Is Yogurt Good for You?
Published on July 15, 2020
Last updated April 1, 2021
By Geraldine Campbell
Yogurt has a lot going for it. It’s high in protein, calcium, and magnesium, as well as probiotics that support digestive and immune health. In fact, some yogurts are up there with green tea in terms of health benefits. The key word here is “some.” Many brands contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and unnecessary additives that negate the benefits. So, is yogurt good for you? Read on to find out more.
The Health Benefits of Yogurt
The primary health benefits are due to probiotics, or the good bacteria your body needs to function properly. Eating yogurt is definitely a win for your gut microbiome — even in lactose-intolerant individuals — and, since a majority of your immune system is in your gut, it’s also a win for your immune system.
When you eat yogurt, the good bacteria in your gut thrives, which improve immune activity and strengthens your immune system. Conversely, when the good bacteria in your gut are out of whack, your immune system suffers. This can lead to the development of autoimmune disorders or autoimmune reactions like leaky gut.
Eating yogurt also reduces inflammation, and there is some evidence that it may improve brain function. A 2013 study revealed consumption affected the brain activity associated with “emotion and sensation.” 2018 research confirmed that “dairy products including yogurt” may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
Yogurt is a good source of healthy fat, which may play a role in heart health. Science has shown that the fat in yogurt can help prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, and increase “good” cholesterol. In a 2018 study, men with high blood pressure who ate yogurt twice a week had a significantly lower risk of heart disease.
And, in case you need another reason to keep some stashed in your fridge, it can do wonders for your skin. Lactic acid exfoliates and gets rid of dead skin cells, and a yogurt mask may improve the moisture of your skin. Overall, topical application has not been studied in many scientific articles, but the initial results are promising.
When Yogurt Isn’t Healthy
The number one reason yogurt isn’t healthy is because of the sugar content. In addition to natural sugars (lactose), many brands contain additional added sugars. This is especially true for flavored yogurts. As a rule, the more grams of sugar you add, the less healthy it is.
That’s because sugar feeds the harmful bacteria in your gut, effectively wiping out the benefits of the probiotics. Eat too much sugar and you’ll end up with a microbiome that’s out of balance, which may cause obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease (such as high blood pressure), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), cognitive decline, and cancer.
Artificial sweeteners aren’t much better. Sucralose is the most commonly used sweetener and can lead to gut dysbiosis, inflammation, and immune dysfunction. Saccharin is another common sugar substitute. Though it is considered “safe” by several organizations, animal studies show that saccharin renders the gut “microbiome unhealthy,” which means digestive and immune dysfunction. Aspartame may be the worst of the artificial sweeteners, associated with system-wide inflammation among a laundry list of other dangers. Fortunately, several yogurt manufacturers have stopped using aspartame as an artificial sweetener. Healthier alternative sweeteners include stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, or allulose.