When was the last time you saw a yogurt commercial featuring a man? Our guess is not lately. While yogurt is often marketed toward women, men may want to stock up on this healthy on-the-go snack after hearing about this new research.
Eating two or more servings of yogurt per week may help cut a man’s risk of colorectal cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Gut. Sometimes called bowel cancer, it’s the third-most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Among the more than 32,000 men in the study, those who ate two-plus weekly servings of yogurt were nearly 20% less likely to develop an adenoma, which is a type of polyp or abnormal growth that can become malignant. They were also 26% less likely to develop adenomas that were identified as “highly likely” to become cancer.
How Yogurt Affects Your Gut Health
How exactly does yogurt work this magic? Past research suggests that yogurt might reduce colorectal cancer risk by altering the bacteria in your gut. But this study is the first to find that eating yogurt may actually lower your risk of precancerous growths.
In this study, the researchers said, the bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which are commonly found in yogurt, may reduce cancer-causing chemicals in the digestive tract.
The study also looked at 55,743 women, but the researchers found no associations between how much yogurt they ate and whether they developed adenomas.
Since this is an observational study, it can’t 100% establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship between yogurt consumption and lower bowel cancer risk—so more research will need to confirm the findings, according to the study authors. That said, the large size of the study makes the findings compelling—and eating a couple of yogurts a week certainly can’t hurt.
More Reasons to Eat Yogurt—and Which Ones to Buy
If the potential cancer-fighting actions of yogurt don’t compel you to stock up your fridge, there are a bunch of other great reasons to add yogurt to your diet, according to Harvard Health—no matter your gender.
For one, yogurt is packed with nutrients. It contains calcium, protein, vitamin B12, magnesium, and healthy fatty acids. Secondly, as the colorectal cancer study mentioned, yogurt is packed with probiotics. These “good” bacteria may work to keep your body healthy in several ways, from promoting your digestive health, combating obesity, and more.
“The probiotics found in yogurt appear to strengthen the gut’s immune system, supporting a healthy digestive tract,” says Baltimore-based registered dietitian Carmen Roberts, a member of HealthCentral’s medical review board.
But the type of yogurt you eat matters, experts like Roberts say. Here are three key things to check the nutrition label for before purchasing:
- Protein. As we mentioned, one of the pros of yogurt is the protein! Look for yogurt with 5 grams or more of protein per serving, per Harvard Health. “Greek yogurt has more protein than traditional yogurt, so I often recommend nonfat plain Greek yogurt for an added protein and calcium boost,” says Roberts. Greek-style yogurts can contain as much as 16 grams of protein. Having a Greek yogurt with berries or granola for breakfast is a filling and satisfying way to fuel up for the day.
Sugar. Some yogurts are packed with added sugar, says Roberts, so you should look for ones with the lowest amount possible (less than 10 grams ideally, says Harvard Health). You should also watch for sneaky sugar in yogurt that comes with toppings like chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, or other add-ins that aren’t great for your health. Instead, you can sweeten up your plain yogurt with honey or fresh berries.
Live and active cultures. Yes, we’re back to the probiotics! But not all yogurts have the ones you want. Look for the words “S. thermophilus,” “L. bulgaricus,” or check for a seal that says “live and active cultures.” Just one serving of yogurt a day would provide you with a healthy dose of these bacteria, says Roberts.
Also look for yogurts with simple ingredients—that means the list of ingredients on the label shouldn’t be long and full of words that make you go, “Huh?” Often, the fewer ingredients, the better. And that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste—look for flavors you like and try out different yogurt styles and toppings (healthy ones!). For example, if you don’t like the tart taste of plain Greek yogurts, try one that comes with a flavor or add sliced almonds to it for texture.