Why yogurt could be the signature of a healthy diet

Uniqueness of Yogurt – specific properties of yogurt facilitate improved nutrient intake

yogurt-nutrient-digestWhat’s in it? Yogurt is generally considered to be a nutritionally dense food, especially for nutrients such as calcium, proteins (Digest 1), and some vitamins. Higher diet quality (for potassium, vitamins B2 and B12, calcium, magnesium and zinc) has been observed with increased dairy consumption (2, 3).

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans defined “nutrients of concern” as those nutrients that may pose a substantial public health concern. The Committee determined that calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and fibre are under-consumed and may pose a public health concern (4, 5). Dairy foods, including yogurt, are major dietary contributors of three of the four nutrients of concern.

Milk provides nine essential nutrients important for optimal health: calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin, and niacin (niacin equivalents). The nutrient composition of milk and yogurt are similar; however, yogurt represents a more concentrated source of riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Hence, the dairy food group is a substantial contributor of many of the above nutrients (e.g., calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein), all of which should work towards promoting health.

Recent work using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2005-2008) has shown that dairy foods, including full-fat varieties, are key components of the American diet that contribute a significant amount of the essential nutrients calcium, vitamin D and protein, to the diet (6).

Data from the French dietary survey (Etude Individuelle Nationale sur les Consommations Alimentaires, INCA 2006 (7)) was analysed by using computerized modelling, which enabled the researchers to examine theoretical dietary patterns that would meet nutrient needs within calorie needs. The diet optimization model suggested that French individuals should choose more nutrient-dense foods, including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy foods. For the dairy foods, the model suggested replacing some cheese consumption with additional yogurt to help reduce the energy density of the diet and to ensure nutrient adequacy (8). While this study was focused on the French population, the premise of selecting a healthy diet pattern that includes nutrient-rich yogurt can help individuals meet nutrient needs.

2. Wang H, Livingston KA, Fox CS, Meigs JB, Jacques PF. Yogurt consumption is associated with better diet quality and metabolic profile in American men and women. Nutr Res, 2013; 33(1):18-26.
3. O’Neil CE, Keast DR, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA. Food sources of energy and nutrients among adults in the US: NHANES 2003–2006. Nutrients 2012; 4(12):2097-120. 
4. USDA. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. February 2015. 
5. Webb D, Donovan SM, Meydani SN. The role of yogurt in improving the quality of the American diet and meeting dietary guidelines. Nutr Rev, 2014; 72(3):180-9. (Review) 
6. Keast DR, Hill Gallant KM, Albertson AM, Gugger CK, Holschuh NM. Associations between yogurt, dairy, calcium, and vitamin D intake and obesity among U.S. children aged 8–18 years: NHANES, 2005–2008. Nutrients 2015; 7:1577-1593.
7. AFSSA. Étude Individuelle Nationale des Consommations Alimentaires 2 (INCA 2) (2006-2007) – Rapport, September 2009. https://www.anses.fr/fr/system/files/PASER-Ra-INCA2.pdf
8. Clerfeuille E Maillot M, Verger EO, Lluch A, Darmon N, Rolf-Pedersen N. Dairy products: how they fit in nutritionally adequate diets. J Acad Nutr Diet, 2013; 113: 950-6.

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