The World's Healthiest Foods
Yogurt, low-fat, cow's milk

Not only is yogurt a wonderful quick, easy and nutritious snack that is available year-round, but researchers are finding evidence that milk and yogurt may actually add years to your life as is found in some countries where yogurt is a dietary staple.

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk, which causes the transformation of the milk's sugar, lactose, into lactic acid. This process gives yogurt its refreshingly tart flavor and unique pudding-like texture, a quality that is reflected in its original Turkish name, Yoghurmak, which means "to thicken".

 


Health Benefits

Our food ranking system qualified yogurt as a very good source of calcium, phosphorous, riboflavin-vitamin B2 and iodine.. Yogurt also emerged from our analysis as a good source of vitamin B12, pantothenic acid-vitamin B5, zinc, potassium, protein and molybdenum. These 10 nutrients alone would make yogurt a health-supportive food. But some of the most interesting health information about yogurt comes from a different context - its potential inclusion of live bacteria.

Yogurt for A Longer Life

The highest quality yogurt in your grocery store contains live bacteria that provides a host of health benefits. Yogurt that contains live bacterial cultures may help you to live longer, and may fortify your immune system. Research studies have shown that increased yogurt consumption, particularly in immunocompromised populations such as the elderly, may enhance the immune response, which would in turn increase resistance to immune-related diseases.

One research study tracked a population of 162 very elderly people for five years. Those who ate yogurt and milk more than three times per week were 38% less likely to die compared to those who ate those foods less than once a week.

Consuming citrus fruit twice a week and a lowered consumption of meat were also associated with a lowered risk of dying. Eating yogurt may help to prevent vaginal yeast infections. In one study, women who had frequent yeast infections ate 8 ounces of yogurt daily for 6 months. Researchers reported that a threefold decrease in infections was seen in these women.

Lower Body Fat Linked to Consumption of Calcium-Rich Foods

A prospective study published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association gives parents yet another reason to regularly include low-fat dairy products such as yogurt in their children’s healthy way of eating, given the rate at which childhood obesity is rising in the West: consumption of calcium-rich foods was found to be negatively correlated with body fat.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., with the number of overweight children more than doubling in the last three decades, and the International Obesity Task Force recently reported that in the UK, childhood obesity is already three times higher than it was just over 10 years ago.

In this prospective longitudinal study, researchers at the University of Tennessee assessed the height, weight and dietary intake of 52 children (27 girls and 25 boys), starting when the children were 2 months of age and following them for 8 years. Dietary calcium and polyunsaturated fat intake were negatively related to per cent of body fat, while total dietary fat or saturated fat intake and amount of sedentary activity (hours/day) were positively correlated.

Earlier studies have also reported a negative association between calcium intake and body fat accumulation during childhood and between calcium intake and body weight at midlife. Each 300 mg increment in regular calcium intake has been consistently associated with approximately 1 kg less body fat in children and 2.5-3.0 kg lower body weight in adults. Taken together these data suggest that increasing calcium intake by the equivalent of two dairy servings per day could reduce the risk of overweight substantially, perhaps by as much as 70 percent. The current study’s lead author, Dr. Jean Skinner, advised that children should be encouraged to regularly eat calcium-rich foods, such as low fat milk and yoghurt and to increase physical activity. In addition, Dr. Skinner recommended that carbonated soft drinks and other nutrient-poor beverages be restricted since children’s intake of carbonated beverages and other sweetened drinks was found to be negatively related to their calcium intake.(January 29, 2004)

Another study published in the April 2004 issue of Obesity Research suggests that calcium's weight loss benefits extend to adults as well. If you're tyring to lose weight, especially around the midsection, eating more calcium-rich foods, especially low fat dairy foods such as cow's milk, yogurt and kefir, may really help.

In this study, 41 obese subjects, 32 of whom completed the study, were divided into three groups and put on diets designed to result in the loss of one pound per week for 24 weeks. All diets contained the same number of calories and were designed to provide subjects with a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day.

