How Yogurt Interacts with Other Foods in a Mediterranean Diet

  • Article
  • April 18, 2017

A Mediterranean style of eating has been steadily gaining attention over the last few years, and is one of the healthy eating styles included in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

A new study found that eating yogurt within a Mediterranean eating plan is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors – and identified a synergy between yogurt and other foods that may further support cardiovascular health in an elderly population.

Research continues to define a positive role for dairy foods within a Mediterranean eating plan. A cross-sectional study of more than 7,000 elderly participants of the PREDIMED (Prevention with the Mediterranean Diet) study used baseline dietary data to assess potential associations between eating yogurt and lignans (phytoestrogens found in plant-based foods, including seeds, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables) using markers of CVD risk in the elderly. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Yogurt: Eating one serving of low-fat yogurt per day was associated with lower total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, but higher weight, compared to not eating any yogurt. Eating one or more servings of whole-milk yogurt per day was associated with lower triglycerides.
  • Lignans: Eating the highest or a medium amount of lignans was associated with significantly lower blood glucose compared to the lowest lignan consumption. The main food sources of lignans among study participants were olive oil (64 percent), wheat products (15 percent) and tomatoes (8 percent).
  • Yogurt + Lignans: Joint consumption of these foods had a stronger association with CVD risk factors than either food alone. Participants with the highest consumption of total yogurt and lignans had lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, lower triglycerides and no change in HDL-cholesterol.  Also notable is that total dairy food consumption excluding yogurt (whole, low-fat, fat-free milk, condensed milk, ice cream, custard and all types of cheese) of more than two cups (>500 g) per day was associated with lower total cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, but higher blood glucose levels.

We don’t eat nutrients, we eat foods. Studying how whole foods interact within an eating pattern to help reduce risk factors of chronic disease is a current trend in nutrition research. More research on the role of individual dairy foods in eating patterns, including the Mediterranean diet, will increase our understanding of their role in health. Clinical trials are needed to confirm the results seen in this and other observational studies.

For clients who want to embrace a Mediterranean style of eating, check here for ways to incorporate milk, yogurt and cheese into a variety of popular Mediterranean dishes.