First off, let us not forget that yogurt comes from milk. So yogurt eaters will get a dose of animal protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-12, potassium, and magnesium.
But one of the words we're hearing more and more of regarding yogurt is "probiotics." Probiotics are "friendly bacteria" that are naturally present in the digestive system. Live strains of these "good bacteria" are also found in many yogurt products.
While more research needs to be done, there's some evidence that some strains of probiotics can help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract.
One review article suggests probiotics may help with inflammatory bowel disease by changing the intestinal microflora and lessening the immune system response that can worsen the disease.
Another study indicated probiotics may enhance resistance to and recovery from infection.
Calcium has been shown to have beneficial effects on bone mass in people of all ages, although the results are not always consistent, says Nieves, also an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University.
"The combination of calcium and vitamin D has a clear skeletal benefit, provided the dose of vitamin D is sufficiently high," she adds.
One study, which followed more than 5,000 university graduates in Spain for about two years, found a link between dairy intake and risk of high blood pressure."We observed a 50% reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure among people eating 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy a day (or more), compared with those without any intake," Alvaro Alonso, MD, PhD, a researcher in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, says in an email interview.