It's often overlooked – a simple tub of yoghurt, unassuming in its health benefits.
But, according to registered dietician, Moniqe Piderit, yoghurt could just be the ace up your sleeve to keep your gut health in check.
Piderit was speaking to Independent Media on a range of healthy eating options for pressured professionals where convenience is the main decision driver for meal planning.
"Yoghurt is made from milk and live cultures and those cultures then become a delivery vehicle for good bacteria that reaches the gut", Piderit explained.
She said the yoghurt eaters not only got the benefit of animal protein but also calcium among other nutrients.
The live cultures Piderit spoke of, are also known as probiotics.
Professor Leon Dicks (crt), head of the probiotic nd antimicrobial peptide laboratory in the Department of Microbiology at Stellenbosch University, that under normal circumstances, healthy human bodies are maintained at a temperature of 37 °C with high humidity, which makes our bodies a conducive environment for many harmful bacteria to thrive. “To protect us from bad bacteria and other pathogens, the body has an array of processes and defence mechanisms, known collectively as the immune system, 75 % of which is located in the gut.”
When that gut flora is unbalanced, a release of toxic metabolic products is induced and may be followed by conditions or discomfort including: flatulence, bloating, intestinal pain and inflammation, cramping, constipation and diarrhoea.
Piderit said according to South Africa's Food Based Dietary Guidelines (2012), it was important to eat a variety of food groups, and that the guidelines also specified having milk, maas or yoghurt every day among others.
"There is no perfect food, but rather one should look at the context of your whole diet. In terms of the available data in the country, stats show that our calcium intake from dairy products is very low", she asserted.
Piderit continued, "Yoghurt can also help with hunger control, upon eating it, it gives that feeling of satisfaction, or rather, fullness as well as boosting calcium levels".
She said that while no food was off limit in terms of diet, she cautioned not to have more than two "bad meals" in a row.
"My biggest tip for professionals wanting to keep on the healthy track is to pack a lunchbox. Make it the night before so that your decisions are made and you don't get super hungry throughout the day and then grab an unhealthy take-away. Also use your supper leftovers or cook in bulk – just go back to basics. The more simple and natural the product, the better."
She added: "People think that if a diet is not hard, it won't work. But, you will still lose weight and be healthy if you have a balanced diet".
The dietitian also advised: "Never replace food with a supplement. It also isn't healthy to only eat liquids in the form of meal replacement shakes. The other side of eating is chewing which also has it's role in oral health. So the take-home is, food first! Then you can top up with a supplement."