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What Are the Benefits of Yogurt & Kefir?

Kefir and yogurt are fermented dairy products that make healthy additions to any diet. Both are created when adding strains of bacteria and yeast to milk and allowing them to culture and turn the lactose — or milk sugar — into lactic acid, creating a tangy product. Kefir tends to be thinner than yogurt and includes more and different types of bacteria than is found in yogurt. Among their many benefits, these foods add nutrients to your diet, help you manage digestion and assist with weight control.

Nutrition

A 1-cup serving of low-fat yogurt or kefir is about 110 calories and 8 to 12 grams of protein. Choose low-fat or nonfat versions of kefir and yogurt to avoid consuming too much artery-clogging saturated fat. They also provide about 30 percent of the daily value for calcium, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, and 25 percent for vitamin D. Yogurt and kefir are also healthy sources of potassium, which helps keep your mineral and fluid balance in check.

Probiotics

The bacteria in yogurt and kefir are known as probiotics, which help regulate digestion. Probiotics work to populate the gut with healthy bacteria and reduce the growth of harmful versions, which can help stave off illness. Probiotics can also help the body manufacture certain vitamins in the digestive tracts.

Weight Management

Including yogurt in your diet can help you lose weight. A study published in the "International Journal of Obesity" in January 2005 found that obese participants who ate a low-calorie diet for 12 weeks that included 1,100 milligrams of calcium daily in the form of yogurt lost more fat, retained more lean tissue and shed more weight than participants who consumed just 400 to 500 milligrams of calcium per day. Calcium from kefir might have the same effect. A cup of yogurt or kefir contains about 300 milligrams of calcium, so to copy the results of the study, you would need to consume almost 4 cups of yogurt or kefir daily.

Disease

Kefir may be particularly effective in combating certain diseases. A study in “Cancer Management and Research” published in February 2011 found that kefir can help prevent the growth of certain types of malignant cells. Another study, in a December 2004 issue of “Biofactors,” reported that compounds in kefir helped lower cholesterol and blood pressure in rats. Although the studies on the overall health benefits of kefir are not conclusive, the food is still a nutritious addition to your diet.

Lactose Intolerance

During fermentation, most of the lactose in yogurt and kefir is turned into lactic acid. As a result, people with lactose intolerance can usually consume either without experiencing digestive distress. You can use yogurt or kefir in smoothies or on cereal instead of milk, thus obtaining calcium and other nutrients without the gas, diarrhea and bloating that may accompany consumption of pure milk.

Photo Credits:

  • yogurt with cherries image by Elke Dennis from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.