Can Yogurt Boost Your Brain?

Hearing that yogurt is good for you is nothing new. (I even wrote about its virtues after a study found that yogurt eaters are healthier). But, according to new research, the health benefits may extend beyond calcium (good for bones and the prevention of osteoporosis), potassium (important in controlling blood pressure), and magnesium (may help prevent migraines)—the probiotics, or “good” bacteria, found in yogurt might be good for your brain.

In a small study, UCLA researchers divided a group of women into three and gave each either yogurt with probiotics, nonfermented yogurt, or no products to consume twice a day. After four weeks, the women who ate the probiotics displayed a different degree of cognitive responsiveness in their brains than those who did not, specifically in regions that process emotion and sensation.

While it is unclear if the specific probiotic strains used in the study are the only strains that would cause this effect, as well as if dairy is the only source of probiotics that would change the brain this way, I don’t see any downside to consuming dairy products with probiotics.

All yogurt contains probiotics, although Greek yogurt has more than regular “American” yogurt and kefir, a fermented beverage that’s like a drinkable yogurt, contains the most. No matter which you choose, I recommend nonfat or low-fat varieties with the least amount of added sugar. Miso and sauerkraut are other sources of probiotics, but both tend to be high in sodium, which can cause bloating in many women, so be mindful of how much you consume.

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