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It's alive! Yogurt's health secret is live bacterial cultures.

It's fun to tell people about the billions of bacteria living it up in their yogurt cup. Without bacteria, the world as we know it would grind to a halt (nothing could biodegrade, for example), but it's still a bit unnerving un·nerve  
tr.v. un·nerved, un·nerv·ing, un·nerves
1. To deprive of fortitude, strength, or firmness of purpose.

2. To make nervous or upset.
 to think about countless microorganisms somersaulting in our intestines. The national mania for disinfecting everything makes it hard for some to accept the microscopic critters in our guts, where they do some of their best work. But there's no ignoring these beneficial bugs, and everyone from farm stands to strip mall retailers are advertising how many types of bacteria their yogurts contain for good reason. Recent scientific studies have shown that the bacteria in yogurt is key to its value as a health food.

The Healthy Snack

Of course, bacteria isn't the only thing that makes yogurt a great snack or breakfast choice. "Cow's milk yogurt is packed with calcium, protein and Vitamin D vitamin D

Any of a group of fat-soluble alcohols important in calcium metabolism in animals to form strong bones and teeth and prevent rickets and osteoporosis. It is formed by ultraviolet radiation (sunlight) of sterols (see steroid) present in the skin.
," says Althea Zincowski, a registered dietitian registered dietitian,
n See dietitian, registered.
 and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association The American Dietetic Association (ADA) is the United States' largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, with nearly 65,000 members. Approximately 75 % of ADA's members are registered dietitians and about 4 % are dietetic technicians, registered. . People who are allergic to milk products, or very lactose intolerant, can try a non-milk soy-based yogurt. Most, but not all of the lactose (natural milk sugar) in yogurt is digested by beneficial bacteria, so the majority of lactose-intolerant people can eat yogurt unless they are very sensitive. For a more exotic flavor or animal alternative to cow's milk, there are also goat's milk and sheep's milk yogurts.

"Yogurt contains probiotics Probiotics
Bacteria that are beneficial to a person's health, either through protecting the body against pathogenic bacteria or assisting in recovery from an illness.

Mentioned in: Colonic Irrigation, Dysentery, Gastroenteritis
, the good bacteria that keep the intestinal tract healthy," says Cynthia Stadd, a New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
 City-based integrative nutrition and holistic health holistic health,
n a concept in which concern for health requires a perspective of the individual as an integrated system rather than as a collection of parts and functions.
 specialist. "They work by balancing the yeast levels in your gut, and they fight the bad bacteria, meaning less bloating bloating Vox populi A lay term for post-prandial abdominal fullness or swelling  and gas, and more regular digestion." These good bacteria have also been proven to shorten the course of infectious diarrhea in children, lessen antibiotic-associated diarrhea antibiotic-associated diarrhea Antibiotic-associated colits, gastroenteritis Diarrhea caused by Clostridium difficile, most often seen in a Pt taking antibiotics; many persons infected with C difficile are asymptomatic; in others, a C difficile , and may help "maintain remission of ulcerative colitis ulcerative colitis

Inflammation of the colon, especially of its mucous membranes. The inflamed membranes develop patches of tiny ulcers, and the diarrhea contains blood and mucus.
 and prevent a relapse of Crohn's disease," according to the Harvard Women's Health Watch newsletter. Some natural health practitioners also support the idea that good bacteria can increase general immunity, help treat acne and stomach ulcers and keep women's vaginal and urinary tracts healthy, though studies are not yet conclusive.

Label Watch

The beneficial bacteria (at least two types, and sometimes four or more) are listed on the label. Better-quality yogurts generally contain more varieties of bacteria (and tend to cost more). Stonyfield Farms, the leader in the organic yogurt market, lists six different live and active cultures, and Horizon Organic, five. Stadd explains, "More bacteria is better," partially because different bacteria do different jobs. L. reuteri bacteria specifically targets E.coli and Salmonella bacterias by inhibiting their growth in the gut. A November 2005 study in Environmental Health showed that adults who regularly ingested L. reuteri reported a reduced number of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.

The ingredient list on the yogurt container offers a wealth of information beyond its bacterial content. "A big issue with yogurts is that some are full of sugar," says Stadd. "People think they're eating something healthy but they're not. Get plain yogurt and add fresh fruit or a natural sweetener Sweetener

A special feature added to a debt obligation or preferred stock to promote marketability.

Warrants and convertibles are two popular sweeteners.
See also: Convertible Bond, Kicker, Warrant

 like agave or maple syrup." Steer clear of 'fruit' in fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts as well, which Zincowski explains is "just like eating jelly." It contains fruit, but it does not count toward the recommended daily servings of fiber.

