Cholesterol is a fat-like substance, called a lipid, that is produced in your liver. Animals also produce cholesterol, which means animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy contain cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in your blood can lead to health problems, such as clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Yogurt contains cholesterol and saturated fat, which can increase your cholesterol level. However, there is also evidence showing that yogurt can help lower cholesterol.
Yogurt is formed through fermentation of milk by a culture of lactobacteria and sometimes other bacteria such as streptococcus and bifidis. The bacteria digest the lactose in the milk, producing lactic acid. The lactic acid acts as a preservative, inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria and making the yogurt safe to eat.
Because it's made from milk, yogurt contains fat and cholesterol. According to the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, 1 cup of whole yogurt has 29 mg of cholesterol and 7 g of fat, 5 g of which are saturated fat. While the cholesterol content is not that significant -- less than 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of cholesterol -- the saturated fat content is. Five grams of saturated fat is about 25 percent of the RDA. According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat -- not cholesterol -- is the main dietary culprit in high cholesterol.
To make your yogurt intake more heart healthy, opt for low-fat or no-fat yogurt. No-fat yogurt has no fat or saturated fat, and only 10 mg of cholesterol -- two-thirds less than whole yogurt -- according to the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. Medical experts often recommend low-fat or nonfat yogurt as a healthy breakfast or snack option. For example, the Cleveland Clinic's Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute lists nonfat or 1 percent milk fat yogurt as a heart-healthy breakfast item.
There is research that suggests yogurt may have cholesterol-lowering effects. A Canadian study published in the March 2000 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" showed that fermented dairy products such as yogurt may help to lower cholesterol levels.
The explanations behind yogurt's ability to lower cholesterol are explored in "10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food" at Ask Dr. Sears. The article speculates that the live cultures in yogurt may be able to absorb the cholesterol or that the yogurt binds bile acids, which help to moderate cholesterol levels. The article also says the lactobacteria in yogurt helps regulate levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in your blood.
- U.C. Clermont College: Yogurt Making Illustrated
- University of California, San Francisco Medical Center: Cholesterol Content of Foods
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Cleveland Clinic: Heart Healthy Breakfast
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Consumption of Fermented and Nonfermented Dairy Products: Effects on Cholesterol Concentrations and Metabolism
- Ask Dr. Sears: 10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food