake, a registered dietitian and a nutrition professor at Boston University.

Probiotics can help regulate your bowel movements, fight infections, or restore balance in your digestive system after a round of antibiotics, so you are less likely to get side effects such as diarrhea.

4. Lower blood pressure. A 2016 study shows that if you are a woman who eats yogurt, it can help keep your blood pressure in check. Potassium, which is in yogurt, helps control it by flushing salt out of your body.

5. Improve your immune systemIt is your body’s defense against germs, and again, probiotics can lend you a helping hand.

“One yogurt a day is great,” says Passerrello. “As Americans, we typically do not reach our dairy branch. A yogurt can be a great way to do that as a snack or a treat.” It strengthens your immune system and you are less likely to get sick.

How to choose yogurt

New yogurt styles and flavors seem to be popping up all the time in supermarket aisles. Look for ingredients that can help you make a healthy choice.

Sugar. Yogurt, like all dairy products, has natural sugar in it called lactose. Six ounces of plain yogurt weighs about 12 grams.

Be careful though. Many yogurts are super-sweet, so check the sugar content as well as the ingredients to see how many sweeteners are mentioned.

To cut down on the sugar, choose the usual type, and top it with fruit or honey when you get home. Another way to go: Mix a sweet yogurt with a plain one, says Salge Blake.

CalciumTo get the best benefit for your bones, check nutrition labels for yogurt that give you about 20% of your daily value of calcium in a serving, says Passerrello.

Pay extra attention to Greek yogurt. It is stretched to make it thicker so that it has more protein but less calcium. Many brands promote their Greek yogurt with extra calcium, so choose one that has an amount that you are happy with.

Vitamin D, Milk and yogurt are often “fortified” with vitamin D, which means the manufacturer adds it to the product. Check to see that you get more than 10% of your daily amount in a napkin of yogurt, says Passerrello.

Probiotics. Yogurt, whether it is made from cow’s milk or an alternative such as coconut, soy, or almond milk, must say on the label that it contains live and active cultures. Unless your dietitian or doctor advises you to get a particular strain to treat a specific problem, you do not have to worry about what type is mentioned.

“It’s kind of the same as eating the rainbow,” says Passerrello. “You do not want to eat just one color of fruit or vegetables. All those bacteria are good. It can not cause harm and get the benefits of it all.”

Fat. Low fat yogurt is the best choice for most people because whole milk yogurts have more saturated fat, which is not heart healthy, says Salge Blake.

Whatever yogurt you choose, make sure you like it and often want to eat it, Hu says. And keep in mind that you will get the healthiest results if you also have lots of fruits and vegetables and some processed carbohydrates and meat.

“I do not think yogurt itself is a magic bullet that will melt your weight or melt diabetes away,” he says. But you will get benefits if you make it a part of a well-rounded, nutritious diet.

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