Is Yogurt a Health Food or Not?

Flip through health magazines and many wellness blogs and you’ll be advised to eat yogurt. It often comes up as one of the top food for women. Yogurt contains probiotics, calcium and protein which have been correlated with better gastrointestinal health, improved bone density and even weight loss. Yet read vegan blogs, including the magnetic Kris Carr, and dairy is the devil, contributing to mucus, bone loss and potentially cancer. So what’s the truth? Should we be eating it or sending it to Dante’s eighth circle of hell?

The Reputed Pros

Probiotics: Yogurt does contain probiotics, but if the yogurt is homogenized (almost all dairy in the US is), most of the beneficial bacteria are killed off by the heat treatment. For those that survive, the Darwinism in them need to make it past the stomach acid to take up residence in the large intestine. Even Mr Bourne is unlikely to survive heat and acid.

If the primary reason for eating yogurt is for its probiotic content, take a good quality five-strain probiotic instead. Select one that has been encapsulated to resist stomach acid.

Calcium: Yogurt does contain calcium, but calcium alone will not improve bone density. Vitamin D and magnesium are both essential for the utilization of calcium by the bone matrix. Yogurt contains scant amounts of both. In fact, when Walter Willet, M.D., Ph.D, from Harvard’s School of Public Health, gathered information from nearly 80,000 women, he found no evidence of reduced risk of hip fractures in women who consumed one to three servings of dairy daily.

If you’re worried about bone health, eat a kale salad with almonds;  it contains the ideal ratio of calcium to magnesium for optimal bone density.

Protein: A 4-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 12g of protein. This is equivalent to two eggs and roughly half a 4-ounce serving of fish. Yogurt comes up trumps on the protein front but it’s a bit of a taker; it gives nothing more.

Two eggs provide the same protein content but also choline for enhanced brain function, and conjugated linoleic acid for abdominal fat burning. I prefer the flat abs and smarter brain option.

The Reputed Cons

Mucus: Yogurt (and dairy) can be mucus-forming, particularly in individuals who have a sensitivity to dairy or are lactose intolerant. Approximately, 60% of the people I run food sensitivity tests on, have a dairy sensitivity, which means they are reacting to a protein molecule in milk. Take them off yogurt and milk and their chronic sinusitis and congestion (i.e mucus) goes away (as does their IBS, headaches and bloating).

Bone Loss: Dairy produces an acidic residue in the body when digested. If the acidity is not buffered with magnesium, calcium, potassium and other bicarbonates, it has the potential to strip these nutrients from the bone so that the blood pH remains consistent.

One container of yogurt on a daily basis is unlikely to cause bone loss, however, combine the yogurt with granola, cereal or fruit jam and you’ll magnify its acidic effect (sugar and grains are very acid-forming). Choose not to eat (or drink) your greens and you’ll exponentially increase the risk of bone catabolism as your green vegetables supply the buffering nutrient, magnesium.

If you must have yogurt (i.e. you’re at the airport and nothing else is available), avoid the yogurt parfait with granola and make sure your next meal contains green vegetables.

Cancer Forming: Dairy contains a hormone called, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), and it has been hypothesized that high levels of IGF-1 are linked to cancer cell proliferation. Dr. Colin Campbell, Ph.D, in the China Study, eloquently demonstrates this connection. However, he also attests that a small amount of dairy does not show a cancer correlation.

So fear not, dipping your turmeric cauliflower in a yogurt sauce is unlikely to result in cancer promotion.

The bottom line: Eating organic yogurt once per week won’t induce adverse health reactions, unless you have a dairy sensitivity or are lactose intolerant. Skip the daily consumption or better still skip it altogether.  There are far superior food choices that provide more nutritional punch. While yogurt is a convenient snack, so too is an apple, and where there’s a yogurt for sale, there’s an apple.