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Yogurt for Diabetes

Yogurt is made by adding live bacteria to cultured milk. In the U.S. the bacteria L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus must be added to milk to be called yogurt.
Yogurt manufacturers may add other strains of bacteria to their products. The bacteria convert milk sugar lactose to lactic acid, thus acidifying the product and making it last longer than milk. Lactic acid makes the yogurt more easily digestible than milk, a boon to people with lactose intolerance. Yogurt seems to have more benefits than the milk it is made from. Such foods are known as probiotics. Probiotics have been found to help in cases of stomach upset, diarrhea, eczema and other cases. Yogurt is also good for diabetes management. To understand why yogurt is good for diabetic patients it is necessary to know a bit about diabetes.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder where the body cannot convert the glucose it gets from food into energy. The hormone insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas, is required in order to convert glucose to energy. Sometimes the pancreas is unable to manufacture insulin, as in the case of type 1 diabetes. In other cases the body doesn’t respond in the normal manner to insulin, as in type 2 diabetes. In both cases, the unused glucose remains in the body resulting in high blood glucose levels. This can cause a lot of damage to various organs of the body like the heart and the kidneys. In fact many diabetics develop coronary heart disease and kidney disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death amongst diabetics.

Researchers have studied the effect that various milk products have on blood sugar levels. They found that regular milk along with cucumbers did not prevent a spike in blood sugar levels after eating bread. However, the same spike in blood sugar levels was not present if the bread was eaten along with sugar free yogurt and pickled cucumber. They attribute the cause to the acid in yogurt and pickle. Further research is needed on this subject, but indications are that sugar free yogurt is good for diabetics as it may allow them to eat foods like bread that would otherwise increase blood sugar levels.

Frozen, Low Fat And Greek Yogurt For Diabetics

On the other hand, frozen yoghurt may not be as beneficial for diabetics. This is because most frozen yogurts have added stabilizers, flavors, colors, cornstarch and sugar. These additives may adversely affect blood sugar levels. Frozen yogurt may not contain any probiotics as the freezing process may kill the bacteria.

Low Fat Yogurt:

Low fat yogurt is a much better option for diabetics, but it need not necessarily have a lower calorie count. The carbohydrates are still present and it needs to be taken in moderation. It is important for diabetics to read the label on the product and check the carbohydrate and sugar content before eating it.

Label Check:

A 6 oz. serving of low fat yogurt has on an average 160 calories and 32 g. of carbohydrates. An equivalent serving of sugar free, low fat yogurt has approximately half that amount of calories and carbohydrates. The American Diabetes Association recommends an intake of 45 to 60 g. of carbohydrates with each meal.

Soy Yogurt:

Researchers have found that soy yogurt is good for diabetics due to its high phenol content especially if enriched with fruits like blueberries. It is rich in antioxidants and helps protect the body from the damaging effect of free radicals. It helps regulate blood pressure as well as blood sugar. Further research on the subject is required.

Greek Yogurt:

One alternative to low fat yogurt is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a better option for diabetes management. It is smooth creamy and thick and has a higher proportion of protein compared to regular low fat yogurt (15 to 20g. of protein in a 6 oz. serving). It also has a lower carbohydrate level than traditional yogurt, making it a healthier option to regular yogurt. The thick consistency is a result of straining it to remove the liquid whey, which also reduces the carbohydrate levels and increases the levels of protein. The end result is a product that is more suited to a diabetic diet.

Yogurt For Type 1, 2 And Gestational Diabetes

Type 1:

The intake of yogurt for people with type 1 diabetes has to be balanced carefully with the insulin dose. Physical activity plays an important part in achieving optimal blood glucose levels. For type 1 diabetics taking a fixed dose of insulin, it is essential to have a fixed carbohydrate intake at each meal.

Type 2:

The best kind of yogurt for type 2 diabetes patients is the low fat, sugar free variety. It is important to consult your dietician in planning your daily nutritional needs and the type and amount of yogurt that you can eat.

Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational diabetes is a condition where a woman who has not been diagnosed with diabetes, develops high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. In the case of yogurt and women with gestational diabetes, eating yogurt in between smaller meals helps to keep the blood sugar levels in check. Consult your dietician about the best kind of yogurt to eat, as well as the amount that you can consume.

Submitted on January 16, 2014