A Look At Yogurt’s Proven Benefits and The Best Types

Healthy young woman eating yogurt

Yogurt is a fantastic creamy treat and we often think of it as a dessert or something to have occasionally.

Yet, there is also the question of, is yogurt good for you? Is it something that we should be only eating rarely or should we be having more of it in our diets. 

Modern research is starting to show the latter - that yogurt is healthy and can even offer health benefits.

While every single type or brand of yogurt might not be the best for your health, there are many healthy options out there that taste great and aren’t going to break your bank.

So, let’s take a closer look.

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Is Yogurt Good for You?

Many of the health benefits of yogurt are associated specifically with probiotic yogurt and the role of the bacteria in this type of yogurt on health. I’ll come back to this topic later, but in most cases, probiotic yogurt will be marketed as such.

Additionally, there are some specific health benefits associated with yogurt in general.

The research into yogurt and health has helped us to understand a lot more about what yogurt offers and also provides some insight into the question 'why is yogurt good for you'. ​

Cardiovascular Disease Risk

Cardiovascular disease is a prevalent health issue in modern society and a very significant one. It is a particularly concerning disease as the American population continues to age and obesity is on the rise.

This makes it more important than ever to find ways to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

Yogurt, and dairy food in general, is an area of nutrition that has complex implications for the risk of heart disease.

On the one hand, dairy food, especially full-fat dairy, contains saturated fat and has long been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other health issues (although the science for this is not as great as is often implied).

Heart drawn with marker

Because of this, many people steer away from dairy when they are trying to improve their health. Yet, this practice overlooks the healthy components of dairy food and yogurt and the way that these can contribute to health (1).

Observational studies indicate that the consumption of dairy products have been associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This impact is contrary to the common predictions surrounding dairy consumption (2).

Yogurt can promote improved cardiovascular health, even though people often believe the opposite

Yogurt, Fat and Weight Loss

Like many dairy foods, yogurt is dense in nutrients and can be satisfying. This can make it a particularly good tool for weight loss.

For example, an observational study of 3,340 participants found that people with higher dairy intake had less gain in waist circumference across the study and gained less weight (3).

Likewise, research has found a positive association between dairy consumption and a more desirable body composition (4).

Similar outcomes have been found for yogurt specifically. For example, one recent study found that women who consumed yogurt tended to have a lower BML than women who did not (5). However, the same relationship was not present in men.

Overweight versus skinny woman

An experimental study on the topic found that consuming 200g of synbiotic yogurt daily for a 15-day period decreased energy and fat intake (6).

One study systematically reviewed the topic by conducting a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. In their analysis, the authors considered research on four different outcomes. These were weight, lean mass, body fat mass and waist circumference.

A total of 14 different studies were used in the analysis. The authors found significant evidence supporting the idea that increased dairy consumption resulted in improvements in all four measures.

However, this outcome was only observed in cases where dairy products were included in energy restricted diets (7). This means that people who simply added dairy consumption on top of their regular diet didn’t lose weight – which isn’t too surprising.

Overall, these outcomes illustrate that increasing dairy intake can strongly contribute to weight loss, but only if you account for those calories by decreasing calorie intake elsewhere.

Losing Weight with Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt has become the poster child for yogurt and weight loss. Certainly, Greek yogurt does have a lot going for it.

For one thing, the strained nature of Greek yogurt means that it tends to be much lower in calories and sugar than its conventional counterparts (although, there are exceptions, of course).

At the same time, Greek yogurt tends to be much higher in protein.

The graph below shows the protein levels (per 100 g of yogurt) in eight brands of yogurt that I looked at as part of my research for this article.

Yogurt brands comparison

The entries are color-coded based on the type of yogurt. Specifically, orange refers to full-fat yogurt, green refers to strained yogurt (i.e. Greek yogurt), while light blue refers to low-fat yogurt (note: I used the non-Greek variety of Activia, although Activia does have a Greek variety).

Yulu doesn’t fully fit in the color scheme because it isn’t clear what category it falls under. However, its ingredients list includes cream, so it’s probably a full-fat yogurt (although most full fat yogurts don’t include cream).

As you can see, the three Greek yogurt brands had at least 8 g of protein, and often more. The next highest was Yulu (which again, is an exception) and the protein counts for the rest of the brands were pretty low.

Woman eating yogurt

Servings for Greek yogurt are often around 150 g, which means around 12 g of protein per serving (depending on brand). That’s pretty impressive.

This difference is important, because protein plays a key role in making people feel full and strongly contributes to weight loss (something I discussed extensively when talking about whey protein). Additionally, the thicker texture of Greek yogurt makes it very appealing as a snack – especially for people trying to lose weight.

All of these factors make Greek yogurt a particularly good choice for people trying to lose weight, and strongly contribute to the popularity of the yogurt.

However, you may want to be wary of the type of Greek yogurt you choose. Some types (or flavors) may have extra sugar. Likewise, full fat Greek yogurt tends to be much higher in fat than Greek yogurt made with low fat or fat free milk.

This may not be an issue for you depending on your approach to eating and weight loss – but it is certainly something to be aware of.

Full Fat Yogurt

Fat has been demonized in modern society. We have been ingrained with this idea that fat is bad, and should be avoided at all costs. Whether you follow this advice is a whole different story, but that low fat mentality is pretty much everywhere.

This perception makes the idea of full fat dairy so difficult for many people.

After all, we assume that full fat dairy is going to make us gain weight. In fact, most conventional weight loss advice suggests limiting how much dairy you eat, and when you do eat dairy, have low fat (or no fat) only.

At face value, this approach makes sense. But, when you break it down, you start to see that it isn’t as straightforward. Researchers have been looking at full fat dairy with the idea that people who eat more of this type of dairy will end up weighing more.

But instead, they’ve found a paradox.

One study looked at the relationship between type of dairy and obesity in 1,782 middle-aged men in Sweden. The authors found that a higher intake of fat from dairy was associated with decreased risk of obesity, while low dairy fat was associated with a higher risk of obesity (8).

Serious woman holding low fat milk carton

Likewise, a study on 19,352 Swedish women indicated that intake of full-fat milk was negatively associated with weight gain (9). In fact, a meta-analysis of published studies found the same inverse relationship between dairy fat and obesity (10).

Now, most of the studies on this topic have been observational in nature, but they do present a pretty clear picture. In particular, they suggest that the common advice against full-fat dairy has been misinformed and misleading. But, how is this the case?

One perspective is the sugar.

Fat tends to make food taste good, so what do food manufacturers do when they cut out the fat? Well, often they add sugar. This means that the calories in fat-free foods often ends up being as bad or worse, than the calories in full fat foods.

Full fat foods can also feel like a luxury or a treat. So, people who eat full-fat dairy may end up eating that instead of less healthy alternatives.

I’ve noticed this one in my own life.

For example, I will periodically have a small bowl of full fat yogurt for dessert along with frozen raspberries (or fresh pomegranate arils when they are in season) and shaved dark chocolate. This is a very nice dessert, but it has much fewer calories than other alternatives, like a bowl of ice cream.