The average American eats more than 150 pounds of refined sugar a year, mostly through processed and snack foods. Moderation is the key. "Eating a sweetened sweet·en  
v. sweet·ened, sweet·en·ing, sweet·ens
1. To make sweet or sweeter by adding sugar, honey, saccharin, or another sweet substance.

2. To make more pleasant or agreeable.
 yogurt is still a better choice than a candy bar. Your choices should depend on what else you've eaten that day," says Zincowski. Brown Cow yogurt is an exception; the company's Fruit and Whole Grain yogurts are sweetened with maple syrup or naturally milled sugar, and come with sunflower and flax seeds, quinoa quinoa (kēnwä`), tall annual herb (Chenopodium quinoa) of the family Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot family), whose seeds have provided a staple food for peoples of the higher Andes since pre-Columbian times. , rolled oats oats, cereal plants of the genus Avena of the family Gramineae (grass family). Most species are annuals of moist temperate regions. The early history of oats is obscure, but domestication is considered to be recent compared to that of the other  and barley on the bottom.

Beneficial Fats?

In the early 1990s, all fat was considered a health hazard, but recent studies have indicated that certain types belong in a healthy diet. Stadd recommends eating full-fat organic yogurts--but eating less of them, since flavor lost when fat is removed is often made up for in added sugars. "The fat is there for a reason, just eat it in moderation. It's always better to eat a whole food," says Stadd. Zincowski disagrees, advising consumers to "find the lowest fat that you will actually enjoy eating. If you're eating it plain, non-fat might not do it for you. If you're making smoothies or adding cereal to the yogurt, non-fat is a better choice."

Organic is an important consideration for people who enjoy fattier yogurts, since toxins are stored in the fat cells of mammals. To produce organic yogurt, cows are fed grass or organically grown grains, which cannot include animal byproducts. In addition, organic cows are not given prophylactic antibiotics, and are bovine growth hormone bovine growth hormone
A naturally occurring hormone of cattle that regulates growth and milk production. It may also be produced artificially by genetic engineering techniques and administered to cows to increase milk production.
 (rBGH)-free. Organic cows must also have access to outdoor areas.

Many small farmers (such as those who sell their wares at the local farm stand or specialty store) cannot afford the expensive certification process to enable them to sell their yogurt under the organic label, but they may be engaged in organic processes nonetheless. Most farmers are very open about what they do and do not do with their animals, so don't be afraid to ask.

Indie Yogurts

Goat's milk yogurt is more easily digestible digestible

having the quality of being able to be digested.

digestible energy
the proportion of the potential energy in a feed which is in fact digested.

digestible protein
see digestible protein.
 and has less cholesterol than cow's milk, and has a milder flavor than sheep's milk yogurt or goat cheese. Sheep's milk yogurt has a relatively strong flavor, but contains twice as much protein, 50 percent more calcium and half the amount of carbohydrates of cow's milk yogurt. But it's not an easy product to find. Farmer's markets are the best places to look, though online retailers, including Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, ship to homes.

Soy yogurts, like other soy products, have been gaining in popularity, and most of the major brands, such as Silk and Whole Soy, have added the same kinds of bacteria to their yogurts as their animal-milk counterparts. Amy Lanou, assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, recommends soy yogurts. "There is no difference in the quality of soy protein as compared to dairy," says Lanou. "Soy is every bit as good for promoting muscle growth, and soy yogurts are fortified fortified (fôrt´fīd),
adj containing additives more potent than the principal ingredient.
 so their nutritional profile is as good as animal-milk varieties."

Some doctors advise patients with breast cancer and other hormone-sensitive conditions to limit their soy intake (soy contains phytoestrogens Phytoestrogens
Compounds found in plants that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.

Mentioned in: Premenstrual Syndrome

phytoestrogens, plant-derived estrogen analogs.
, which can act like estrogen in the body), but others can aim for a balanced diet that includes soy yogurt. "You don't want to eat too many servings of any one type of food," Lanou cautions. "You should concentrate on eating a variety of foods." CONTACT: Brown Cow, (888) 429-5459,; Horizon Organic, (888)494-3020, www.horizonor; Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, (800) 743-3760,; Silk, (888) 820-9283,; Stonyfield Farm, (800) 776-2697,; Whole Soy, (877) 569-6376, www.whole

STARRE VARTAN, a regular contributor to E, reads yogurt labels.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Earth Action Network, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Eating Right
Author:Vartan, Starre
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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