Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by adding bacterial cultures to milk, which causes the transformation of the milk's sugar, lactose, into lactic acid. This process gives yogurt its refreshingly tart flavor and unique pudding-like texture, a quality that is reflected in its original Turkish name, Yoghurmak, which means "to thicken."

During the fermentation process, friendly bacteria both enrich and preserve the food. Lacto-fermentation neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and breaks down the glutens, sugars, and other elements that are otherwise difficult to digest. These friendly bacteria are beneficial for the digestion, increase the availability of vitamins, and promote the growth of healthy flora throughout the digestive tract.

Yogurt for A Longer Life

The highest quality yogurt in your grocery store contains live bacteria that provides a host of health benefits. Yogurt that contains live bacterial cultures may help you to live longer, and may fortify your immune system. Research studies have shown that increased yogurt consumption, particularly in immunocompromised populations such as the elderly, may enhance the immune response, which would in turn increase resistance to immune-related diseases.

One research study tracked a population of 162 very elderly people for five years. The incidence of death for those subjects who ate yogurt and milk more than three times per week was 38% lower than the incidence of death those subjects who ate yogurt and other dairy foods less than once a week. (Consuming citrus fruit twice a week and a lowered consumption of meat were also associated with decreased incidence of death).

Eating yogurt may help to prevent vaginal yeast infections. In one study, women who had frequent yeast infections ate 8 ounces of yogurt daily for 6 months. Researchers reported that a threefold decrease in infections was seen in these women.

Yogurt Boosts Immune Response

Lactobacillus casei, a strain of friendly bacteria found in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir, significantly improved the immune response and ability to fight off pneumonia in an animal study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

After their 21-day protein-free diet, laboratory animals were fed a balanced conventional diet with or without supplemental lactobacillus casei for 7, 14 or 21 days, then challenged with S. pneumoniae. In all groups of animals given lactobacillus casei, normalization of the immune response and recovery occurred much more quickly than in controls, who received only the balanced conventional diet. Controls took 21 days to regain a normal immune response, but test animals fed the friendly bacteria recovered normal immunity in just 7 days! In addition, malnourished mice receiving lactobacillus casei were able to more effectively clear the pneumonia pathogen from their blood and had significantly less lung damage than controls.

A human study has confirmed that a daily serving of probiotic-rich yogurt bolsters your body's ability to protect you from infection.

Daily consumption of yogurt— both conventional, commercially available yogurt and probiotic yogurt (yogurt containing health-promoting bacteria)—stimulated cellular immunity in a study involving 33 healthy women aged 22-29 years.

Cellular immunity-our immune system's first line of defense-involves special white cells (typically T cell lymphocytes and neutrophils), which serve as our body's primary means of protection against infection by viruses, yeasts, and parasites. In addition, cellular immunity is also critical in preventing the development of cancer.

In this study, (Meyer AL, Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism), the women were divided into two groups. For the first 2 weeks, they consumed either 3 ounces (100 g) each day of a conventional yogurt or 3 ounces daily of a yogurt containing added probiotics (health-promoting bacteria).

For the following 2 weeks, the women consumed 6 ounces (200 g) daily of either the conventional or the probiotic yogurt. This was followed by a 2 week washout period in which no yogurt or other fermented foods were consumed.

Study participants' white blood cells were checked both at the beginning of the study and after each phase. Results found a significant (30.8 to 32.7%) increase in the numbers of T lymphocytes among women consuming the probiotic yogurt, and a significant increase in the expression of CD69 on T lymphocytes among subjects consuming both probiotic and conventional yogurts. (CD69 is one of the first cell surface molecules expressed on lymphocytes after they are called into action. Once expressed, CD69 promotes the production and activation of more lymphocytes. So, the increase in CD69 indicates an increase in immune system defense capability.)

In addition, not only did the ability of immune cells to effectively kill pathogens increased following intake of the yogurt, but this effect persisted in the washout period after the women had stopped their daily yogurt consumption. These results suggest that enjoying a daily cup of yogurt—either conventional or probiotic—may boost immune function.

Yogurt Lowers LDL, Raises HDL Cholesterol

Daily consumption of 3 ounces (100 g) of probiotic yogurt (yogurt containing health-promoting bacteria) significantly improved the cholesterol profile, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol while raising HDL (good) cholesterol, in women volunteers.

In this study, (Fabian E, Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism), one group of 17 women consumed 3 ounces (100 g) a day of probiotic yogurt, while a second group of 16 women were given 3 ounces of conventional yogurt daily for 2 weeks. Then both groups were given 6 ounces (200 g) of the type of yogurt they had been consuming for 2 more weeks. The study ended with a final 2 weeks during which both groups of women ate no yogurt.

In the women consuming probiotic yogurt, not only did levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol decrease significantly, but their HDL (good) cholesterol substantially increased. Women consuming conventional yogurt also experienced a significant drop in LDL cholesterol, although their HDL did not rise.

The take-home message: adding a daily cup of yogurt-preferably a yogurt with probiotic bacteria-to your healthy way of eating is an easy and delicious way to improve your cholesterol profile.

More information on the health benefits of yogurt: http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?pfriendly=1&tname=foodspice&dbid=124

(Kay’s Note:  The SCD yogurt should be fermented over 24 hours to significantly increase the live healthy bacteria/probiotics which destroy the lactose (milk sugar) and make yogurt more digestible and beneficial for those of us who may not be able to tolerate it otherwise. Also important in making SCD yogurt is the introduction of the proper healthy bacteria. See “Making Yogurt and Other Fermented Foods”.)