An Ounce of Yogurt for Plenty of Diabetes Prevention (Plus 10 Tasty Options)

The smooth, creamy taste of yogurt makes it a refreshing treat, and the health benefits it brings could be sweeter than you think. Some scientists believe that in addition to being delicious and providing significant amounts of calcium, eating an ounce of yogurt a day could also reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is associated with a higher risk of many health problems, including heart attacks, stroke, eye problems, and kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research Findings on Yogurt and Diabetes

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health recently compiled data from three large-scale studies to look at patterns in dairy intake among participants who developed type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body canít make enough of a hormone called insulin, or canít use the insulin properly (insulin is needed to keep blood sugar levels steady). Their findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine in the fall of 2014.

The scientists discovered that eating just one ounce (28 grams, or two tablespoons) of yogurt a day seemed to correlate with an 18 percent reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. While the reason for this link isnít completely clear, one theory is that the probiotic bacteria (a type of bacteria thatís good for your body) thatís contained in many yogurts balances the microbes (microorganisms) in the gut and thus helps prevent metabolic and inflammatory issues related to the onset of diabetes. More research needs to be done to confirm the connection, though.

In the meantime, yogurt is certainly worth eating on a regular basis, not just in the hopes it can stave off diabetes, but also because it offers lots of nutrients.

Probiotic Strains

When deciding what type to eat, Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian who serves as the Lead Nutrition Expert at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating, suggests looking for yogurts that advertise live bacteria. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles are the most common probiotic strains, but they donít make it through the intestines alive. Therefore, selecting options that also contain Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, which are more resilient forms of healthy bacteria, will give you added benefits.

Navigating the Yogurt Aisle

"By all measures, yogurt is a nutritional superstar Ö itís loaded with calcium, protein, and vitamins," say Ficek. "The friendly bacteria in yogurt can also boost immunity while its lactic acid aids in digestion and the absorption of nutrients," she points out.

Better yet, yogurt comes in many forms, so thereís likely one that will appeal to your taste buds and your nutritional preferences. Here are some of the popular choices you can find in your local grocery store, along with information to help you compare the options. Just keep in mind that the nutritional values can vary a great deal by flavor, type, and brand, so be sure to read the labels.

  • Original yogurt. This common type of yogurt--the kind you're probably most familiar with--comes in a variety of flavors and types (such as low-fat, fat-free, and sugar-free). Most original-style yogurts provide lots of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. Nutrition facts: A typical six-ounce container of plain low-fat yogurt has 107 calories, 2.6g (grams) fat, 8.9g protein, 11.8g sugar, and 11.8g carbohydrates.
  • Probiotic Yogurt. "While all yogurt has live and active cultures, probiotic yogurt has extra strains added to focus on specific organs or specific digestive issues," Ficek says. (These are the yogurts where you'll find healthy bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria). "But the truth is that all actives cultures are good for your health." Nutritional facts: A 113-gram (just under four ounce) serving of Activia vanilla probiotic yogurt has 110 calories, 2g fat, 4g protein, 17g sugar, and 20g carbohydrates.
  • Greek-Style Yogurt. "Greek yogurt is made from straining most of the whey [the watery liquid part of milk], leaving behind a smooth thick consistency," Ficek says. Itís more concentrated than original yogurt, which means more nutritional value and higher levels of probiotics contained in each serving. Greek yogurt also has a distinctive tang. Nutritional facts: A six-ounce serving of plain nonfat Greek yogurt has 100 calories, .7g fat, 17.3g protein, 5.5g sugar, and 6.1g carbohydrates.
  • Soy Yogurt: This yogurt is made with soy milk (instead of lactose or milk sugar) and therefore, might be an appealing choice if youíre lactose intolerant and canít handle some of the more traditional yogurt choices. It also has less fat than regular. Nutritional facts: A six-ounce serving of plain soy yogurt has 112 calories, 3g fat, 4.5g protein, 9g sugar, and 16.5g carbohydrates.
  • Skyr or Icelandic Yogurt. This type of yogurt is heavy on milk, but it uses skim instead of high-fat options, which means you get plenty of calcium and protein without all of the fat and sugar in regular yogurt, making it a tempting alternative. And unlike Greek yogurt, which is also high in protein, Skyr or Icelandic yogurts are gentler on the palate. Nutritional facts: A 5.3-ounce of plain Siggi's Icelandic style skyr has 80 calories, 0g fat, 15g protein, 4g sugar, and 5g carbohydrates.
  • Swiss Yogurt. "This yogurt is similar to taste and nutrition of blended yogurts made in America, but sometimes gelatin is added as a stabilizer," says Ficek; this makes it off limits for vegetarians and people with certain allergies. Some types can also be high in sugar, so be sure to read labels. Nutritional facts: A six-ounce serving of Emmi low-fat fruit-flavored Swiss yogurt has 110 calories, 3g fat, 9g protein, 26g sugar, and 27g carbohydrates.
  • Lassi. "Lassi is a fermented milk or yogurt drink with origins in India. The consistency of this is more like a smoothie, and can be flavored with anything, from sweet to savory," Ficek says. Nutritional facts: An eight-ounce fruit-flavored lassi from Dahlicious Lassi has 140 calories, 3g fat, 6g protein, 22g sugar, and 24g carbohydrates.
  • Doogh. Another drinkable form of yogurt is a doogh, which has the texture of a smoothie mixed with club soda. The most common flavor is mint. The diluted consistency helps cut calories without sacrificing taste. Nutritional facts: A Sadaf eight-ounce plain doogh drink has 110 calories, 10g fat, 3g protein, 2g sugar, and 2g carbohydrates.
  • Kefir. "Kefir is a yogurt product growing in popularity in the United States," Ficek says. Itís a fermented, drinkable yogurt that is similar to lassi but it comes in more flavors and has more tang. "Kefir also contains additional strains of probiotics and beneficial yeast that others yogurts donít have," she adds. Nutritional facts: An eight-ounce serving of lowfat, plain, organic kefir from Nancy's has 140 calories, 3g fat, 11g protein, 16g sugar, and 17g carbohydrates.
  • Frozen Yogurt. Frozen yogurt is a dessert option that appeals to many people, but itís important to know what you are getting when you select this treat. "Sometimes the freezing process may kill some of the beneficial, healthy bacteria. And often times, sugar is added to improve the taste, texture and consistency of this product," Ficek says. "Furthermore, frozen yogurt stores provide a Ďself-serveí style, where they encourage adding a plethora of high sugar toppings. So while frozen yogurt is a lower fat option when compared to ice cream, portions and topping choices need to be thoroughly considered before indulging." Nutritional facts: A six-ounce serving of soft-serve vanilla frozen yogurt has 270 calories, 9.5g fat, 6.8g protein, 40.8g sugar, and 41.1g carbohydrates.

Rene Ficek, RD, of Seattle Suttonís Healthy Eating, reviewed this article.

Sources

Ficek, Rene RD. Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. Email interview Jan. 16, 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States, 2014." Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2014.

Chen, Mu, Q. Sun, E. Giovannucci, D. Mozaffarian, J.E. Manson, W.C. Willett, and F.B. Hu. "Dairy Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: 3 Cohorts of US Adults and an Updated Meta-Analysis." BMC Medicine 2014 12(1): 215 DOI: 10.1186/s12916-014-0215-1

"Does a Yogurt a Day Keep Diabetes Away?" ScienceDaily November 25, 2014. Accessed online Jan. 20, 2015.

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