The Sweet and Convenient Health Food

A wonderful, natural health food packed full of calcium and protein that can be low in carbohydrates.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

You might have noticed that the yogurt section at the grocery store has expanded. There are so many different varieties you may feel confused by all your choices. Don't let this scare you away – you should not skip this section in the grocery store. Yogurt is a wonderful, natural, health food packed full of calcium and protein, and it can be low in carbohydrates along with providing probiotics (more on this later). All that, together with the fact that this sweet treat is packaged in a portable container great for grabbing when you're in a rush – makes yogurt one of my most frequently recommended foods.

Calcium is an important mineral which helps to build strong muscles, teeth and reduce the risk of the bone disease osteoporosis. Most Americans are not consuming enough calcium-containing milk products every day. It's recommended that adults and children consume 3-4 dairy servings per day or 1000-1300 milligrams of calcium per day (amount varies based on age, check at:
. A serving size of dairy equals 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk, 1 cup of yogurt or 1 to 1.5 ounces of cheese.

Yogurt can help you reach your calcium goal, but beware, not all yogurt is created equal. Most yogurts have added sugar, which increases the carbohydrate content greatly. Some contain more than 35 grams carbohydrate per 6-ounce serving. Light yogurts are sweetened with artificial sweeteners and have lower carbohydrate contents (usually around 15 grams carbohydrate per serving). Now some companies have come out with even lower-carbohydrate yogurt options, such as Dannon Light n' Fit, Carb and Sugar Control, which contains 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per serving. Plain yogurts are also lower in carbohydrates and can be eaten plain or sweetened with sugar-free jam, artificial sweeteners, or by adding fresh fruit. Greek yogurts have become a hot new product and are popping up in grocery stores everywhere, but the carb and fat content can vary in these yogurts too. Reading labels is very important when purchasing yogurt — try to find ones that are lower in carbohydrates. Check out the table that follows for carbohydrate and saturated fat contents of various yogurt brands.

Another great health benefit of yogurt is that it can contain active cultures of friendly bacteria, such as lactobacillus bulgaricus or bifidobacterium and often lactobacillus acidophilus is added to yogurt. This friendly bacteria, referred to as probiotics, is found in yogurt and cultured dairy drinks. Probiotics are all the buzz because they are associated with some possible health benefits, such as helping alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance, reducing the severity of diarrhea, protecting against infectious diseases, decreasing colon cancer risk, enhancing the immune system, and aiding constipation. These health claims need to be confirmed by well-controlled human studies, but yogurt is definitely a healthy choice for people with diabetes. Choose yogurt that contains live and active cultures; some yogurts carry a seal indicating this information.

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Last Modified Date: February 16, 2013

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