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Nutritional Profile: Health Benefits of Yogurt

There are plenty of foods that are not only delicious but good for you too. Whether you've already adopted healthy habits or are looking to improve your health this year, you should know there is no reason to sacrifice flavor for good nutrition.

If you know which ingredients to use and how to use them, you can enjoy the advantages of eating nutritiously without compromising on taste. When you consider the health benefits of yogurt, you may find that snack time can still be pleasurable and guilt-free, simultaneously.

We’ll explain some of the health benefits of yogurt that you may not have realized, as well as positive aspects you may already know about but weren't quite sure how to utilize. You're about to learn the best ways of incorporating this healthy food into your diet and why you'll want to start doing so more—sooner than later!

The Health Benefits of Yogurt: The Nutritional Profile

Yogurt is abundant in protein, calcium, and even contains potassium. Some yogurts have live, active bacteria cultures. Take a look at the label, as these cultures—or probiotics1—are considered "good” bacteria for your gut, and therefore help you maintain a healthy digestive system.

Yogurt Is a Good Source of Nutrients

Eight ounces of plain, low-fat yogurt provides approximately 42 percent of the body’s daily calcium value. In other words, you can get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck by eating yogurt for breakfast or as a snack every day. If you’re using frozen yogurt, just 1/2 cup will score you about 10 percent of your daily value for calcium. If you're choosing plant-based alternatives, you’ll want to seek out fortified varieties to get similar calcium values.

One cup of dairy-based yogurt or fortified plant-based yogurt counts as one of three servings of dairy that are recommended by USDA's MyPlate for nine-year-olds to adults.

What Kind of Yogurt Should You Buy to Reap These Benefits?

Consider some of the factors that will help you make your decision when choosing a type of yogurt:

Fat Content

Should you buy low-fat, fat-free, or whole milk varieties? Generally speaking, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate recommend going for low-fat or fat-free options. There are several great-tasting low-fat and fat-free yogurts that people can choose from at their local grocery stores.

A Note on Flavors

A common feature you’ll see in flavored yogurt is added sugar. It is best to skip this extra sugar and select a plain yogurt, then add your own flavors and toppings at home. That way, you can still keep it as healthy as possible and take advantage of lower sugar additives such as vanilla or cinnamon—things you may already have in your pantry.

You may notice that the label on plain yogurt sometimes lists total sugar in its Nutrition Facts. Remember that total sugar does not mean added sugar, it’s simply accounting for the lactose—sugar naturally contained in milk—in the yogurt. Even plain yogurt has lactose in it.

You don't need to try to cut out all sugar, just reduce added sugar whenever you can. Try buying plain yogurt, and if you are unable to tolerate the taste, add in a little honey to sweeten. This way, you have control over the amount of added sugars. Just try to keep your added sugars under 200 calories out of a 2,000-calorie diet.

Keeping It Traditional

When it comes to Greek yogurt versus traditional, know that Greek yogurt is strained. This process tends to give it a thicker, creamier, and smoother consistency than standard yogurts. Additionally, it contains double the protein found in traditional yogurt, but a bit less calcium.

Both types of yogurt have those bacteria cultures that help break down lactose, though. This means that in some cases, people who are lactose intolerant but still want the flavor or the health benefits of yogurt are luckily still able to digest it. Keep in mind Greek yogurt has a lower lactose content than traditional yogurt, so those who are sensitive to lactose might tolerate it better than traditional yogurt.

Real Dairy vs. Plant-Based Alternatives

Some people cannot consume dairy due to allergies or intolerances—and many more choose not to for other reasons, such as activism. The good news is that neither group is finding it too difficult these days to enjoy yogurt since there are so many different kinds being produced. Dairy-free means it’s made with other ingredients—but, when done right, they taste very similar to the real thing.

There are a lot of plant-based alternatives on the market today. Look for yogurts that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D if opting for an alternative, non-dairy treat. Soy-based yogurt, when fortified, actually has the closest nutritional profile to traditional dairy-based yogurt. On the other hand, almond and coconut milk-based selections tend to be lower in protein content.

When eating a plant-based alternative yogurt, you can recreate the flavors of dairy yogurt by loading up on healthy fruits and toppings to create a parfait. Consider adding a combination of homemade granola, chopped up fruit, honey, coconut flakes, nuts, and seeds to create a nutrient-dense breakfast or snack that tastes almost like the real thing.

How Can You Incorporate Yogurt Into Your Diet?

There are many different ways of incorporating yogurt into your diet on a regular basis. Try any of these ideas to get this tasty ingredient into your regimen and enjoy all the best health benefits of yogurt:

Make It Part of Your Breakfast Routine

To get the health benefits of yogurt at the start of your day, mix a 6-ounce low-fat container of yogurt with a handful of granola, ½ cup of berries, and 2 tablespoons of nuts. This will create an easy breakfast bowl that is both quick and satisfying.

When you’re on the go, you can prep a snack that has calcium, protein, potassium, and more by following this simple smoothie recipe:

  • One 6-ounce container of low-fat yogurt 
  • ¾ cup of low-fat milk 
  • ½ cup of frozen blueberries 
  • ½ cup of frozen strawberries 
  • One banana 
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon 
  •  1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 

Mix everything together in a blender and add vegetables, seeds, or other nutritious elements to experiment with different flavors and textures.

Drinking smoothies like this regularly will support children’s bones as they develop and grow. You can try an even more basic smoothie by stirring together a 6-ounce container of low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt together with a ¼ cup of low-fat milk. If there is too much liquid, you can add more yogurt; and if it’s too thick, you can add more milk. Finally, pour into cups for them to enjoy.

For the Rest of the Day: Snacks and Toppings

Let's say you plan to host taco Tuesday with friends. Use ½ cup of plain, low-fat yogurt (Greek will add more tartness!), a couple teaspoons of taco seasoning, and 1 teaspoon of lime juice. This will serve as a fun alternative to sour cream that’s packed with nutrients. Try replacing sour cream with yogurt in other recipes to help get the most out of the health benefits of yogurt!

You can also have fun using it as a dip for different fruits and veggies. For a healthier alternative to a standard cream cheese dip—especially sugary ones for fruit—you can mix 1 cup of nonfat Greek yogurt with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Banana yogurt granola pops are another recipe you can try that will help create fond memories in the kitchen with your kids or friends. Just cut half a banana and stick a popsicle stick through the bottom, then have everyone dunk the banana into some low-fat yogurt, roll it in granola bits, and pop in the freezer to enjoy later. There you have it: a dessert that you can enjoy worry-free—even when you indulge in a second helping!

How You Can Make It Work Best for YOU

Every food works differently for different people. How your body reacts depends on the specifics of your unique system. The health benefits of yogurt may be better absorbed by some than others—or, some may just like the taste more than others.

Bio-individuality should be considered and respected. You can show your body some love by looking into the particulars of your genes. This way, you'll know what best serves your body and personalize your eating experience for yourself (rather than the people around you). Take advantage of customization. Our dietitians and DNA experts want to help people learn how to adopt a personal nutrition plan based on their DNA.

Sure, your friends might have similar tastes and your family might have some similar genes, but no one will have your exact same makeup or set of genes. So, remember: it's not about them. Find purpose in your snack time. Make it effective and efficient, and start easily by downloading a FREE sample report—not wasting time or money trying to do what everyone else is doing.

Make it about YOU.

  1. Guarner F, Perdigon G, Corthier G, Salminen S, Koletzko B, Morelli L. Should yoghurt cultures be considered probiotic? British Journal of Nutrition. 2005;93(6):783-786. doi:10.1079/bjn20051428.


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