In contrast, people eating low fat yogurt may find it less satisfying and end up turning to high fat and high sugar snacks later on.

Now, the observational nature of these studies does make it hard to know whether full fat dairy is directly contributing to a decreased risk of obesity.

However, they do support the idea that full-fat yogurt can be included in a healthy diet without compromising it. In fact, full fat yogurt can even support weight loss as long as you remain aware of what you are taking in.

Finally, full-fat foods often tend to contain fewer artificial ingredients and additives than their low-fat counterparts. This can be very important for people focusing on eating whole and healthy foods and for weight loss overall.

Visually, full-fat yogurt and low-fat yogurt don’t look very different than one another (the full fat is on the left in the image). However, they do taste different – with the full fat yogurt tasting much nicer and creamier.

Comparison of yogurts
Confounding Research

As is the case with just about any topic, not all studies agree with the idea that dairy can contribute to weight loss.

For example, one study looked at changes in dairy intake across a cohort for 12 years from 1986 to 1998. The authors found that men who increased their dairy intake the most also gained slightly more weight than the men with the largest decrease in their dairy intake (11).

This effect was only present for increases in intake of high-fat dairy products. In contrast, low-fat dairy products showed no association with weight.

However, with much more evidence pointing towards the role of dairy in weight loss than against it, it does seem that dairy, including yogurt, can play a key role in helping people to lose weight.

Both full-fat yogurt and Greek yogurt can contribute to weight loss, potentially because of how satisfying they are

Yogurt Probiotics

One of the most heavily marketed aspects of many yogurt brands is the presence of live active cultures, which are generally referred to as probiotics (12). The presence of probiotics isn't the only answer to the question 'why is yogurt good for you', but it is one answer.

Probiotics are believed to offer a large number of benefits to human health – and the marketers of yogurt certainly emphasize this claim.

One of the most widely recognized examples of this is the Activia range.

The range has a large amount of shelf space at most grocery stores and a range of different flavors and types, including both Greek and low fat yogurt. The presence of probiotics and their potential for health is one of the key marketing strategies of the brand. For example, this is the claim on the back of one of their yogurts.

Activia claims

The marketing has been successful, and many people do associate Activia yogurt with improved gut health. However, despite the brand’s marketing, there are other brands that also take similar approaches.

For example, the brand Siggi’s contains a number of different species of live cultures. Additionally, Siggi’s actually tends to be better for health, offering more protein, less than half as much sugar and fewer calories for its 150 g vanilla strained yogurt than Activia does in its 150 g vanilla Greek yogurt.

Live cultures

Likewise, the brand Fage also contains live cultures, including some of the same ones that Siggi contains. In a similar way, this brand tends to have less calories and sugar, while also having more protein than Activia.

Live cultures

There are many other examples of probiotic yogurts on grocery store shelves and in health stores. Likewise, there are also other examples of probiotic products, like Kefir, which is a cultured milk smoothie. The big difference between Activia and other brands in terms of probiotics is the specific strain that Activia uses (Bifidus Regularis), one that the company appears to have sole rights to.

Whether this particular strain is actually any better than all the rest is difficult to know, especially as the strains considered in research studies vary considerably.

So, what about probiotics?

Are they all they seem to be? The concept is that probiotics are good types of bacteria that can help to support and strengthen the gut. They are often recommended in cases where people experience digestive problems.

Certainly, researchers know that the bacteria in the gut do play roles in human health, but there is still so much we don’t know about the bacteria, especially as there are so many different species (13). Some estimates suggest that there are somewhere between 500 and 1,000 different species of bacteria that play a role in our gut (14).

Additionally, while there has been research conducted in humans (which I will discuss soon), a lot of the research into healthy bacteria in yogurt has been conducted on animals (15).

As researchers are beginning to learn more about the bacteria that inhabit our gut, three distinct global varieties have been identified (16,17).

Funny Little girl eats yogurt

The balance of microbes in our gut continues to change based on many factors, including diet, lifestyle, genetics and age (18).

These outcomes mean that there are many questions left to be answered before we truly under how gut bacteria operate – which means that any understanding of probiotics and their implications for health is only going to be partial.

Nevertheless, this also means that we can potentially alter the composition of our gut flora. Theoretically, we could alter this balance of microbes in a way that contributes to our health.

Researchers already feel that understanding our gut flora could offer a number of potential therapeutic and health outcomes (19), as well as for disease prevention and treatment (20).

For example, one study found that probiotic supplements were able to increase the populations of helpful bacteria in participants. This also led to changes in the production of important organic acids (21).

Yet, many challenges remain, as some alterations of the microflora could potentially harm health while others could offer significant health benefits. As such, researchers have to work out whether the use of specific probiotics, like those in yogurt, can improve gut health and potentially other health outcomes.

Probiotics in yogurt are heavily promoted and involve the use of live cultures of beneficial bacteria

Support for Yogurt Probiotics

Some research studies have strongly supported the potential of probiotic yogurt to support health.

For example, one study indicated that consuming probiotic yogurt each day for nine weeks was able to help maintain levels of serum insulin. This may play a role in helping pregnant women to avoid insulin resistance (22).

Another study (partly funded by Dannon) did indicate that probiotics in yogurt can alter the way that gut bacteria digest polysaccharides (23), which is an important outcome.

Close up of a bowl of yogurt

However, the outcomes of that research were still very preliminary and much more research is needed.

Research has also focused on bowel transit time. There are many different factors that can influence how quickly food goes through your system. One concept is that decreasing the transit time can help contribute to health and is an indication of improved digestion.

One randomized controlled study looked at the impact of symbiotic dairy on a specific type of transit time (orocecal transit time). A total of 83 females completed the study.

The authors found that the transit time was significantly decreased following the consumption of the dairy product, particularly in participants with constipation (24).

A meta-analysis on the topic also found similar outcomes (25). This offers a strong indication that probiotic dairy can significantly influence digestion, at least in relation to transit time.

Probiotics have also been linked to improvements in immunity and the ability to alleviate inflammation (26,27).

However, results of this research have been mixed and the outcomes may be species- and strain-specific, and also related to the specific experimental approaches used (28).

Probiotics have also been associated with improvements to the immune system (29,30,31), the potential to lower cholesterol (32,33,34) as well as the potential to protect against both diarrhea (35,36,37) and constipation (38).

Overall, there is a lot of interest in the potential of probiotics to promote human health – but the research itself is still in the early stages. While a number of studies have been conducted on probiotics, many of these have had substantial limitations (39).

Nevertheless, because probiotics are generally considered safe, they can be a good overall addition to health.

Yogurt and Mood

Probiotic activity in yogurt and other fermented foods has significant impacts on the microbes in the gut.

These changes may have an effect on chemicals in the brain.

One double-blind study examined this impact. The authors found that when participants consumed yogurt containing probiotics a response was observed in the part of the brain that plays a role in stress signaling and emotions (40).

