Health Benefits of Yogurt

Posted on: October 24, 2014

Deciphering the Yogurt Aisle: Get cultured!

By Elisa Bremner & Amy Rosenfeld

Yogurt ParfaitIt’s official!  Governor Andrew Cuomo named yogurt New York’s official state snack on October 15.  The Governor expects to raise public awareness of the health benefits of yogurt and economic benefits of supporting local yogurt industry. New York has become the nation’s top yogurt producer (making 741 million pounds of the dairy product last year), and health-conscious New Yorkers are literally eating it up.  Here are some of the great health benefits of consuming (the right kind of) yogurt.

Benefits of eating yogurt:
•    High in calcium, vitamin D for strong bones and healthy blood pressure.
•    Increases immunity and defense against common illnesses.
•    Connected with reducing symptoms associated with GI conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and colon cancer risk.
•    Linked with reducing yeast and vaginal infections.
•    Great source of protein for recovery post workouts and to feel fuller throughout the day.
•    Linked with reducing gum disease due to a healthy dose of lactic acid.

Have you noticed that the yogurt section at your local supermarket has been getting bigger and more diverse every year?  With all the yogurt choices available today, it can be confusing to make a healthy choice.

What’s the difference between all the types of yogurt available?
•    Flavored regular yogurts: Thinner yogurt; lower in protein. Regular yogurts can be a great choice if you are choosing a lower sugar variety. Mix ½ a plain yogurt with ½ a regular yogurt for a great family friendly low sugar blend!
•    Greek yogurt: Thick and creamy; high in protein, a fantastic choice. Choose plain Greek yogurt and mix with small amounts of honey/ fresh fruit for the lowest sugar/highest protein combo.
•    Icelandic yogurt or Skyr: Thick and creamy; lower in protein than Greek yogurt; only made with non-fat yogurt so this yogurt choice is always fat-free.
•    Swiss yogurt: Thinner and creamier than Greek; high in protein like Greek yogurt, but often higher in sugar as these yogurts tend to be blended with fruit. Cut the sugar by mixing Swiss yogurt with plain regular yogurt.
•    Kefir: Thin liquid; A cultured fermented milk product that has 3 times the probiotic content than regular yogurt. Perfect for smoothies.

Guidelines for making a healthy yogurt choice:
•    Save on the sugar: Choose options that have less than 20 g sugar; the lower the better
•    Pack in the protein: Choose brands that are at least 8 g protein; the higher the better.
•    Check the culture: Read the label to see if it says “contains active cultures” or “living cultures.” Many brands add extra probiotic varieties but eating any yogurt with active cultures can give you the same benefits.

There are plenty of local producers in the Hudson Valley/NYC area. Be sure to try some of these delicious and often unusual offerings.

Look for the following local brands:
•    Hudson Valley Fresh
•    Ronnybrook Farms
•    Stone Barns (e.g. sweet potato, tomato, beet)
•    Sohha Yogurt

For your next snack, try:
•    Peach Pie Smoothie (serves 4):16 oz bag of frozen peaches, 2 cups of vanilla yogurt, 2 cups skim milk (unsweetened), 1 cup oatmeal, 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon. Blend all ingredients until smooth.
•    Yogurt & Mixed Berries: 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt and ½ cup mixed berries

Editor’s Note: 

Elisa Bremner, MS, Registered Dietitian at Northern Westchester Hospital. Ms. Bremner holds Certificates of Training in Childhood and Adolescent Weight Management as well as in Prevention Strategies for Childhood Obesity.

Amy Rosenfeld, MS, RD, CDN at Northern Westchester Hospital. Ms. Rosenfeld holds a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and completed her clinical training at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.