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Is Yogurt Good for the Immune System?

author image Kendra Gutschow
Registered Dietitian Kendra Gutschow combines her communications and nutrition expertise by translating scientific research for consumer media, most recently for the communications department of the American Diabetes Association. Gutschow completed the coordinated program in dietetics at the University of Texas and holds a Bachelor of Science from Vanderbilt University.
Is Yogurt Good for the Immune System?
Yogurt's benefits go beyond protein and calcium. Photo Credit: Alliance/iStock/Getty Images

If you are looking for a way to boost immunity and reduce your chances of catching those nasty cold and flu germs that seem to be lurking everywhere, it just might be worthwhile to add yogurt to your regular meals or snacks. Full of protein and calcium, yogurt is already a healthy diet addition, and research points to its role in boosting immunity as well.

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Beneficial Probiotics

So what is it about yogurt that makes it so different from other dairy products? Research continues to focus on probiotics, or live, active microorganisms, which help to balance out harmful bacteria in the gut. The resulting benefits may include improved digestion, protection against colon cancer and gum disease and an overall immunity boost. A 2006 research review published in the "Journal of Applied Microbiology" emphasizes that continued research supports the role of probiotics as part of a healthy diet. Although probiotics are available as supplements, choose food sources like yogurt first, as those probiotics are more easily absorbed by your body.

Vitamin D, Not Just for Your Bones

Yogurt is also an excellent source of vitamin D, and research increasingly points to benefits of this vitamin that go beyond bone health. According to a 2013 study in the "Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents," vitamin D plays a role in regulating the body's immune function and tissue function. A review of studies published in the 2011 issue of "Nature Reviews, Endocrinology" states that vitamin D has also been shown to increase the body's ability to express antibacterial proteins, something that researchers continue to study.

Incorporating Yogurt Into Your Diet

If you don't already eat yogurt on a regular basis, there are many ways to enjoy this dairy wonder besides straight out of the container. For more texture, replace the milk in your cereal with yogurt, or sprinkle your morning granola on top. Dip fresh fruit right in or mix plain yogurt with herbs for a savory vegetable dip. You can also use plain yogurt in place of sour cream. Try plain yogurt as a taco topping, or use it in place of half of the oil in your baked goods recipes.

Ongoing Research

The research on yogurt -- specifically with regards to probiotics and vitamin D -- is ongoing. There is still a lot for scientists to learn and understand. Probiotic or vitamin D supplements -- or yogurt itself -- should never be a substitute for prescribed medication. Always talk with your doctor before adding supplements of any kind to your diet.

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