Yogurt and a spoon

This study was sponsored by a dairy company and is very preliminary in nature. Nevertheless, it does indicate an interesting potential relationship between the consumption of probiotic yogurt and mood.

A second study also found a similar effect but looked at prebiotic supplements. In this case, the supplements were able to alter the stress response and the way that participants responded.

The authors suggested that this might have potential for the treatment of stress-related disorders although much more research is still needed (41). These outcomes suggest that consuming fermented products, like yogurt, may have significant impacts on brain activity (42).

Likewise, one study showed that consuming either a probiotic supplement or probiotic yogurt was able to significantly improve mental health parameters (43).

In contrast, altered composition of microbiota may contribute to the development of mental health problems, including depression (44). There are also indications that the link between the gut and the brain may be two-way, as many people with depression or other emotional issues find themselves experiencing gastrointestinal issues.

In fact, research has shown that the composition of gut bacteria can change significantly under different circumstances (45). For example, one study found that patients with major depressive disorder had significantly different microbiota (46).

Other bloggers have also talked about the connection between gut bacteria and mental health, such as the site Food Renegade

Although more research is needed, there is considerable support for the benefits of probiotics

Specific Yogurt Cultures

The healthy bacteria in yogurt does have the potential to contribute to health.

However, picking out the best probiotic can be challenging because there are multiple different species of bacteria used. Additionally, even when they use the same species, companies can vary in the strains that they use.

In general, there are five main species of bacteria used in probiotic yogurt.

Many of these species have been subject to scientific research, although the amount of research on any specific species (or subspecies) has been rather limited.

Bifidus Regularis

Perhaps the most widely recognized culture is Bifidus Regularis, which is Dannon’s proprietary culture. Despite appearances, this isn’t actually the scientific name for any bacteria.

Instead, it is a made up name that highlights on the promoted regulatory properties of the bacteria.

The actual culture Bifidus Regularis comes from the bacteria Bifidobacterium animalis, also known as Bifidobacterium lactus) and refers to a specific subspecies strain of the bacteria.

There have been a few research studies on the strain of bacteria.

One study used a parallel-design study (not a particularly strong study design) for 197 women without any gastrointestinal disorders. Subjects ingested either a fermented milk product containing the bacteria or a non-fermented milk product (47).

The authors found that more women who received the fermented milk reported improvements in gastrointestinal wellbeing compared to women who did not receive the milk. Across the four weeks of the study, the outcomes looked like this:

Comparisons

The composite score represents the overall change in four symptoms of digestive issues, including abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence and the movement of gas. Because of this, a more negative score indicates a greater overall level of improvement.

From the data it’s clear that the fermented group did see a significant decrease in how often they experienced digestive issues, but so too did the placebo group.

This suggests that the culture is able to significantly improve digestive outcomes. However, while the differences observed were significant, they are relatively small. This makes it difficult to know whether the digestive benefits would even be noticeable.

The second study used an almost identical design with a different population.

Interestingly, in the second study, the authors did not find a significant difference between the experimental and the control group (48). The authors then pooled the data from the two studies, finding an overall significant result.

However, despite the fact that the second study didn’t find a significant result on its own, the paper is carefully phrased to emphasize the fact that when pooled together, the overall result of the research was positive.

Both studies were conducted using very similar methods and with many of the same researchers.

An older study looked at the impact of the bacteria on colon transport time. Overall, the study found that supplementing with fermented milk containing the bacteria served to significantly decrease colon transit time, although many other variables measured did not experience any significant change (49).

So, there have been very few studies looking at this specific bacteria and none of them have been particularly conclusive.

Additionally, the studies were funded by Dannon (or Danone, depending where you are in the world). So, the studies were far from independent, which is always a concerning outcome.

Claims

Honestly, when it comes to Dannon’s Activa, I’m very hesitant. It is a higher priced yogurt brand with a history of false claims. It also has so much marketing hype around this one specific yogurt culture, which really isn’t as good as it seems at all.

Lactobacillus acidophilus

This type of bacteria is common among a number of different yogurt brands, including Dannon’s non-Activia ranges. This species is particularly important because it has been researched much more intensely than Dannon’s own culture.

In general, the strongest evidence for health benefits of L. acidophilus comes from its role in treating vaginal infections. However, there have also been other indications of areas where the bacteria may support health (50).

However, there is some evidence for other potential health benefits of L. acidophilus.

For example, one research study indicated that L. acidophilus was able to modulate abdominal pain, acting to reduce it (51).

Another study found that yogurt containing L. acidophilus and B. lactis was able to significantly decrease the total serum cholesterol, whole normal yogurt did not have the same outcome (52).

Streptococcus thermophiles and Lactobacillus bulgaricus

Spoon with yogurt and blueberry close up

These two species of bacteria a synergistic (which means that they work together). This is one reason why both are common in yogurt production.

They have also been commonly used in research, such as a study looking at how healthy bacteria survives in the gut (53).

For both of these species, the names have changed in recent years. Technically they are now Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophiles and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, respectively – although the older names are used most of the time (probably because they are easier).

Lactobacillus casei

This is the final main type of beneficial bacteria used in yogurt and it has been used in a number of research studies (e.g. 54,55).

There are five main types of beneficial bacteria used in yogurt and the amount of research for each varies

Hype versus Reality

Probiotics are heavily hyped, especially for improving gut health.

Licking the lid of yogurt

In fact, much of this hype is overblown or is so vague that it isn’t actually useful (56).

Nevertheless, research really does suggest that they offer significant benefits for health. For consumers, it’s important to look at the health claims of probiotic yogurt in context and be realistic about what yogurt is likely to offer.

After all, the food industry is scrambling to make probiotic yogurt seem as wonderful as possible because they make money from that popularity.

While some people may notice a significant change when they eat probiotics regularly, other people might not notice any difference whatsoever.

So, by all means give probiotics a try – just don’t expect them to be the miracle that yogurt companies like to advertise.

Probiotics may well be healthy but they are still excessively hyped, so don't believe everything you hear

Prebiotics

A second class of compounds that is sometimes discussed are the prebiotics. Despite the similar name, prebiotics are very different than probiotics.

The term prebiotics refers to chemicals that act to promote either the growth or the activity of microbes, specifically microbes that contribute to human health.

Some yogurt brands do have prebiotics, but most companies tend to focus on the probiotic aspect only (57). This can make it quite challenging to get prebiotics into your diet through yogurt.

Prebiotics may also be important for health but the research on them has been very limited

Types of Yogurt

If we’re going to do a good job looking at why is yogurt good for you, one thing that we have to talk about is the different types of yogurt.

Understanding the differences between yogurts is important for looking at the health benefits – because different types of yogurt can offer different benefits.

We really are spoiled for choice with modern food. If you try to shop for yogurt in the grocery store, you will be met with a dizzying array of options.

Not only are there dozens of different brands, but each brand has its own flavors and variations.