The first group received a low (430 mg/day) calcium diet. The second group got the same diet with enough supplemental calcium to bring their daily intake up to 1200 mg. And the third group ate a diet with enough dairy foods to provide about 1100 mg calcium each day. At the conclusion of the study, the low calcium group had lost almost 15 pounds, the high calcium group 19 pounds, and the high dairy foods group 24 pounds. Plus, fat lost from the midsection represented an average of 19% of total fat loss in those on the low calcium diet, 50% of the fat lost in those on the high calcium diet, and 66% of the fat lost in those getting their calcium from dairy foods. (June 30, 2004)

Boost the Body's Ability to Build Bone

It's not just its calcium that makes yogurt a bone-friendly food, cow's milk and fermented milk products such as yogurt also contain lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein that boosts the growth and activity of osteoblasts (the cells that build bone).

Not only does lactoferrin increase osteoblast differentiation, it also reduces the rate at which these cells die by up to 50-70%, and decreases the formation of osteoclasts (the cells responsible for breaking down bone) thus helping to prevent or reverse osteoporosis. In addition, lactoferrin also increases the proliferation of chrondocytes, the cells that build cartilage. For building bone, enjoying both milk and yogurt seems a good idea since lactoferrin's effects were found to be dose-dependent, stimulating an up to a 5-fold increase in osteoblasts at higher doses. (December 17, 2004)

Help Prevent and Heal Arthritis

Lactobacillus, a pro-biotic (friendly) bacteria found in yogurt offers "remarkable preventive and curative" effects on arthritis, say Israeli researchers in a study published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Because lactobacillus has already demonstrated beneficial effects in other inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disorders, researchers thought it might also lessen the inflammation of arthritis. To find out, they ran two groups of animal experiments.

In one set of experiments, starting one week before or after rats were exposed to agents that would induce arthritis, the animals were fed either heat-killed lactobacillus, live lactobacillus, sterilized milk, plain yogurt, or yogurt containing large amounts of lactobacilli. In the second group of experiments, the same feeding options were used, but none were started until after arthritis was clinically evident.

In both sets of experiments, rats fed the yogurt with large amounts of lactobacilli had the least amount of arthritic inflammation, while those fed plain yogurt experienced only moderate inflammation. The rats that received just lactobacillus, even heat-killed lactobacillus, also showed significant benefit. Milk, however, had no effect. So impressed were the researchers with the study's results that they recommended trials using commercial yogurts containing lactobacilli in arthritic patients. (October 11, 2004)

Protection against Ulcers

Helicobater pylori the bacterium responsible for most ulcers, can be shut down by yogurt, suggests a study published in the September 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this study, for six weeks, 48 adult volunteers infected with H.pylori ate yogurt containing the probiotic bacteria Lactobaciullus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis twice daily after a meal, while 11 others received a milk placebo. After eight weeks, subjects were given the C-urea breath test, which measures the amount of urease, an enzyme used by H.pylori to allow it to penetrate and infect the stomach lining. In those receiving the yogurt containing probiotics, H.pylori activity was effectively suppressed. (October 18, 2004)

Be careful when selecting yogurt and choose yogurts that contain live cultures - highest quality prodcts will often indicate exactly how many live bacteria are contained in the product. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermopholis are the lactic acid bacteria usually used to make yogurt in the United States.

Description

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk, which causes the transformation of the milk's sugar, lactose, into lactic acid. This process gives yogurt its refreshingly tart flavor and unique pudding-like texture, a quality that is reflected in its original Turkish name, Yoghurmak, which means "to thicken". The lactic acid bacteria that are traditionally used to make yogurt - Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus- also confer on yogurt many of its health benefits.

Yogurt is available in a variety of different flavors, although plain yogurt is the simplest, most wholesome and versatile. Certain varieties of yogurts also feature a fruit mixture strewn throughout.

History

While it is unclear when and where yogurt was developed, fermented dairy products were probably consumed for thousands and thousands of years, ever since the beginning of the domestication of cows. One of the first records of yogurt consumption comes from the Middle East during the times of the Conqueror Genghis Khan in the 13th century, whose armies were sustained by this healthful food. Yogurt and other fermented dairy products have long been a staple in the diets of cultures of the Middle East, Asia, Russia and Eastern European countries, such as Bulgaria. Yet, the recognition of yogurt's special health benefits did not become apparent in western Europe and North America until the 20th century, as a result of research done by Dr. Elie Metchnikoff. Dr. Metchnikoff conducted research on the health benefits of lactic acid-producing bacteria and postulated that the longevity of peoples of certain cultures, such as the Bulgarians, was related to their high consumption of yogurt and fermented dairy products.

