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Go, gurt

(article, Ashley Griffin Gartland)

I eat cultured yogurt for its tangy taste. But according to the National Dairy Council, it's also good for me.

Yogurt may improve the body's immune-defense response, decrease allergy symptoms and lactose intolerance, and keep the digestive system healthy. And studies have shown that consuming yogurt may reduce the chance of developing certain cancers, such as colon cancer.

On a daily basis, the live and active cultures found in yogurt promote good health. Yogurt sold in the U.S. must contain at least two live bacterial cultures, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, both of which boost the immune system and aid digestion by helping to restore and maintain a healthy environment in the intestinal tract.

The bonus? Yogurt is also a good source of calcium and protein.

These days, as Michael Pollan reported in his recent New York Times article "Unhappy Meals," yogurt is even getting a boost of omega-3 fatty acids at companies like Stonyfield Farm. 

Omega-3s are vital for brain development and cardiovascular health, and fish are widely considered the best source of them. But fish have problems of their own, chiefly contamination from global agricultural and industrial waste. (The list of pollutants is long, but mercury tops it.) So the food industry is pumping omega-3s into everything it can think of. Omega-3 eggs, anyone? 

Omega-3 inclusive or not, not all yogurt can lay claim to the healthy label. Avoid impostor yogurts by simply choosing a carton with a "Live and Active Cultures" label seal. Then take a quick glance at the nutrition label. Yogurt might be thought of as a health food, but given the fat, sugar, and calorie content of many yogurts on the market — especially those marketed to kids, such as sugary YoBaby and GoGurt — you'd be better off thinking of it as dessert.