Despite this, yogurt can be broken down into a few key varieties. These are fat-free/low fat, Greek and full-fat varieties and we’re going to look into each type.

Fat-Free/Low Fat

By far, fat-free and low-fat yogurt are the most common types of yogurt in supermarkets in the United States.

Yogurt nutrients

There is a range of different varieties in supermarkets, including whipped yogurts, 100 calorie yogurts, low fat, fat-free, non-fat, fruit on the bottom as well as a many different flavors.

This is a reflection of our hatred of fat. The implication is that low-fat yogurts are much healthier than their full-fat counterparts. This isn’t really true though.

In many cases, low-fat foods (including yogurt) simply substitute the fat for sugar.

For example, on the right is the nutrition facts from low-fat strawberry Yoplait yogurt, one of the more common yogurt brands out there.

The yogurt has 26 grams of sugar for the 6-ounce container.

That’s a huge amount of sugar.

Other brands of yogurt may cut down on the sugar dramatically, but replace it with artificial sweeteners, which can be bad for your health as well.

Fat-free yogurt tends to be loaded with sugar and, as such, is often unsatisfying

Full Fat Yogurt

Of the three main types, full fat is the least common, or it is in the United States.

The distinction between fat-free/no fat, low-fat and full-fat yogurt simply comes from the type of milk used to produce the yogurt. The pattern shouldn’t really be too surprising as many people steer away from full-fat milk as well.

Yogurt is often seen as a treat and most people steer towards the low fat or the fat-free varieties. Likewise, we live in a society that emphasizes low fat at every turn. This trend is so common that it is challenging to find any full-fat options.

When I was researching for this article I went through the shelves of my local grocery store to see exactly what I could, and could not, find.

There were a few full-fat versions, but not many, and most of these came from obscure brands. The one exception to this was Chobani, which produces a small range of Greek yogurt made using whole milk.

However, this range is targeted at the idea of dessert, and all of the flavors follow this trend.

Dessert yogurt

This means that you are getting extra sugar and additives from the flavorings.

This might be nice for some situations, but it just reinforces how few full-fat yogurts are actually available.

The branding choice makes it pretty clear that companies tend to think of full-fat yogurt as a treat.

That’s not really true though.

Full-fat yogurt has a lot of advantages, especially as it tends to be more filling and satisfying than low-fat versions.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that perception of full-fat yogurt has been changing over time and there is growing interest in this type of yogurt. Because of this, more companies are producing full-fat yogurt, as well as yogurt with higher fat percentages, like 4% (58).

Full fat yogurt is growing in popularity and can be better for health than low-fat varieties

Greek

Greek yogurt has become very popular in recent years.

This is a specific type of yogurt that has been strained. This process removes the whey (and the whey protein) from the product. Doing so leads to yogurt with a thicker texture overall.

Greek yogurt is appealing because it feels richer and has higher protein content than regular yogurt. Additionally, the straining process actually removes some of the sugars and carbohydrates. This makes it appealing for people trying to lose weight.

Yogurt with walnuts and honey

Interestingly, the term Greek yogurt is largely a marketing term, as the yogurt itself doesn’t have much of a connection with Greece (59). In other parts of the world, the yogurt is just referred to as strained yogurt or straggisto (60).

The process in making Greek yogurt also results in a very unique taste.

Greek yogurt tends to have a sharp and tangy taste. Some people like this taste, many others find it entirely unappealing. Some brands and some flavors are much easier to eat than others, and the unique taste may be why there are so many different flavors out there to start off with.

In the United States, Greek yogurt tends to be made using fat-free or low-fat milk and are often promoted as being low calorie.

For example, Chobani has one range that is promoted as 0% milk fat, and another range where the products are exactly 100 calories.

There are full-fat versions of Greek yogurt (Chobani actually has a small range), but these tend to be pretty rare and hard to find. Thankfully, these are increasing in popularity and are becoming more common. Another example is Fage’s Total range, which uses full-fat milk and cream.

Even low-fat Greek yogurt can be very healthy and is often lower in sugar than other yogurt types

Other Types

There are a few types of yogurt that don’t fall neatly into the categories above.

For example, the Activia range from Dannon is a low-fat non-Greek yogurt. However, the range also uses a range of active cultures, which are supposed to help the digestive system.

Some other brands take similar approaches.

Eating yogurt  off a spoon

One example is Siggi’s, which is marketed as Icelandic Style Skyr. This is also strained yogurt and the brand has a strong emphasis on natural ingredients as well as active cultures.

In general, these are probiotic yogurts, and I’ll be talking more about these later. Probiotic yogurts may fall into any of the three categories above, or they may not fall in any of them.

Another unusual one is Yulu. This brand is marketing as Aussie Style Yogurt.

The brand doesn’t give much information about what makes it different, aside from the fact that it uses an Australian recipe.

Some yogurts are also probiotic, using active cultures to promote health benefits

Best Types of Yogurt

Too many choices can be confusing and a bit stressful. Not only do you have to figure out what brand and flavor you like, but you also have to figure out what type of yogurt.

The first thing to realize is that every type of yogurt will have its heroes and villains.

For example, there are some full fat yogurts that are also high in sugar. Likewise, some low-fat yogurts actually don’t have much sugar at all.

So, no matter what type of yogurt you choose, you should take the time to look at ingredient labels and consider what the different types of yogurt offer.

My personal preference is for plain (or vanilla) yogurts with lower sugar content, which often means that they have higher fat content. After all, sugar can have some devastating effects on the body, while fat isn’t nearly as bad as people assume. Besides, yogurts with more fat tend to be more filling and often taste better.

Greek yogurt acts as a particularly appealing type, because this form of yogurt tends to be fairly high in protein and low in sugar. That combination can help to make the yogurt satisfying overall. ​

Comparing ingredients and nutrition is essential for picking the healthiest yogurt. At the same time, higher protein yogurts are often a good choice, as they help to keep you full for longer, making them a perfect choice for breakfast

An Examination of Yogurt Types and Brands

Yogurt for breakfast

With yogurt, as with most foods, there are a whole range of factors to consider.

For example, you might be interested in the nutritional content of the yogurt, including calories, sugar, carbs, protein and calcium.

Other important factors could include whether the brand is organic or not, and whether the ingredients are GMO-free.

Finally, the type of yogurt, the specific flavors, any probiotics and the actual taste of the yogurt can also be important.

With so many things to consider, how does anyone choose?

Most people tend to find a brand (or a few brands) that they are pleased with and just stick with that. But most of us don’t bother to take the time to actually look at the ingredients and see whether we are making a good choice.

To look at the difference between yogurt types, brands and flavors, I looked at nutritional information for nine brands of yogurt, focusing on either natural, vanilla or basic fruit flavoring, wherever possible.

You can see the distribution of calorie count (per 100 g) for eight of the brands below (the 9th contained fruit, and will be discussed later on).

Brand comparison

Once again, the light blue on the graph is normal yogurts (either low fat or fat-free), the green is strained yogurt, the orange is full fat and the blue is Yulu, which likes being an exception.

