Legend has it that yogurt contributes to an exceptionally long and healthy life. Science hasn’t proved this exact point but there is evidence that the food has far-reaching health benefits.
Yogurt contains probiotics (meaning “for life”), tiny organisms often described as “friendly bacteria.” An adequate supply of these is necessary to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in our digestive system, to prevent and relieve symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating, and to maintain a positive mood, adequate energy and overall well-being.
Our digestive system doesn’t just absorb food. When it doesn’t work properly, we can’t resist infection, or our reaction to pathogens may go overboard and cause autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, and skin disorders such as eczema. Studies have shown that yogurt, or probiotic supplements, help to resolve such conditions.How to Pick Healthy Yogurt
Always look for “live cultures,” meaning live beneficial bacteria, as an ingredient. And, consider a reduced or nonfat version, as these are usually very creamy and quite rich.
Added sugar is the biggest pitfall to avoid, as flavored yogurts can contain anywhere from approximately two to seven teaspoons. It’s best to buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit or, if that isn’t convenient, look for the lowest sugar content.
Greek yogurt (including low-fat and nonfat versions) is thicker than other varieties. Its consistency and taste are very similar to sour cream, making it a good substitute on baked potatoes and in dips. FAGE (www.fageusa.com
), the largest dairy in Greece, initially popularized this type of yogurt in the United States but there are many other brands. Each one tastes a bit different so experiment to find your favorite.Other Probiotic Sources
Probiotics are also being added to other foods, such as Knudsen and Breakstone LiveActive cottage cheeses (www.kraftrecipes.com
), Attune nutrition bars, in different flavors of chocolate or with whole grains and nuts (www.attunefoods.com
), and gimme Probiotics Dark Chocolate Candies (www.gimmecandy.net
). Dietary supplements are another option.
An herbal tea – Bigelow Lemon Ginger Herb Plus Probiotics (www.bigelowtea.com
) – is a more surprising source. Using a proprietary process, the tea maker is able to add live beneficial bacteria in a form that is not damaged by heat.
Today’s low-fiber, high-fat, starchy and sugar-rich foods place high demands on our digestive systems. Probiotics aren’t a magic bullet but, eaten regularly, they can help to reverse some of the damage.