Yogurt has a lot going for it. Chock full of probiotics, yogurt is a storehouse of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc, iodine and B vitamins. It's also a rich source of protein. Yogurt’s live cultures, or “good bacteria,” which turn milk into lactic acid, supply most of this food's health benefits. Used for centuries by some of the longest-living cultures, yogurt benefits a number of the body's systems, both inside and out. From stomach to skin problems, these nine uses of yogurt might make you think twice about that little blob on the end of your spoon.
1. Promotes Good Digestion
Because probiotics help keep the balance of bacteria in our gut, they have the ability to keep the digestive track in order and calm issues such as diarrhea, gas, cramps and even irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics are especially useful at treating stomach conditions caused by antibiotics, which kill off all bacteria, good and bad.
2. Boosts Immune Function
Studies have shown that eating yogurt with probiotics can increase the amount of T lymphocytes, the white blood cells responsible for fighting off infections, by about 30 percent—effectively giving your immune system a hand.
3. Lowers Cholesterol
Certain strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, have been shown to help lower levels of bad, or LDL (low-density lipoprotein), cholesterol.
4. Aids Weight Loss
A study last year found that consuming dairy products with the probiotic Lactobacillus gasseri, such as yogurt, can help reduce abdominal fat and promote weight loss. Additionally, yogurt contains calcium, and calcium-rich foods have been shown to help burn fat.
5. Builds Strong Bones
Apart from its rich stores of calcium, yogurt contains lactoferrin, an iron-binding protein that stimulates growth of cells that build bones and reduces or prevents the onset of osteoporosis.
6. Builds Lactose Tolerance
Yogurt may be a dairy product, but it’s easier on lactose-intolerant individuals. It seems that the good bacteria in yogurt can even help build a lactose tolerance.
7. Treats Yeast Infections
The probiotics in yogurt are helpful at restoring balance to all types of bacterial upsets in the body, including yeast infections. Eating yogurt daily can decrease the chance of contracting a yeast infection threefold. Studies have also shown vaginal suppositories of yogurt to be helpful in treating yeast infections.
8. Soothes Sunburns
The lactic acid in yogurt acts as a natural alph-hydroxy, which can smooth rough skin and also help even out discoloration from too much sun exposure. Applying a cool paste of yogurt to your face will also feel refreshing! Leave the yogurt mask on your face for 15 minutes then rinse with tepid water.
9. Freshens Breath
Among its other health benefits, yogurt can reduce the levels of hydrogen sulfide in the mouth and bacteria on the tongue that contribute to bad breath. Yogurt may also reduce plaque buildup and prevent cavities and gingivitis—but only if the yogurt is sugar-free!
Yogurt is easy to make at home. For instructions on how to make your own yogurt at home, read this excerpt from Ashley English’s book “Home Dairy.”
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.