Your body contains billions of microorganisms in the form of “good” and “bad” bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Collectively, these microorganisms are referred to as your microbiome. Bad bacteria can cause disease; good bacteria can improve your gut health to reduce digestive problems.
Probiotics fall into the “good” bacteria category. Research shows that live cultures of probiotics in your gut can ease digestive issues and boost immune health to help keep you healthier. Yogurt with live cultures like Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophiles is overflowing with probiotics. If you’re among the millions of Americans who suffer from digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome, eating yogurt offers great potential for helping your digestive ills.
Prebiotics and Probiotics Work as a Team
Prebiotics and probiotics work as a team to improve your gut health. Prebiotics — plant-like fibers found in certain types of food — are non-digestible carbs that pass through your system and into your gut where they are essentially ingested by probiotics to stimulate good bacteria growth. Prebiotics act as fuel to help probiotics flourish to keep your gut working as it should.
Prebiotics can be found in fruits, vegetables, garlic, nuts, whole grains, lentils, beans, and other legumes. A steady flow of prebiotics into your system will keep the population of probiotics happy and healthy to improve your overall health.
Not All Yogurts are Created Equal
To get the most from probiotics in yogurt, look for yogurts that contain live or active cultures. The National Yogurt Association (NYA) recommends yogurts that contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophiles as these are the cultures that convert pasteurized milk into yogurt during the fermentation process. Before buying any type of yogurt, check the label to ensure it contains live or active cultures as part of the ingredients.
Yogurt can be incorporated into your diet in many ways. It can be added into recipes as an ingredient, served as part of a meal, or consumed as a healthy snack in between meals. Plain yogurt is much more nutritious than sugar-filled yogurts that come with jelly, cookie, or candy fillings and toppings. If plain yogurt isn’t to your liking, mix it with fresh fruit, honey, nuts, or granola to add some zing to your snack. Or add plain yogurt to your favorite fruit smoothie for a special treat.
The Greek Yogurt Difference
Greek yogurt has been pegged as one of the healthiest types of yogurt due to its probiotic and protein content. The removal of whey is what sets this yogurt apart from conventional yogurt and what gives it a thicker, creamier texture with richer flavor.
Removing whey reduces the sugar and sodium content in Greek yogurt by approximately 40%. When it comes to protein, however, Greek yogurt contains almost twice as much as conventional brands, making it a powerhouse of nutrition. Here are just a few of the many health benefits you stand to gain by adding Greek yogurt to your diet:
- Digestive health. Greek yogurt helps augment good gut bacteria to improve digestive health. Good gut health can enhance your overall health by easing digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence, aka gas.
- Blood pressure. Research shows that more than two-thirds of Americans go overboard when it comes to the consumption of salt. Over time, this salt intake can lead to high blood pressure, kidney problems, and heart disease. Greek yogurt is rich in potassium which helps flush out excess salt in the body to help lower blood pressure.
- Weight management. High-protein foods help satisfy hunger pangs, keeping you from eating more than you should. Eating protein-rich Greek yogurt between meals can curb your appetite to make it easier for you to manage your weight.
- Bone health. Greek yogurt contains nutrients like calcium, protein, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous that help foster strong bones and a healthy body.
- Lactose intolerance. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, milk sugar (lactose) in dairy products can cause digestive problems. As Greek yogurt is a low-lactose food, it can be consumed by people trying to integrate lactose into their diet. Probiotics help break down lactose sugar in the yogurt to make it more digestible
- Immune health. Research shows that probiotics in yogurt can boost your immune health to help your body fight off colds and other illnesses.
- Recovery. A healthy diet is extremely important when you’re recovering from a substance use disorder. The nutrients in Greek yogurt can help your body recuperate its strength and energy while you undergo private rehabilitation for alcohol or drug problems.
Tips for Selecting the Best Yogurt for YOU
Now that we’ve established that yogurt with live cultures is good for your health, it’s time to decide what yogurt to choose. When it comes to food, everyone has their personal tastes and preferences. If nutrition is important to you, however, you’ll stick to the following yogurt checklist when choosing the best yogurt for you:
- Sugar. Plain yogurt is your ideal choice as there’s no extra sugar added to the mix. Yes, flavored yogurts and yogurts with specialty toppings are tempting but not worth sacrificing nutrition for. If you want something extra, try adding fresh fruit, almonds, or honey to your yogurt for a special treat.
- Protein. Yogurts rich in protein will satisfy your hunger longer, which may help you lose a few pounds if you’re overweight. Greek yogurt has almost double the protein of conventional yogurt, making it an excellent choice for managing your weight.
- Taste. Most people won’t eat what they don’t like, even if it’s nutritious. If you’re set on adding yogurt to your diet, experiment with different types to find a healthy brand you like. Yogurt is so much better when you enjoy the taste.
- Simple ingredients. Keep it simple when it comes to ingredients. Just make sure your yogurt contains live or active cultures and is rich in protein and you’re good to go.
Good gut health starts with gut-friendly foods of which probiotic-rich yogurt is a primary example. Probiotics help combat bad bacteria in your gut microbiome to keep your body in balance. By doing your part to care for your gut health, it will, in turn, take care of you.
Author Bio: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.