WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Brently Gregory, 2, gets a healthy helping of frozen yogurt during a trip to Swirl's Frozen Yogurt with his family.
From the shelves of your local grocery stores to the corners of city streets, yogurt has been popping up at the center of the nation’s health food craze in a big way.
Spoken so highly of for its digestive health benefits, yogurt is one of the most commonly known and consumed forms of probiotics in today’s society. Although it can almost seem counterintuitive to willingly ingest live strains of bacteria, dietitians advocate for the cultured organisms that can help promote well-being.
Created by the bacterial fermentation of lactose, the overall yogurt culturing process releases lactic acid to create the well-known substance. Once cultured, often times lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are added to yogurt due to their health benefits. Generally, yogurt contains anywhere from 100-1,000 million live bacteria per milliliter, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
While researchers continue to investigate the properties of the bacteria that benefit our bodies, it is believed these strains present in yogurt help moderate gastrointestinal issues such as lactose intolerance, diarrhea and constipation, as well as links to managing Crohn’s disease and improving the body’s immunity, said Sherry Golightly, a registered dietitian at Western Baptist Hospital.
“Probiotics (in general), are something that is very important for our gastrointestinal system because the microflora of the gut is a system in and of itself,” she said. “It’s something we’re realizing that is more important than we thought for our general well-being.”
Though in addition to the probiotics, yogurt is also rich in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, magnesium and potassium. With one to three servings of dairy recommended daily for a balanced diet, yogurt can also take the place of milk intake in people who are lactose intolerant, Golightly said.
Of the products on the market, Greek yogurts tend to list all the different strains of probiotics and, generally, have the highest amount of colony forming units, Golightly said.
As foil-wrapped yogurt containers increasingly take over shelves in supermarkets’ dairy food aisles, the health craze is also spreading throughout the community in the form of frozen yogurt restaurants. Though most probiotic bacteria in frozen yogurt generally can’t survive long enough for the body to reap the benefits, the frozen alternative to ice cream remains a healthy choice.
Eric Chumbler, director of operations for Swirls Frozen Yogurt Restaurant, said in their nearly six months of operation, there isn’t a week that goes by that he doesn’t hear of people turning to frozen yogurt for its health benefits. While, of course, a cup of frozen yogurt can contain as much sugary toppings a person could want, there are multiple low-fat or non-fat combos offered.
“The beauty part about frozen yogurt is that compared to your regular, standard ice cream, the fat content, the sugar content and calories are less,” Chumbler said.
“For those that watch their weight, this is the great alternative to ice cream.”
With multiple frozen yogurt shops opening in cities across the nation — Paducah had two open in as many days — Chumbler said he has seen a noticeable difference in the flow of people into the restaurant for the direct health benefits.
“Not all ice cream is bad, but most every frozen yogurt has beneficial content to it, so you can feel good about eating this product on a weekly basis,” he said.
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-5675-8676.