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What if your favorite breakfast staple could help you fend off type 2 diabetes? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent announcement about yogurt might make you look at your morning routine in a whole new light. The FDA announced the first-ever qualified health claim for yogurt, linking its regular consumption to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

The announcement follows a petition from Danone North America, which provided evidence suggesting yogurt consumption is linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, independent of its fat or sugar content. The FDA found some credible, but limited evidence supporting this claim. The administration specified that consuming at least 2 cups (3 servings) of yogurt per week is the minimum amount required for the health claim.

This conclusion comes after nearly five years of review and analysis of data from over 600,000 consumers. The FDA’s findings suggest that incorporating yogurt into the typical American diet could benefit public health. The FDA’s decision is based on multiple prospective observational cohort studies showing that regular yogurt consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The qualified health claim applies to all dairy yogurts that meet the FDA’s standards of identity and nutrient requirements for foods bearing health claims. The FDA did not limit the claim to low-sugar yogurts, noting that the evidence supports yogurt’s benefits regardless of fat or sugar content. However, careful consideration of added sugars is encouraged, given their high consumption levels in the American diet.

This announcement provides actionable information to help your consumers, patients and clients lower their risk of type 2 diabetes through the simple dietary inclusion of yogurt. Yogurt is a versatile and nutritious food that can be easily incorporated into daily meals, such as with fruit, in smoothies, dips and dressings.

Understanding the scientific evidence supporting yogurt’s role in reducing the risk of this prevalent chronic condition allows health and wellness professionals to provide evidence-based recommendations to their clients. By incorporating yogurt into dietary plans, dietitians can offer a simple yet effective strategy for promoting health and wellness. Additionally, being knowledgeable about the various types of yogurt, their nutritional profiles and potential health benefits empowers dietitians to guide consumers towards making informed choices that align with their health goals.

Elements and benefits of yogurt

Yogurt is a dairy product made by fermenting milk with bacterial cultures. It is rich in protein and calcium and may promote healthy probiotic gut bacteria, according to Medical News Today. The health benefits of yogurt, which can include protecting against osteoporosis, relieving irritable bowel disease and aiding digestion, vary depending on the type consumed.

Yogurt is like milk’s cooler, more digestible cousin. Yogurt starts with fresh milk or cream, which is usually pasteurized, then fermented with live bacteria cultures and incubated to promote bacterial growth. This fermentation process converts lactose, the natural sugar in milk, into lactic acid, giving yogurt its distinctive flavor. It also contains less lactose than milk, making it more tolerable for those with lactose intolerance. Yogurt can promote bone health and aid digestion. It often contains active probiotics, which benefit intestinal health. Yogurts are also typically rich in calcium, vitamins B6 and B12, riboflavin, potassium and magnesium. The exact amounts vary by type.

Besides type 2 diabetes prevention, yogurts can be high in protein, calcium and vitamins and contain live cultures (probiotics) which enhance gut microbiota. These nutrients help protect bones and teeth. Probiotics in yogurt can prevent digestive problems and boost the immune system. Low-fat yogurt is a good source of protein for those on a weight-loss diet. Some research suggests probiotics may impact brain functioning, though more studies are needed to confirm this. Probiotic yogurt may protect children and pregnant women from toxic metal exposure. Yogurt is additionally a nutritious option for people who have difficulty chewing their food.

Dairy products, including yogurt, are among the best dietary sources of calcium due to their high bioavailability. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth, blood clotting, wound healing and maintaining normal blood pressure. For optimal absorption, calcium-rich foods should be paired with vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption in the small intestine.

Other nutrients in yogurt include vitamins B6 and B12, which are important for brain function and the formation of red blood cells. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) helps convert food into energy and supports cellular function. Potassium is essential for heart function and muscle contraction. Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including energy production and muscle and nerve function.

Types of yogurt

Not all yogurts are created equal. Some are like the health-conscious gym rat, while others are more like the couch potato with a sweet tooth. Some yogurts have added probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help regulate the digestive system and alleviate issues such as gas, diarrhea, constipation and bloating. The National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures seal helps consumers identify products with live and active cultures. Fresher yogurts typically contain more live bacteria. These healthy bacteria benefit the gut by regulating digestion and reducing gastrointestinal discomfort. They may also boost the immune system, assist with weight management and lower the risk of cancer. Probiotics can enhance the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. The primary bacteria used to ferment milk into yogurt are Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophiles (S. thermophiles).

However, yogurt products that undergo heat treatment lose their active bacteria, which diminishes their health benefits. Examples include yogurt-covered raisins. Many manufacturers also add sugar, artificial sweeteners and other non-beneficial ingredients. Consumers should be aware that all yogurts contain natural sugars. It’s advisable to choose products with less than 15 grams of sugar per serving and to avoid those with artificial sweeteners. Some studies challenge the link between yogurt consumption and health benefits, leading authorities to scrutinize health claims made for commercial purposes. Despite the debate, consumers who eat yogurt tend to have healthier overall diets. But for yogurt to be a truly healthful choice, it’s important to select products with minimal added sugars and no artificial sweeteners. The various types of yogurt each have different nutritional profiles and benefits:

  • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt: made with 2% milk or skim milk.
  • Kefir: a drinkable yogurt containing probiotics.
  • Greek yogurt: thick and creamy, higher in protein but lower in calcium due to extra straining.
  • Skyr: Icelandic yogurt similar to Greek yogurt, high in protein.
  • Frozen yogurt: often comparable to ice cream in sugar content; may lack live cultures.
  • Non-dairy yogurt: made from soy or coconut milk, suitable for those avoiding dairy.

Diet incorporation

To incorporate yogurt healthfully into clients’ diets:

  • Have them choose plain, unsweetened yogurt and add their own fruit or natural sweeteners.
  • Use yogurt as a substitute for butter or oil in baking.
  • Replace sour cream with Greek yogurt in recipes.

There’s plenty of nutritious recipes that include yogurt, such as these 38 recipes from Taste of Home, including yogurt ricotta cheesecake, yogurt pancakes, cool summertime oatmeal and cauliflower tikka masala. There’s also these healthy yogurt recipes from Eating Well including cucumber yogurt salad, berry kefir smoothie and red lentil fritters with ginger yogurt sauce.

In light of the FDA’s decision to endorse yogurt’s potential in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes through its first-ever qualified health claim, it’s evident that yogurt holds a significant place in dietary recommendations. This milestone underscores the importance of informed dietary choices and highlights yogurt’s versatility and accessibility as a beneficial component of a balanced diet. As health and wellness professionals embrace this newfound understanding, it’s an option for consumers to incorporate yogurt strategically into their daily routines, opting for options low in added sugars and rich in probiotics. By harnessing the power of yogurt as a preventive measure against a prevalent chronic condition, dietitians not only promote individual well-being, but also contribute to broader efforts in public health awareness and disease prevention. So let’s embrace this probiotic dairy product’s potential to transform your clients’ breakfast routines into proactive steps toward better health.

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