Based on federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, in order for a product to be called "yogurt," it must be made by combining a dairy product with a bacteria. The most common bacteria are Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. This good bacteria or probiotics are able to survive the harsh environment of the stomach and the intestinal tract where they serve as friendly bacteria to help keep a balance between the other kinds of bacteria that live there. Studies have shown that this alliance actually does help with digestion and decreased infections by fighting off unhealthy bacteria and yeast. However, not all yogurts are created equal. When choosing a yogurt look for a "Live and Active Cultures" seal on the side of the container. This will assure that the product has met standards for cultures used in production. Some yogurts are heat-treated after they are cultured in order to increase shelf-life or decrease the natural tartness, which inactivates the bacteria. These types of yogurt will not have this seal nor provide this good bacteria benefit.
For more nutritional information, contact sports and lifestyle nutritionist Julie Fortenberry, LDN, RD, at 504.457.3100 at The Fitness Principle with Mackie Shilstone at East Jefferson General Hospital, or go to www.ejgh.org/thefitnessprinciple.