Yogurt is quite possibly the perfect food. Not only is it a great source of calcium, but it also has many health benefits and happens to be one of my favorite snacks. Still, I get dizzy just looking at the dairy case. There are an overwhelming number of products―plain, flavored, creamy, fruity, fruit on the bottom, granola-topped, whole, low-fat, fat-free, light, reduced-calorie, sugar-free, drinkable, organic, and something called “probiotic.” How can you make a smart choice? I did some research, and this is what I learned.
Don’t Be Lured by Labels
Health and weight-loss claims are popping up everywhere on product labels, and yogurt is no exception. Consider these facts on your next grocery run.
What Are Probiotics?
The term is making headlines, but it’s actually nothing new. It simply refers to live bacteria that are beneficial to health. Probiotic bacteria naturally live in our digestive tracts to fight off pathogens, but they need to be replenished, particularly if you smoke, drink alcohol, eat poorly, or take antibiotics.
In order for yogurt to be called “yogurt,” two probiotic starter cultures must be added―Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, which are known to have a positive effect on digestion. No matter what you hear in TV ads, all yogurts contain some beneficial bacteria. Some brands, such as Horizon Organic and Stonyfield Farm, add three to four more cultures, which may help strengthen the natural defenses of our bodies. Dannon Activia, on the other hand, adds a culture that targets intestinal transit, potentially regulating the digestive system. Although some probiotics can be beneficial for certain health functions, results may vary among individuals. Cooking destroys live bacteria, but even when heated, yogurt still serves as a low-fat alternative for dips, spreads, and sauces.