If you're pregnant, you probably often find yourself wondering whether a particular food that you typically eat -- or are craving now that you're pregnant -- is safe. Yogurt is an example of a food that, within certain restrictions, is not only safe to eat, but also has health benefits for you and your baby.
What Yogurt Is
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, made when milk is cultured with certain non-harmful bacteria, like Lactobacillus acidophilus. These bacteria digest the sugar in milk -- specifically, they digest lactose -- for energy, explain Drs. Reginald Garrett and Charles Grisham in their book "Biochemistry." When humans digest sugar, they make the waste products carbon dioxide and water, under most conditions. The yogurt bacteria instead make lactic acid, which reacts with proteins in the milk, producing a sour taste and creamy texture.
Yogurt, because it's made from dairy, has all of the nutritional benefits of milk and then some. Like milk, yogurt is high in calcium, which you need if you're pregnant because you're supplying your growing baby with calcium to grow bones, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting." Yogurt also contains protein, which you and your baby use to grow new cells, and many vitamins.
The bacteria in yogurt are harmless to humans: They can't cause infection. In fact, these bacteria actually assist in digestive function and so are sometimes called "probiotics." During pregnancy, your digestive tract slows down to increase the quantity of nutrition available to your baby, explain Murkoff and Mazel. This can increase your risk of constipation, which can increase your risk of hemorrhoids. Eating yogurt assists in keeping your digestion regular.
There are two types of yogurt to avoid during pregnancy. First, because your immune system isn't quite as functional as it usually is, avoid yogurt made with unpasteurized dairy, note Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their book "You: Having A Baby." This yogurt can contain harmful bacteria. Second, avoid full-fat yogurt and other full-fat dairy: These sources of dairy have too much saturated fat, which is heart-unhealthy and can lead to excess pregnancy weight gain.
Overall, yogurt is a good addition to your pregnancy diet. From a low- or non-fat dairy source, it can help provide your daily requirements for protein and several vitamins and minerals, and also provide energy. Many store-bought brands contain large quantities of added sugar or corn syrup, so if you're trying to avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy, you might want to purchase plain yogurt and sweeten to your taste with fruit or honey.