From this you can see that the full fat yogurts end up being pretty similar in calories than low-fat yogurts. This difference is important, because full-fat yogurts tend to be more filling and more satisfying than the low-fat varieties.

In contrast, the Greek yogurts are consistently lower in calories than the other types. This does make them a good choice for people trying to restrict calories.

However, the sources of those calories are different.

Sugars per 100 g

As you can see, the sugar content is highest in the low-fat yogurts (light blue) and lowest in the Greek yogurts (green). The pattern for sodium content across the different brands is similar to calories.

Sodium per 100 g

This shows that in general, full fat and low-fat yogurts are very similar to each other while Greek yogurt tends to be different.

Given the different processes used to create the yogurt types, this isn’t too surprising. However, the differences in the types of yogurt get interesting when it comes to protein.

Protein has a lot of significance for health and weight loss. Additionally, high protein yogurt will tend to be more satisfying than low protein yogurt and it will sustain you longer.

Protein per 100 g

For these particular brands and flavors, the Greek yogurts tended to have much higher levels of protein. This suggests that they are the best source of protein.

There are large differences between individual types of yogurt, between different brands and different flavors 

Limitations and Full-Fat Yogurt

Comparing the brands like this provides a lot of information about the differences between Greek yogurt and low fat/no fat yogurt. However, the comparison isn’t as relevant for full-fat yogurt.

In general, full fat yogurt is much less common, and many of the brands that do have it specialize in some way to try and make their product appealing.

I mentioned one example of this before, the full-fat range from Chobani.

Not only is this range marketed as a dessert, but it’s also Greek yogurt. So, it does have more protein (7 g) than the Stonyfield yogurt.

So, if you are looking at full-fat yogurt, it is important to look at the labels because different products are likely to vary considerably.

Personal Perspectives

With so many yogurt brands and types out there, choosing the best option often seems impossible.

This may also be why so many people get stuck on the question 'is yogurt good for you'. After all, many of the yogurts on the market probably aren't that great for health, especially those that are high in sugar and other additives. Yet, yogurt itself can certainly be healthy, as long as you are careful with what you eat.​

For example. some people swear by Greek yogurt, others only eat full fat yogurt and yet others focus largely on low fat yogurt, like yogurt using 2% milk.

I don’t think there really is any single brand or range of yogurt that is much better than others. But, there certainly are many brands and ranges of yogurt out there that aren’t very good for your health at all.

Eating yogurt in a dressing gown

My personal preference is for Greek style plain and vanilla yogurts, including the full fat varieties. I generally like to go with the varieties that offer the highest protein and lowest sugar.

Three specific brands that I like are Skyriceland, Fage and Chobani. All three of these brands are low sugar, low carbs and high in protein. Additionally, they all have a unique texture and flavor – and tend to be thicker than most common yogurt brands.

Plain and vanilla yogurt work well because you don’t end up with lots of added sugar or artificial flavoring.

Additionally, there is a lot more flexibility with what you can do with these types of yogurt, including adding your own fruit to them.

If you don’t like the taste of Greek yogurt (and many people don’t), then full fat yogurt is a good way of getting a desirable texture and taste.

You could also give skyr a try, as it does have a different taste profile than Greek yogurt.

However, it is worth noting that the taste can also vary between Greek yogurt brands, so you may find that you like some brands more than others.

Ultimately, it is a matter of trying out different types of yogurt and figuring out which ones are appealing to you in terms of taste. Just keep an eye on the labels as you do this – so you can be sure you pick healthy options.

There are lots of different options for healthy yogurt - the trick is to keep an eye on the nutrition labels

Things to be Aware of

Flavors and Health

In this article, I’ve mainly been talking about either plain yogurt, vanilla yogurt or yogurt with very simple flavorings.

However, this isn’t all that’s out there. In fact, most people who ask 'is yogurt good for you' are probably focused on flavored yogurt. 

Instead, there are many more complex (and potentially more appealing) flavors out there. This can make deciding what to buy all the more challenging.

For example, there are flavors like caramel, raspberry chocolate, café mocha and lemon meringue.

In some cases, these flavors might be similar in nutritional composition, but they can also be radically different. This is something I noticed when looking at the nutritional information for this article.

For example, in general, Greek (and strained) yogurt was the lowest in calories, tending to come it at just under 70 calories per 100 g of yogurt.

Yet, this pattern changes when you start to look at the flavors of Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt flavors

All of these are types of Greek yogurt, but as you can see, their calorie content tends to be much higher.

This means that you have to be very careful about choosing the more exotic flavors of yogurt, because many aren’t going to be as healthy as they first seem to be.

Flavors with fruit on the bottom (or on the side) are also something you need to be aware of. Often this fruit can add a substantial amount of sugar to the yogurt, much more than the fruit itself should contain.

In general, the healthiest choice for Greek yogurt is always going to be the plain variety.

Although this mightn’t sound particularly appealing, plain yogurt doesn’t have to be boring.

Instead, you can improve the taste of plain yogurt in a range of ways, especially by adding toppings. By doing this, you control exactly what you are adding and you don’t end up with extra sugars that you don’t need.

Additionally, adding your own flavorings lets you highlight or bury the tart Greek yogurt taste (depending on which you prefer).

Hidden Ingredients

Yogurt brands vary considerably in their approaches.

Often, two brands might look the same at face value, but have very different ingredients.

One example of this is The Greek Gods brand of yogurt.

This yogurt brand uses pectin to thicken the yogurt and also includes cream as an ingredient. In fact, despite appearances, the yogurt isn’t even strained.

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt on a spoon

As I mentioned before, the term Greek yogurt is just a marketing phrase.

That’s why you see brands like Siggi that don’t call themselves Greek yogurt, but basically use the same process.

This also means that there are very few regulations in place for Greek yogurt – and many different variations might be marketed under the Greek yogurt label.

As a consumer, this means that you should be very careful about reading the ingredients labels for Greek yogurt.

Specifically, you want to make sure you avoid brands with strange additives and ingredients that really don’t need to be there.

Be aware of the impacts of different flavors and the specifics of how the yogurt is made

Select Yogurt Brands

Chobani Yogurt

One yogurt brand that I want to focus on is Chobani.

It isn’t the best brand out there, by any means, but it is a good middle-of-the-line brand that tends to be affordable and has a large selection. As I mentioned earlier, the brand has even released a full fat range of yogurt, even if it is designed as dessert.

Chobani yogurt has become a big name in recent years because it has driven the popularity of Greek yogurt. While other companies also sell Greek yogurt, Chobani’s extensive range and market share makes it one of the most well-recognized yogurt brands.

Yogurt as part of breakfast

It is a particularly good choice for weight loss, because Greek yogurt tends to be low in calories, while also being pretty filling.

For example, if you are on Weight Watchers the Chobani’s yogurts tend to be between three and four PlusPoints, which is a really good size for a snack. It’s also pretty impressive, because the tubs for Chobani are on the large side (150 g).

