Yogurt comes in many forms, from Greek to plain, flavored options to non-dairy and fun varieties marketed toward children. But are all yogurts, no matter the type, healthy? The short answer: yes yogurt is good for you.
Yogurt and its benefits
Yogurt is a fermented food made when heated milk combines with bacteria. It has similar amounts of calcium and protein to milk and cheese.
“Yogurt is a very nutrient dense food,” said Krystle Endries, a Marshfield Clinic Health System registered dietitian. “It is a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, zinc, selenium, iodine, pantothenic acid and vitamin B-12.”
Additionally, some yogurts contain live active bacteria cultures that provide healthy bacteria to the GI tract. “Yogurt consumption may help to increase bacteria diversity in the gut,” Endries said. “Check the food label for ‘live active cultures.’ This healthy bacteria or probiotics have been shown to possibly support the immune system and reduce inflammation in the gut.”
Types of yogurt
Not all yogurt is created equal, though. “Be cautious of the added sugar content when purchasing yogurt,” Endries said. “Some yogurts can have up to 25 grams of sugar per container.”
Plain yogurt has less added sugar. To sweeten plain yogurt, Endries suggests adding fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey, cinnamon or vanilla. Greek yogurt is a strained, thicker yogurt with a higher protein content. If you prefer Greek yogurt, look for one fortified with calcium, as Greek yogurt tends to have less calcium than regular yogurt. Fruited or flavored yogurt can have a significant amount of added sugar, so check the labels to find one with less added sugar.
Yogurt for kids
Several yogurt varieties are marketed toward kids. Because children need to consume calcium and vitamin D to promote bone health, yogurt can be a good snack, part of a meal or dessert.
“Pay attention to the sugar content of these products,” Endries said. “The American Heart Association recommends 2-18 year olds consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day. So, consider looking for yogurt that has 10 grams or less of added sugar. If your child enjoys a specific brand that contains more added sugar, make sure to limit the portion or make that a ‘treat’ item for the day.”
If you are unable to consume traditional yogurt, there are many non-dairy based options such as soy, goat or plant-based yogurt.
Soy yogurt has a comparable protein content to regular yogurt and is a good source of calcium. If you are purchasing a plant-based yogurt, make sure to find one fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Overall, yogurts are a nutrient dense food that can be a healthy addition to your diet so long as you keep an eye on the added sugar content.
“Yogurt is a versatile food,” Endries said. “It can be used in smoothies, dips or to replace sour cream in recipes. You can even consider making your own yogurt with a yogurt maker or slow cooker.”