Today, yogurt plays an important role in many different world cuisines including Turkey, Greece, India, countries of the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia.

How to Select and Store

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Toss cubes of cooked eggplant with plain yogurt, chopped mint leaves, garlic and cayenne.

Add chopped cucumber and dill weed to plain yogurt. Eat this delicious and cooling salad as is or use as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or lamb.

Yogurt parfaits are a visual as well as delicious treat. In a large wine glass, alternate layers of yogurt and your favorite fruits.

Yogurt is a great base for salad dressings. Simply place plain yogurt in the blender with enough water to achieve your desired consistency. Add to this your favorite herbs and spices.

Mix cold cereal or granola with yogurt for a twist on the traditional cereal and milk breakfast.

Safety

Cows may be treated with a compound called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Canada has banned the use of this hormone in cows, based on research from Canadian scientists. Their report on rBGH noted that cows injected with the growth hormone reportedly have a 25 percent increase in risk of mastitis, an 18 percent increase in the risk of infertility, and a 50 percent increase in the risk of lameness. Another independent Canadian scientific committee found there was no direct risk to human health. Several U.S. groups have opposed the use of the hormone. One concern is that cows with mastitis are treated with antibiotics. The best way to ensure that you buy milk that has not been treated with rBGH is to buy organic dairy products.

Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others. Common symptoms associated with an allergic reaction to food include: chronic gastrointestinal disturbances; frequent infections, e.g., ear infections, bladder infections, bed-wetting; asthma, sinusitis; eczema, skin rash, acne, hives; bursitis, joint pain; fatigue, headache, migraine; hyperactivity, depression, insomnia.

Individuals who suspect food allergy to be an underlying factor in their health problems may want to avoid commonly allergenic foods. Cow's milk and products such as yogurt that are made from it are among foods most commonly associated with allergic reactions. Other foods commonly associated with allergic reactions include: beef, wheat, eggs, soybeans, oranges, corn, pork, chicken, peanuts, yeast, strawberry, tomato, and spinach. These foods do not need to be eaten in their pure, isolated form in order to trigger an adverse reaction. For example, even though the cow's milk has been processed and fermented in order to make yogurt, it is still a common allergenic food. Ice cream made from cow’s milk would be another good example.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the website, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on our Food and Recipe Rating System, please click here.

 

Yogurt, Cow Milk, Low Fat
1.00 cup
155.05 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
iodine 87.22 mcg 58.1 6.8 very good
calcium 447.37 mg 44.7 5.2 very good
phosphorus 351.58 mg 35.2 4.1 very good
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.52 mg 30.6 3.6 very good
protein 12.86 g 25.7 3.0 good
vitamin B12 (cobalamin) 1.38 mcg 23.0 2.7 good
tryptophan 0.06 g 18.8 2.2 good
potassium 572.81 mg 16.4 1.9 good
molybdenum 11.27 mcg 15.0 1.7 good
zinc 2.18 mg 14.5 1.7 good
vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) 1.45 mg 14.5 1.7 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

References

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  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
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  • Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML. Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HN019. Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Dec 74;74(6):833-9.
  • Heaney RP, Davies KM, Barger-Lux MJ. Calcium and weight: clinical studies. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Apr; 21(2): 152S-155S. .
  • Hilton E, Isenberg HD, Alperstein P, et al. Ingestion of yogurt containing Lactobacillus acidophilus as prophylaxis for candidal vaginitis. Ann Intern Med 1992 Mar 1;116(5):353-7.
  • Meydani SN, Ha WK. Immunologic effects of yogurt. Am J Clin Nutr 2000 Apr;71(4):861-72.
  • Skinner JD, Bounds W, Carruth BR, Ziegler P. Longitudinal calcium intake is negatively related to children's body fat indexes. . J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Dec;103(12):1626-31.
  • Wang K, Li S, Liu C, Perug D, Su Y, Wu D, Jan C, Lai C, Wang T, Wang W. Effect of ingesting Lactobacillus- and Bifidobacterium-containing yogurt in subjects with colonized Helicobacter pylori. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Sep;80(3):737-41.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.
  • Zemel MB, Thompson W, Milstead A, Morris K, Campbell P. Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obes Res. 2004 Apr;12(4):582-90.

© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation