The next time you go grocery shopping, head over to the dairy aisle and pick up some yogurt.
Yogurt is the perfect choice when you are hungry and want something healthful, says Angel Planells a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist and national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
“It is a very wholesome snack that will make you feel satisfied,” he says.
Among other things, yogurt is rich in:
- Key vitamins and minerals
- Probiotics, which boost the health of your gut
“There are a lot of great things about yogurt in general,” Planells says, adding that it is a “nice, easily consumable package that has a really high bang for the buck.”
Health benefits of yogurt
Science has confirmed the many benefits of eating yogurt.
One recent study published in the American Journal of Hypertension reported that men and women with high blood pressure who consumed more than two weekly servings of yogurt had a 20 percent lower risk of major coronary heart disease and stroke.
Planells is not surprised. He compares eating yogurt to consuming healthy basics such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Having yogurt a couple of times a week, these people will clearly have a better cardiovascular profile than most,” he says.
Yogurt also boosts your health in other ways. Studies have shown that it helps people lose weight and maintain that loss.
The food is rich in vitamins such as B12 and riboflavin, which protect the heart. It also contains minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and potassium, which all help keep blood pressure in check.
The calcium content of yogurt helps build strong bones and ward off osteoporosis.
Yogurt also is fortified with other key nutrients, such as vitamin D, which strengthens bones and teeth, and your immune system.
Choosing the right yogurt
Planells urges you purchase plain yogurt and to avoid flavored varieties.
“Get the plain yogurt and add fruit to it,” he says. “If we do that, what we’ve done is eliminated the added sugar from the yogurt. You’re going to get the sugar from the fruit, but you’re getting it in a more wholesome variety.”
Strawberries, raspberries or orange pieces are good choices of fruits to add. You can also mix cheese, nuts and other healthful foods into your plain yogurt to “complement the yogurt and give it a more natural taste,” Planells says.
Also, Planells recommends skipping low-fat yogurt unless you have cholesterol issues. People who eat low-fat yogurt often feel hungry quickly after and end up supplementing their yogurt with less healthful choices, such as chips.
“I’d be more inclined to recommend the whole-fat dairy,” he says. “You will feel more full.”
Greek yogurt is a great choice, he says. Although it has a higher caloric content than other types of yogurt, it is also more likely to leave you satisfied.
“We end up getting a nice, thick yogurt that’s much higher in protein,” he says. “It definitely delays feelings of hunger much more than a regular yogurt.”
Finally, choose a yogurt with probiotics. Planells recommends looking for yogurt labeled as having “active cultures.”
“Look for the right bacteria in the yogurt,” he says. “A lot of yogurts have the probiotics, but you want to make sure you are getting a variety.”
Planells acknowledges that some people are reluctant to try yogurt. In particular, many men view yogurt as “feminine.”
“I’m working with a lot of men and they’re like, ‘I don’t wanna eat that,’” he says.
But Planells says more athletes – both male and female – are wising up to the benefits of yogurt. And nonathletes should consider yogurt, too.
“It’s not like yogurt is the magical pill or utopia, but it’s more like looking at our overall health pattern,” he says. “This is a great way for people to feel better, to have something nutritious.”