So, one tub of the yogurt ends up being pretty filling, which is honestly impressive for any snack when you are trying to lose weight.

In terms of price, Chobani’s yogurts average around $1.50 or so per yogurt and Greek yogurt often seems to be somewhere around this price.

Controversies with Chobani

A big issue that people have had with Chobani surrounds GMOs.

Whole Foods stores stopped selling Chobani Greek yogurt in early 2014. Many claimed that this change was because Chobani is sourced from milk of animals that are fed GMO grain (61). However, this claim ignores the fact that many other products at Whole Foods aren’t certified GMO-free either.

Whole Foods itself completely denies this claim, saying that it dropped Chobani to make room for more unique and unusual options (62). Certainly, this makes some sense, as Chobani already has a huge market share and doesn’t really need the help of Whole Foods to make sales.

Nevertheless, Chobani does actually produce yogurt that is non-GMO and also tests to make sure their yogurt meets this guidelines (63).

The company has also been moving to source its milk from animals that are not fed GMO grains – but this goal is considerably harder to achieve (64).

A Recent Change
Yogurt as a dessert

One of Chobani’s ranges has been Simply 100, which boasts exactly 100 calories.

That approach seems to be targeted at people who are trying to restrict calories, especially as 100 calories is pretty low for a snack and lower than many other yogurts (Greek yogurt included). Chobani also manages to hit that calorie count with flavored yogurts, which is relatively unusual.

Chobani recently revamped this range, putting a strong emphasis on the natural nature of the yogurt.

This includes a non-GMO claim (which no doubt helps fight the controversy from above) and a claim that the product is naturally sweetened. For example, the back of one product makes a few other claims, namely:

  • rBST free (BST is a growth hormone)
  • Certified gluten free
  • Probiotics

All of these factors seem to be strongly targeted towards a health and environmentally oriented audience.

The nutritional information for the product is pretty appealing. For example, the raspberry lemon flavor offers 12 g of protein and only 7 g of sugar.

The sugar is the big difference, and the company has managed this by including stevia leaf extract as some of the sweetness. However, it also uses evaporated cane juice, which is essentially just sugar.

The yogurt does also offer 5 g of fiber. This seems to come from chicory root fiber, as yogurt doesn’t naturally contain a great deal of fiber. It’s also important to note that even though the sweeteners, fiber and other compounds are naturally derived, they have still gone through significant processing.

For people trying to restrict calories, this particular yogurt may be a good option. However, do be aware that many of their claims are just marketing approaches.

Chobani is one of the largest and most varied brands that focuses on Greek yogurt and there are many different variations present within the brand. Despite the controversies, this is a good brand, although the marketing is sometimes overblown

Fage Greek Yogurt

Fage is a pretty significant competitor for Chobani.

Fage Yogurt

The company claims to be the #1 yogurt in Greece and the brand certainly is popular in Greece (and is also headquartered in the country).

However, the marketing for the company kind of implies that it is the Greek yogurt that is popular in Greece, which isn’t really true.

Instead, Fage sells a range of different yogurts (as well as cheese and milk) in Greece.

In the United States, the emphasis of the brand is almost entirely on Greek yogurt.

Its range is much more limited than Chobani and most of the varieties offered are either plain or split cups (where one side contains fruit and the other Greek yogurt).

In terms of nutrition, Fage is pretty similar to Chobani.

Taste-wise, Fage tends to be a little less tart than Chobani. This makes it a good choice for people who find the tartness of Greek yogurt challenging to stomach.

In fact, many people argue that Fage is one of the best tasting varieties of Greek yogurt, although everyone has their own personal opinion. It is also one of the few brands where people find that they can eat the plain flavor without having to add something to it.

Fage's Greek yogurt isn't as popular in Greece as the company likes to imply but they do still offer decent yogurt options, especially if you like Greek yogurt

Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr

Siggi’s is a more obscure yogurt brand and tends to take up only a little shelf space in most grocery stores.

Siggi

It also has a relatively small range.

In my local  grocery store, there were roughly six different flavors of the yogurt: vanilla, raspberry, coconut, blueberry, strawberry and wild berry.

These are relatively simple flavors compared to the more complex flavors that many of their competitors offer.

There is more to the range, as the website for the company shows. However, the relatively obscure nature of the brand means that most grocery stores probably won’t stock all of the flavors.

Siggi’s is interesting, because the brand has taken a very different approach to marketing and to their product. To start off with, Siggi’s isn’t actually Greek yogurt. Instead, it is a type of yogurt called Icelandic skyr.

Like Greek yogurt, this type of yogurt is strained and the taste profile is pretty similar. Skyr also has the same creamy and thick texture that people love about Greek yogurt. In fact, skyr is even a bit thicker than Greek yogurt.

Personally, I find the taste of the range more appealing than Greek yogurt, as it is a little bit creamier and a bit less sour. The range is also made with 0% milk fat, but you wouldn’t know this from the taste. Instead, the yogurt is incredibly creamy.

The most interesting thing though is the nutritional profile.

Both Fage and Chobani have been in trouble in the past for the amount of sugar in their products. While the brands do tend to have less sugar than traditional yogurt (especially low fat yogurt), their level of sugar is a little concerning.

In contrast, Siggi’s has considerably lower levels of sugar.

For example, the image below shows the amount of sugar in a full serving (170 g for Fage, 150 g for Chobani and Siggi’s) of each brand’s vanilla variety (65,66,67). 

Calorie comparison

Note: The levels were correct at the time of writing. However, brands regularly change their formulations, so sugar levels may vary as a result.

For all brands, the sugar values change across flavors. In particular, many fruit flavors have higher amounts of sugar, partially because of the sugar from the fruit, but also because of added sugar.

Likewise, Siggi’s avoids most of the artificial additives found in other yogurt brands. Because of this, Siggi has an impressively simple ingredients list. For example, the list below is from their raspberry variety.

Ingredients label

As you can see, the brand tends to rely on simple cane sugar as a sweetener. Some other products in their range use organic agave nectar, but they stay away from ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (thankfully).

Finally, Siggi’s has a comparable level of protein to Greek yogurt. For example, Chobani’s vanilla yogurt has 13 g protein (68), Fage’s vanilla has 15 g (69) and Siggi’s has 14 g (70).

Overall, the differences between Siggi’s and other brands can make it a good choice for people who are wanting to get more whole foods into their diets and for people trying to cut down on their calorie intake.

Siggi's is technically skyr rather than Greek yogurt but the health benefits between the two are similar. Many people find this to be an appealing type of yogurt and Siggi's is a great way to get started with skyr

Skyr.is

If you’re interested in Icelandic skyr, a second brand is Skyr.is. (which has started labeling itself just as Skyr recently).

Like Siggi’s, Skyr.is offers Icelandic skyr and has a similar taste profile. One of the biggest differences between the brands is that Skyr.is is made in Iceland, using cultures from Iceland. In contrast, Siggi’s is made in the United States.

