Yogurt lovers have better diets

People who like yogurt may be enjoying more than its taste and texture. They also may be enjoying a better-balanced diet and getting more key nutrients than people who never eat the cultured dairy product,  new research shows.

People who like yogurt may be enjoying more than its taste and texture. They also may be enjoying a better-balanced diet and getting more key nutrients than people who never eat the cultured dairy product,  new research shows.

As a group, people who said they ate yogurt also reported consuming higher amounts of other good-for-you foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and whole grains, than did people who didn't eat yogurt. And their diets obtained fewer calories from processed meats, refined grains and beer than did the diets of non-yogurt eaters, according to the study, which received some funding from a yogurt manufacturer.

The peer-reviewed findings are available online in the journal Nutrition Research.

“Yogurt is a very good source of many shortfall nutrients – calcium, potassium, and magnesium – that Americans don't currently consume enough of,” said study author Paul Jacques of  Tufts University.  “Yogurt is a good way to meet your dietary requirements for nutrients that you may not be currently eating.”

Jacques is director of the nutrition epidemiology laboratory at the university’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

For this observational study, researchers analyzed data collected from slightly more than 6,500 adults, ages 19 to 89, all of them either the children or grandchildren of the original participants in the Framingham Heart Study. That Massachusetts-based study, which began in 1948 and followed its subjects for nearly 50 years, attempted to identify common causes of heart attack and stroke in a large group of people who had not yet developed these problems.

All the men and women in the yogurt study filled out a 126-item questionnaire, indicating how frequently they had eaten certain foods during the previous year.

Boosting shortfall nutrients

People participating in the study were asked to recall how often they ate a one-cup serving of yogurt. Their response was based on a 9-point scale, which ranged from a low of “never or less than one serving a month” to a high of "more than six servings a day.”

Researchers found that 53.8 per cent of the participants ate yogurt. (Among the women, 64 per cent were yogurt-eaters; among the men, 41 per cent were.) The average amount of yogurt eaten was two and one-quarter cups a week. Yogurt accounted for between 1 per cent and 6 per cent of daily calories depending upon how much people ate.

In addition to having a better-quality diet, the men and women who regularly spooned in some yogurt had higher potassium intakes. They also were 48 per cent less likely to have inadequate levels of calcium; 38 per cent less likely to be deficient in magnesium; and 55 per cent less apt to have shortfalls of vitamin B12, a nutrient lacking in most people’s diets.

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