Say Yes to Yogurt: the Benefits of Biotics

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.

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The Yogurt Advantage

You could take pre and probiotics in pill form, but why would you want to? Food's a lot more fun, and nutrients naturally present in food often behave synergistically. In other words, the presence of one nutrient tends to enhance the utilization of another.

Yogurt, in particular, contains a rich assortment of critical nutrients essential for health, such as protein, vitamins and bone-building calcium. The calcium in dairy products is especially well absorbed, and for individuals who are lactose intolerant or who can't tolerate milk sugar, yogurt is easier to digest because it contains less lactose than milk. (7,8)

Thanks to savvy soft drink marketing, milk takes a backseat in many children's diets, and unfortunately, their bone health suffers as a result. Women typically fall short on calcium requirements too (8), so adding delicious yogurt to your family's diet can boost everyone's bone strength and overall well-being.

So Many Brands, So Little Time

If the dizzying array of yogurt choices at the grocery store leaves you in a quandary, let me help remove some confusion:

1. Choose organic first and foremost. Dietary intake is the major source of pesticide exposure for children. By feeding our loved ones organic food, we'll automatically decrease their exposure and health risks related to harmful pesticides. (9) Plus, organic dairy products come from cows that have never been given antibiotics, genetically modified feed, nor injected with hormones. The cows are healthier, and our environment and children are protected.

2. Read the ingredient label. Look for products that contain both pre and probiotics. When prebiotics are added to foods, you'll see the following terms on the ingredient label: fructooligosacchariedes (FOS), inulin (a type of FOS) or galactooligosaccharides (GOS.)(3,4) The probiotics used are primarily species of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus thermophilus.

3. Look for yogurt with live, active cultures. In the U.S., yogurt is required to be produced by fermentation with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, two starter cultures. As long as the yogurt is not heat treated after fermentation, the yogurt should contain high numbers of both of these bacteria. (10)

4. Check the "Nutrition Facts" panel. Look for yogurt with the least amount of added sugar, at least 6 grams of protein per serving, and at least 20% of the Daily Value for calcium.

Think about yogurt with pre- and probiotics as preventive medicine that tastes great. Be creative and invite your kids into the kitchen to create new recipes. Use pourable yogurt in smoothies, as a topping for fruit salad and cereal, or as a post-sport refueling refreshment. Finally, here are some bacteria we can celebrate!

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Berry Synergist

This just in: We know that berries are a rich source of powerful antioxidants. But new research from the Lund University in Sweden shows that the fiber in blueberries can also help protect against intestinal inflammation. What's more, the protective effects of blueberries were even greater when they were eaten together with probiotics. (12) Tasty news for people who like to pour yogurt over their berries!

Beyond the Plate
basic nutrition Melinda Hemmelgarn on nutrition.
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