What Are the Benefits of Yogurt With Live Active Cultures?

You can top it with fresh fruit and granola for breakfast, add it to veggie dip and salad dressing for lunch or mix it in with a smoothie for a pre-workout snack. Whatever the reason, eating live culture yogurt is a healthy and nutritious way to sneak protein, calcium and probiotics into your diet.

Eating yogurt with live active cultures may help reduce the symptoms of certain gastrointestinal illnesses.
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Eating yogurt with live active cultures may help reduce the symptoms of certain gastrointestinal illnesses.

Live and Active Cultures

When you see the words "live and active cultures" on a yogurt label, that means the product you are buying contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which according to the National Yogurt Association's website, AboutYogurt.com, converts pasteurized milk to yogurt during fermentation. To make sure you are getting live culture yogurt that has not been heat-treated, which kills the live cultures, the NYA established a special "Live and Active Cultures" seal that you can look for on refrigerated and frozen yogurt containers.

The National Yogurt Association seal is intended to help you recognize the products containing significant amounts of live and active cultures. Choosing a live culture yogurt with the NYA seal over products without it ensures that you will be eating refrigerated yogurt that contains at least 100 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture or frozen yogurt that has 10 million cultures per gram.

That said, the NYA does point out that in order for a refrigerated product to be called yogurt, it mush be produced using Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. But that's where the similarities end. If a yogurt that started with live and active cultures is heat-treated after it is made, the process can kill the cultures, resulting in a yogurt that does not contain the same amount of cultures as one with the seal. The good news, according to the California Dairy Research Foundation is that most yogurts on the market today have not been heat-treated after fermentation, and therefore, meet the criterion for containing live microbes.

Read more: Does Heating Yogurt Kill Good Bacteria?

Benefits of Live Culture Yogurt

While the calcium and protein in yogurt are good for your health, a lot of the research on the health benefits of yogurt focus on the live bacterial content, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Some of the benefits of live culture yogurt include lowering the risk of certain disease conditions such as type 2 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Another benefit of eating live culture yogurt are probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeasts that are "good" microorganisms because they benefit the digestive system, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Many people will take probiotics as a supplement to help counteract the side effects of certain antibiotics or reduce the symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. But including yogurt in your diet is also another great way to benefit from this helpful bacteria.

If you're looking for the best probiotic yogurt brands, the first step is to check for the NYA seal for live and active cultures. Since some yogurts do not carry this label, you will need to read the ingredient list to check for the probiotics they include. It's also a good idea to compare the amount of sugar in each brand.

Read more: Which Type of Yogurt Is Best? The Pros and Cons of 13 Different Kinds

Including Yogurt in Your Diet

Including yogurt in your diet is simple and convenient. Plus, the variety of flavors makes it easy to find one that you will enjoy eating. While spooning yogurt right out of the container is the quickest way to get the job done, there are many other ways to sneak this nutritious snack into your day.

  • Add 1/2 cup of Greek-style yogurt to a smoothie
  • Mix low-fat granola or cereal into a container of yogurt
  • Add fresh fruit to plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt
  • Use yogurt in place of sour cream
  • Top your pancakes or waffles with unsweetened Greek-yogurt and fresh strawberries
  • Mix low-fat Greek yogurt with onion soup for a tasty veggie dip
  • Freeze fruit-flavored yogurt in ice-cube trays for frozen yogurt treats

If you don't have a favorite type of yogurt, some of the best probiotic yogurt brands include Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani, Fage and Stonyfield. Harvard Health Publishing recommends choosing yogurt with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Additionally, check the label for protein and look for yogurt with 5 grams or more of protein per serving. Greek-style yogurt is a great choice if you want some extra protein.

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