Both approaches have their own advantages. Skyr.is’s approach means that its product is more authentic. However, if you’re buying in the United States, Siggi’s has less of a carbon footprint.

Skyr.is also has a smaller range (it offers plain, blueberry, strawberry and vanilla yogurts) and is harder to find. Your grocery store might have it, depending on where you are in the United States.

Whole Foods stores and some specialty stores also carry Skyr.is, but you might still have to shop around.

Skyr.is may be relatively obscure but it's another good option if you want the health benefits associated with Greek yogurt but don't actually like Greek yogurt

Stonyfield Yogurt

Senior Woman Eating Yogurt

Stonyfield is one of the few organic yogurt brands, which can make it a good choice.

The brand offers a range yogurt types, including Greek yogurt, low-fat and full-fat yogurt.

Personally, I like the taste of some of their products, especially their full fat yogurt. The fact that the range is organic also makes it appealing to many users.

The company also has a range known as Petite Crème. The products are similar to Greek yogurt (and Icelandic skyr) in terms of texture, but they don’t have the tart flavor of Greek yogurt. The difference is that the range is made using cheese cultures instead of yogurt cultures and this significantly changes the flavor profile.

This means that (like Icelandic skyr) the product is technically cheese not yogurt.

The range does have a little bit of a cheesy taste, which can take some getting used to. It is also runnier than Greek yogurt. Some reviewers have commented that while the product tastes okay, the fruit flavors are very mild.

The range is also high in sugar. For example, the vanilla Petite Crème as 18 g of sugar. That’s as high as Fage’s vanilla, but Petite Crème has a smaller size (150 g versus Fage’s 170 g). The amount of protein is also lower, making it less appealing nutritionally than Greek yogurt.

Stonyfield offers a range of different yogurt types and can be a good option, especially if you like organic products

The Greek Gods

Yogurt from The Greek Gods range tends to taste really really good.

Unfortunately, it isn’t all that healthy (their nonfat plain yogurt is an exception to this rule).

The problem is that the flavored varieties of The Greek Gods yogurt are all full-fat milk (which isn’t bad in and of itself) and they also use cream as one of the main ingredients.

Additionally, most of their flavors are honey plus something else, which also adds to the sweetness.

For example, a serving (170 g) of their honey vanilla yogurt comes in at 220 calories. In contrast, a serving of Fage vanilla is 190 calories, Chobani’s vanilla is 120 calories and Siggi’s is 100 calories.

So, yogurt from The Greek Gods might be a nice treat every once in a while (and it is better than ice cream, gram for gram), but it isn’t the best choice for your health.

Another important note is that despite the marketing, yogurt from The Greek Gods doesn’t fit in with the typical definition of Greek yogurt.

This isn’t clear on the yogurt itself, but a note on the website for the company (below) notes that the brand uses traditional methods for yogurt and doesn’t concentrate the protein.

Greek style yogurt

Basically, this means that they don’t actually strain the yogurt.

Instead, the yogurt has the texture of Greek yogurt because they add pectin to thicken it (the whole milk and the cream also help with the thickness).

The company can get away with this because Greek yogurt really isn’t a type of yogurt to start off with. Instead, it’s a marketing term for strained yogurt. There are no regulations concerning what is (and is not) considered Greek yogurt.

Likewise, the company could easily argue that their yogurt fits the category because it does have the texture of Greek yogurt.

While yogurts from The Greek Gods may taste good, most of their products are better viewed as dessert rather than a health food

Other Yogurt Brands

There is no shortage of yogurt brands out there, including many that I haven’t talked about here.

Ultimately, finding the best yogurt for you is a matter of paying attention to the ingredients labels and being willing to give something new a try.

In general, the more obscure brands, like Siggi’s and Skyr.is often taste better and may also be healthier, but there are many exceptions to this generalization.

You’ll also find that many stores have their own brands. These can be good sometimes, and not so good other times.

There are a lot of yogurt brands out there and lots of different products within those brands. Realistically, there is no best brand and instead, the healthiest approach is to focus on the ingredients that different yogurts contain

Using Yogurt

The simplest approach to yogurt is, of course, eating it out of the tub.

That is what yogurt is designed for.

Many brands of yogurt have developed complex and enticing flavors to try and make that experience as good as possible. But, there are other ways of using yogurt.

Smoothies

Three smoothies with berries,fruits and greens

Smoothies are my go-to option for a lot of different foods.

They are a great way to eat healthy and there are a lot of very appealing options.

Yogurt works well as an ingredient in just about any type of smoothie – and tends to make the smoothie creamier overall.

If you’re going to use yogurt in a smoothie, either plain or vanilla is the best way to go.

You certainly don’t need the extra taste (or sugar) from the fruit, especially as most smoothies will tend to have some sweet components already in them.

Likewise, the taste of the yogurt doesn’t matter too much.

So, you can pick yogurt based on its nutritional properties and its price, rather than being too concerned about how it tastes. This is particularly important for Greek yogurt, because some brands are very tart, which can make them hard to eat normally.

You can also freeze yogurt in ice cube trays to make yogurt ice cubes. This is a great trick if you have yogurt that is close to expiring.

The frozen yogurt can be used directly in smoothies instead of ice, resulting in the smoothie texture, without the drink getting watered down.

Alternatively, you can use frozen yogurt for other purposes too, like making a frozen dessert (such as with frozen yogurt, frozen raspberries and a little milk, as in the image).

Toppings for Yogurt

Fruit yogurt for breakfast

There are so many different flavors of yogurt out there – and many of them taste wonderful.

However, the flavor tends to come from additives and artificial ingredients. Often you don’t really know what it is that gives your yogurt the flavor it has.

A much better alternative is to buy plain or vanilla yogurt and flavor it yourself. You might do this by mixing something through the yogurt or by putting something on the top.

For example, just about any type of fresh fruit works fantastic on yogurt.

What about these combinations?

  • Sliced banana, sliced almonds and raw honey
  • Grated dark chocolate and berries
  • Granola, pomegranate arils and pureed apple
  • Apricots, raw honey and almonds
  • Cocoa (stir into yogurt), grated dark chocolate, raspberries
  • Pecans, brown sugar and strawberries
  • Sliced peaches and cinnamon powder
  • Grated dark chocolate and kiwis

In general, adding your own toppings to yogurt can make it a lot more appealing, and you know exactly what’s going into the food you’re eating.

Of course, you can also mix the toppings into your yogurt if you are so inclined.

You can also use mason jars to make on-the-go yogurt parfaits. For example, you can alternate with layers of yogurt and fruit, or yogurt, fruit and granola. Using frozen fruit can help to keep the whole thing cool if you need to have it in your bag for a while.

This makes a fantastic snack at work or at home, and it’s filling to boot.

Savory Toppings

Yogurt tends to be sweet and most of us naturally add sweet toppings to it, especially fruit.

However, you can also use savory toppings. This is especially true if you are using plain Greek yogurt, as the tangy nature of the yogurt pairs well with savory alternatives.

