There are a number of practical reasons why yogurt should be included as a regular food source in a woman’s diet. Since calcium is needed for maintaining strong bones, women who do not meet the daily requirements for calcium are at greater risk for developing osteoporosis, which could eventually lead to bone fractures in the hip, spine or wrist. An 8-oz. cup of plain low-fat yogurt contains more calcium than an equal serving of milk, but you should choose a brand that is low in fat and calories and has few additives.
Yogurt is rich in protein and calcium–two nutrients especially important for women. A single serving of yogurt has as much protein as an egg or a 1-oz. serving of meat. Yogurt is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and phosphorus. Vegetarians who do not eat meat or women who are dieting often need more vitamin B12 and riboflavin in their diets. Riboflavin aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fatty acids and amino acids, while vitamin B12 is needed to produce red blood cells and for maintaining a healthy nervous system. The mineral phosphorus helps to keep bones and teeth strong, and is necessary for converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats to energy.
Besides being nutritious and aiding in weight loss, eating yogurt regularly has a number of other health benefits such as preventing urinary tract infections and reducing the severity of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in some women. In an article published in the American Family Physician, dietary deficiencies in calcium and magnesium have been reported in women who suffer from PMS. Consuming plenty of calcium-rich dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt may help to ease symptoms. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women who include fermented dairy products in their diets at least three times a week are less likely to develop a UTI. Some studies also indicate that eating yogurt every day may be effective in preventing vaginal yeast infections.
According to the American Dietetic Association, the live active bacteria cultures, also known as probiotics, found in yogurt aid in the digestive process, helping to break down the lactose, or natural sugar found in milk. This makes milk products more easily digestible for women who are lactose intolerant. The good bacteria found in yogurt improve the body’s absorption of essential nutrients, and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and staphylococcus. Some studies have shown that probiotics like those in yogurt may boost immune system function by mobilizing lymphocytes in the intestinal lining. These white blood cells are the first immune response, as they make antibodies in the digestive tract to attack harmful bacteria invading the body.
Women who are trying to lose weight are often led to believe that dairy products are fattening and should be avoided. The fact is that dairy products contain many of the nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy. Low-fat and nonfat dairy products including yogurt, milk and cheese contain all the same nutrients as whole milk products, but less fat and fewer calories. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women between the ages of 19 and 49 consume two servings (two cups) of yogurt or milk each day, even if they are trying to lose weight. Women age 50 and older should include three servings in their daily diets, as even low-fat yogurt offers the protein needed to build muscle and the calcium required for strong bones. An added advantage is that many brands of yogurt are now fortified with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.
If you find yourself getting tired of plain yogurt, find other ways to include yogurt in your diet. Eat frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, or blend a mixed fruit yogurt smoothie for a tasty snack. Substitute the fat in baking recipes with yogurt for moister cakes, cookies, muffins and quick breads. Rather than adding flavor to foods with mayonnaise and salad dressings, use yogurt. Tenderize or marinate meats and poultry with a yogurt sauce, or make a low-fat dip to serve with fresh vegetables or potato chips by spicing up yogurt with some of your favorite herbs. Pass on the sour cream and dab yogurt on your baked potato instead.