THE BLOG
01/28/2009 04:07 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

For Consistent Weight Loss, Eat Yogurt Every Day

One of the key lessons to achieving lasting weight loss is actually learning to eat more, instead of eating less. Many of my patients think that in order to lose weight they need to starve themselves. This is completely wrong! In fact, lowering your caloric intake may lead to weight loss in the first few weeks, only to find that you plateau early in the process. You might have experienced this phenomenon as January has come and gone: your first few weeks of dieting went great, but afterwards your weight loss has lessened to a trickle. In order to rev up your weight loss again, you might have to eat more.

It's not only the quantity of your food that you need to monitor, but also the quality. The diet I've put together in my new book, THE YOUNGER (THINNER) YOU DIET concentrates on foods that are low in calories but are also nutrient-dense, so that you get the most out of every meal. One of the most important food groups that I focus on are foods high in calcium.

Researchers at the University of Knoxville have found that dietary calcium directly influence your weight loss efforts. High calcium foods, notably dairy sources, have been shown to increase body fat breakdown and preserve metabolism during dieting. High levels of calcium will also help your body get younger by building strong bones. This study suggests eating three servings of dairy products a day to get the most benefit.

Increasing your calcium intake can also directly reduce belly fat. A study presented at the Obesity Society Meeting of 2007 showed significant abdominal fat reduction following calcium supplementation. During the course of the seven week study, participants ate 3-4 servings of dairy foods each day. The data showed that an exercise program combined with a reduced calorie diet, and an increase in dairy consumption changed metabolism significantly enough to effect the amount of body fat burned.

You also want to focus on foods that are high in protein. Your body needs lot of protein so you will feel full and satisfied all day long, so you won't binge on the easy-to-eat carbs you may crave. Protein also gives you the energy you need to keep up with an exercise program that will burn lots of calories.

Eating calcium and protein-rich foods together seems to be the best cocktail for weight loss. When combined, these two nutrient groups have been clinically proven to raise metabolic rate and improve digestion and bowel health.

One food group that is high in both these nutrient groups is dairy. However, dairy foods that contain lots of calcium, and lots of protein, are usually high in fat as well as calories, making them a bad choice for dieters. I've also found a correlation between eating large amounts of cheese and other high-fat foods to increased cellulite production. Because of these reasons, I find most people who are overweight cannot afford to increase their dairy consumption at all.

But yogurt is the exception to the rule. Yogurt is a low-fat food packed with calcium as well as protein. It provides all the benefits of dairy without the added fat or calories, and actually contains more calcium and protein per serving than other dairy product because of the way it is made.

Yogurt specifically has been studied as a calcium-rich food that helps burn fat and promotes weight loss. A University of Tennessee study in 2005 shows that dieters who ate three servings of yogurt a day lost 22% more weight and 61% more body fat than those who simply cut calories and didn't add calcium to their eating plan. Those that lost the most weight were also able to protect their lean muscle mass, which is critical when dieting, because the muscle mass is essential for maintaining high metabolism.

Eating yogurt every day can also support your immune system, reducing overall inflammation. It is also know to lower LDL "bad" cholesterol. Lastly, many adults have problems digesting milk products because their bodies do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase. Yogurt naturally contains lactase, making it a healthy alternative for those who can't tolerate other milk products. For all these reasons, I suggest that you make yogurt a part of your new diet every single day.

Lots of Yogurt Options

There are a myriad of ways to get yogurt into your diet. First, choose single servings of plain, low-fat yogurt. Full fat yogurts or the flavored varieties are too high in calories, and fat-free yogurts do not have enough of the essential fat you need to lose weight. Greek strained yogurt is currently the rage and is thicker than traditional yogurt, if you like that type of consistency. If you find plain low-fat yogurt unappealing and you really need to sweeten it, add a teaspoon of sugar-free all-fruit preserves, or a teaspoon of honey. This will add a few calories, but you'll still benefit overall.

Yogurts with probiotics, like Dannon's Activa line, are good for those who have digestive ailments, but are not necessary for people who do not have them. Probiotics can help regulate your digestive system by helping reduce bloating as well as difficult and painful defecation. You can also try goat's milk or soy varieties.

Here are some other easy ways to incorporate yogurt into your diet:
• Have an 8 oz. container as a healthy snack during the day or as a base for breakfast or lunch. As a meal, combine a cup of yogurt with ½ cup fresh fruit or whole grain granola, or a mixture of both.
• Substitute low-fat yogurt for mayonnaise in your favorite recipes, like tuna salad or egg salad, or use as a base for salad dressings.
• Yogurt smoothies made with fresh fruit, or even frozen fruit, are filling and nutrient-dense. They make for a really healthy breakfast or snack.
• Use yogurt in recipes. My new book is filled with great recipes that contain yogurt for breakfast, lunch, snacks, or dinner.
• Upgrade yogurt by sprinkling one teaspoon of cinnamon on top of a cup of plain yogurt to create a delicious and fat-burning Younger (Thinner) You Super Food. If you read my last blog, you'll remember the importance of spices for weight loss, and cinnamon is a top contender in the Best Spice For Weight Loss category.