This approach isn’t as common, so there are fewer recipes out there, but here are some possible combinations (you can season all of these with some olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste):

  • Thinly sliced cucumbers and dill (essentially you are making Tzatziki)
  • Thinly sliced cucumbers and basil
  • Tomato salsa and pesto
  • Basil leaves and halved cherry tomatoes
  • Pesto, roasted cherry tomatoes (halved), pine nuts and parmesan cheese

Yogurt as a Topping and in Cooking

It works the other way around too. Yogurt can be a topping for some types of food.

A common example is oatmeal or granola. In both cases, yogurt can be a good way of adding extra flavor. Many times you might choose to have both yogurt and fresh fruit as a topping.

Yogurt on granola

This tends to be much healthier than choosing artificially flavored granola or oatmeal.

Plain, low sugar, Greek yogurt can also be used as a substitute for sour cream as a topping or in food. The taste isn’t the same, but Greek yogurt has a tartness that works well in most cases where you would use sour cream.

While Greek yogurt isn’t as rich as sour cream, it can be a nice taste. It’s an especially good choice for people trying to lose weight who don’t want to entirely give up sour cream.

You can also use Greek yogurt as a substitute for other ingredients (such as oil, butter or cream cheese), in a wide range of recipes.

In fact, Greek yogurt can be a healthy substitute in many different recipes that are creamy. It’s a fantastic way to get the creamy taste without the calories from actually using cream.

Another alternative is to add Greek yogurt to sauces to make them creamier (like marinara sauce). Likewise, you can use Greek yogurt as an ingredient in macaroni cheese - like in this recipe from Cooking a la Mel.

However, unless you are making dessert, you want to stick to plain Greek yogurt. Anything else will leave you with a bit of an odd taste. You can also use plain non-Greek yogurt as a substitute as long as you strain it.

There are some great recipes for ways to use yogurt in cooking online and you can probably find more just by experimenting.

Some recipes also use yogurt as an ingredient already, without you needing to make any substitutions. This is particularly true for baking, where yogurt can be an important ingredient.

Other Uses

One alternative use for yogurt is to make yogurt popsicles – which is particularly good for the summer months.

One simple recipe for doing this is to mix plain yogurt with fruit juice and a little bit of raw honey. You can freeze these in popsicle molds, or in small paper cups and insert wooden sticks when they are partially frozen.

This makes a healthy alternative to the sugar laden frozen treats from the grocery store. The site Sally's Baking Addition offers another easy recipe that you can try.

Yogurt also works well in marinades (somewhat surprisingly). The enzymes in the yogurt can help in the tenderizing process. Additionally, the flavor works well with marinades that already have a Middle Eastern or a Greek flavor.

There are lots of different ways to use yogurt, including in smoothies, with toppings, as a topping and in cooking

Safety Considerations

Attractive girl eating yogurt

Yogurt is a common part of the human diet and it is now becoming even more popular due to growing recognition of yogurt as a health food.

For the most part, yogurt is a very safe food.

However, you do need to be a little careful with probiotic yogurts.

As with most things, probiotics aren’t good for everyone.

For example, research has shown that in people who are already very sick, probiotics may actually make health worse, rather than better (71).

This outcome isn’t actually surprising, because people who have a compromised immune system have a much harder time dealing with bacteria. That includes bacteria that are supposed to be good for your health.

If you have gastrointestinal problems or a weakened immune system, you should talk to your doctor before you start taking probiotic yogurt regularly (72).

Yogurt and Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a major issue in modern society and up to 65% of people have some reduction in their ability to digest lactose (73).

Some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance include the following (74):

  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Painful gas
  • Bloating

How bad these symptoms are and how quickly they occur will depend on your specific lactose intolerance. For example, some people get symptoms of lactose intolerance after having hardly any dairy, for others, the symptoms emerge after having more.

Girl with period cramps

Lactose intolerance occurs because the small intestine isn’t producing enough of a compound called lactase. This compound is used to break down lactose.

Interestingly, many cases people actually experience lactose malabsorption rather than lactose intolerance. When this happens, the body digests lactose slower but the lactose is still digested.

Some people also end up avoiding lactose because of bad experiences without realizing that they aren’t actually lactose intolerant. Because people differ considerably in how much lactose they can tolerate, figuring out what you can and cannot eat is a matter of trial and error.

As with other dairy products, yogurt does contain lactose.

However, it doesn’t contain as much as lactose, and many people with lactose intolerance can actually eat yogurt without any issues (75).

If you still have problems with traditional yogurt, any type of strained yogurt (such as Greek or skyr) may be easier to consume. This is because the process of straining the yogurt also gets rid of some of the lactose.

There is a second perspective to consider.

The symptoms of lactose intolerance are not especially dangerous on their own (although they can be uncomfortable). It is also possible to improve how much lactose you can tolerate over time by including some lactose in your diet.

The best options for doing this arehard cheese and yogurt (76).

Yogurt with live cultures is also an important approach, as the cultures can help in lactose digestion (77,78).

If you have lactose intolerance, it really is worth trying to include some dairy in your diet, especially through yogurt. Avoiding dairy altogether can mean that you miss out on important vitamins and minerals, including calcium. This can put your health at risk.

Yogurt tends to be healthy and well-tolerated. However, some people are lactose intolerant and may have to limit their yogurt intake because of this. At the same time, probiotics may not be a good approach if you have a health condition

In the End

Maintaining good health can seem like an overwhelming challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. The answer isn’t in the next radical diet or a miracle pill.

Instead, it’s a matter of finding an approach that works well for you.

This will end up being a combination of different healthy approaches and decisions, including being active, choosing the right food, cutting down on salt and sugar and making sure you get enough vitamins and nutrients.

Yogurt is one important component to a healthy lifestyle, as long as you are careful about the yogurt that you choose. 

​My personal preference is for Greek yogurt, partly because of the high protein content and also because it is fairly low in sugar. That protein helps to keep you feeling full for longer and, for me, that's critical. I've also come to love Siggi's yogurt as much as Greek yogurt, as it offers similar benefits along with a slightly different taste profile. 

However, I would recommend leaning towards the plain or vanilla versions of yogurt, regardless of the brand. You can make these taste better with your own toppings, which is often much healthier than relying on whatever additives the company uses to create its flavors. ​

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2 thoughts on “A Look At Yogurt’s Proven Benefits and The Best Types”

  1. Great text.

    Also, yogurt is one of the best weight loss foods.

    Of course, if we are talking about the low-fat one.

    2 cups of a yogurt per day can help you burn belly fat, speed up the metabolism and improve digestion.
    [LINK REMOVED]

    Reply
    • Yogurt is powerful for weight loss – but I disagree that it needs to be low fat. Plenty of studies show that people consuming high-fat dairy products actually lose more weight. That’s actually an area often debated concerning dairy foods. Fat itself doesn’t cause weight gain anyway, weight gain typically comes from the entirety of the diet and the decisions people make.

      Reply

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