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Ginger Yogurt with Fruit

Yogurt has long been known to be a staple of a healthy diet. With so many nutrients, low fat and sugar and the important cultures, those who keep yogurt as a regular part of their diet are definitely doing themselves a favor.

New research reveals that those who eat yogurt are not only benefiting from the specific advantages of that food, but also tend to consume larger amounts of other healthy foods—lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and other important foods that can improve your health and fight disease. They also tended to be more likely to avoid processed foods, fatty foods and alcohol than their non-yogurt eating counterparts.

Although the study was partially funded by a yogurt manufacturer, there were ample peer reviews in Nutrition Research and other reputable sources that helped to validate the results. "Yogurt is a very good source of many shortfall nutrients – calcium, potassium, and magnesium – that Americans don't currently consume enough of," said study author Paul Jacques, Director of Nutrition Epidemiology at Tufts University.  "Yogurt is a good way to meet your dietary requirements for nutrients that you may not be currently eating." 

The study, based in Massachusetts, followed a large number of adults (more than 6500 participants) for nearly 50 years. Aiming to identify some of the common precursors and habits that can lead to heart disease and heart attacks, information was collected about the foods that were consumed each year, including types and quantities, and ranked on a 9-point scale ranging from “never” to “more than 6 servings per day.” The participants were all considered to be healthy and did not yet demonstrate any signs or symptoms of heart disease.

Research results indicated that more than 50% of the participants reported eating yogurt, at least 2-1/4 cups per week (about 5 servings). This generally accounted for somewhere between 1-6% of the daily caloric intake for these participants.

Not only did the participants show benefits from eating yogurt on a regular basis, such as higher levels of potassium and calcium, but they were showing fewer deficiencies in magnesium and vitamin B12, as well. These are nutrients that are commonly lacking in the diets of older adults who are at a higher risk for developing heart disease. The results were statistically significant for each of these factors.

In conclusion, researchers found that those consuming yogurt regularly showed higher nutrient levels for nearly every important nutrient measured, and had a much healthier diet overall than their non-yogurt-eating counterparts. Jacques said. "If people substitute yogurt for less healthy foods in the diet, it may help eliminate the inadequate intake of shortfall nutrients." This can not only help to prevent heart disease, but also osteoporosis, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems and even certain types of cancer.

Because so few Americans actually meet the recommended daily allowances for many important nutrients, it is thought that adding yogurt on a regular basis can help not only improve diet but also decrease the risk of serious health problems. Many Americans fail to get enough dairy products on a daily basis (recommended amounts are three servings of milk or other low fat dairy products daily). Because one serving of yogurt is generally the nutritional equivalent of one serving of milk or cheese product, it can help many Americans not only meet the recommended daily amount, but also benefit from the increased magnesium, calcium and potassium that yogurt provides.

Yogurt consumption in the United States continues to be lower than many European or Middle Eastern countries, but the introduction of Greek yogurt has helped more people add this healthy staple to their diet.