Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, nearly all of which contribute to your health in some way.
These microorganisms are collectively known as your gut microbiota, and they are involved in:
- food digestion
- nutrient metabolism
- immune system function
- mood regulation
- cognitive function
Maintaining a diverse and balanced gut microbiota is essential to keeping yourself healthy. One great way to do this is to regularly eat probiotics—foods that contain live, beneficial microorganisms.
Kimchi and sauerkraut are excellent sources of probiotics, but perhaps the tastiest probiotic treat is Greek yogurt.
How is Greek Yogurt Made?
Yogurt is made by heating milk to kill off any bacteria living in it and to alter the milk’s protein structures. Then, the milk is brought down to around 115°F, and culture of “starter” bacteria is added. These harmless bacteria ferment the milk—they convert the sugars into lactic acid, thickening the material and giving it its characteristic taste. This is regular yogurt.
For the Greek variety, regular yogurt is straining to remove much of the liquid whey, resulting in a thicker, creamier product.
More Good Bacteria, Less Bad Bacteria
When you bring more “good” bacteria into your gut by eating yogurt, you help maintain a healthy intestinal ecosystem. The beneficial bacteria crowd out the harmful, pathogenic bacteria, meaning there’s less chance of “bad” bacteria negatively impacting your health.
Even if you are not fully sick with a bacterial infection, those “bad” bacteria can increase inflammation and prevent your gut from functioning optimally.
Those “good” bacteria will also help train and regulate your immune system, which can help you fight off infection more effectively in the future.
Yogurt May Help Protect You From Chronic Illnesses
Regular yogurt consumption is consistently associated with a reduced risk of:
- type 2 diabetes
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- breast and colorectal cancer
Regular milk and other dairy products may not have the same effects. The fermentation process that yogurt undergoes alters the nutritive properties of dairy, promoting the synthesis and release of additional bioactive peptide compounds that provide antihypertensive, antimicrobial, antioxidative, and immune-regulating benefits.
This means that yogurt can potentially improve cardiovascular, bone, and gastrointestinal health in a way ordinary dairy products cannot.
A Healthier, Happier Gut
A healthy gut microbiome is not only good for your physical health but your mental health as well.
Disruptions in healthy gastrointestinal function and gut microbiome activity are linked to several psychiatric and neurological disorders, including depression, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorders.
This suggests that probiotic interventions may improve mental health by positively affecting gut microbiota.
Mix some fruits into your yogurt, or use it as a tasty topping on your oatmeal. There are countless different ways that Greek yogurt can be prepared. However, when selecting a healthy yogurt, look for a sugar-free variety, as added sugars may offset some health benefits.