Rich in calcium, protein, and B vitamins, low-fat yogurt is a fine way to feed your ticker. A 2011 study found that people who enjoyed a serving of yogurt every day were less likely than people in a control group to experience thickening in their carotid arteries.
Researchers elsewhere discovered a link between regular yogurt consumption and reduced levels of harmful LDL cholesterol. And one preliminary study found that yogurt lovers were 31 percent less likely than others to develop hypertension. Evidently, it's the snack to beat!
You might have heard that yogurt is an excellent source of probiotic bacteria, which support immunity and digestive health. Problem is, some brands of yogurt are treated with high heat to prolong their shelf life, a process that kills beneficial microbes.
Get your dose by avoiding containers that read "heat-treated after culturing," a disclosure required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And for extra insurance, choose a brand with the "Live & Active Cultures" seal, which means the brand has met independent testing requirements set by the National Yogurt Association.
Though plain yogurt doesn't taste sweet, it contains 6–12 g of sugar per serving, depending on consistency. Why? The hidden source is lactose, a form found naturally in milk. Lactose doesn't count toward your recommended sugar limit of about 25 g per day, but dessertlike toppings—such as fruit syrup, honey, and chocolate crunchies—do. Read the nutrition facts carefully and keep sugar grams as low as possible.
You don't have to eat yogurt straight to get the perks. Plain nonfat Greek-style yogurt can also take the place of button-busting ingredients in your favorite recipes. Try these three smart swaps:
Check the labels on Greek yogurt. Greek-style yogurt traditionally is made by straining out liquid whey, leaving behind a thick product that's packed with protein. But some brands achieve that texture with fillers like gelatin, cornstarch, or milk protein concentrate. Check the nutrition panel to see how much protein you're really getting.
Sources: Toby Smithson, R.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of the website Diabetes EveryDay; Tonia Reinhard, M.S., R.D., senior lecturer in Nutrition and Food Science, Wayne State University, Detroit