What makes a health food healthy? Healthy bacteria may be the first thing you think of in the case of yogurt. The live active cultures in many yogurts may help keep your body fight off bad bacteria. They could also help you fend off certain infections and fight some cancers. But, there are other good things in yogurt besides good bacteria - things that make it good for your bones, your weight, and your heart.

Here's the scoop:
    ➢    Live Active Cultures
        -    Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are two you will often find in yogurts.
        -    Look for yogurts that say "made with active cultures".
        -    Don't buy "heat treated" yogurt. Heating yogurt kills all those healthy bacteria.
        -    Some frozen yogurts, yogurt covered pretzels, and salad dressings with yogurt don't have live cultures because they have been heated.
        -    Look for the National Yogurt Association's "Live & Active Cultures" seal of approval. You'll be certain to get a yogurt that has the good bacteria in it, in the right amount. The seal also assures you that the yogurt has not been heated.
        -    If your favorite yogurt does not have this seal, it does not mean that it does not have the active cultures. The seal is voluntary and gives you some extra assurance.
   ➢    Calcium
        -    Yogurt is a great source of calcium.
        -    Calcium is good for your bones. But high calcium dairy foods like yogurt can also help lower your blood pressure.
    ➢    Protein
        -    Yogurt is packed with protein, making a good snack because protein seems to stave off hunger.
    ➢    Potassium
        -    Yogurt and other dairy foods are good sources of potassium. Potassium can help you keep your blood pressure in check.
    ➢    Lactose Intolerant? Get Yogurt!
        -    If you can't digest the natural sugar in milk called lactose (lactose intolerance), you may find that you can handle yogurt much better. That's because the healthy bacteria in the yogurt help you digest the milk sugar!

So, yogurt can help you keep your bones strong, fight off infections, and keep your heart healthy by lowering your blood pressure. Some studies also show that dairy foods like yogurt can help you keep you control your weight and lower the fat around your waist. It looks like yogurt deserves its healthy reputation!

A good website is www.aboutyogurt.com (the official website of the National Yogurt Association).

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences