It’s all Greek to me: The many varieties of yogurt


You turn the corner at the grocery store and WHAM there you are faced with an entire wall of yogurt. Various styles, brands and claims stand out

“Greek”                                “Icelandic”

“100% Whole Milk

“Plant-based”                           “High Protein”

“Good for Digestion”                  “Fruit at the Bottom”

I remember growing up and having two options: traditional yogurt with fruit mixed into it or kids brands like Danimals or Gogurt. While variety is the spice of life, having so many choices can leave people confused as to which yogurt is the best option for them. This post is going to briefly review how yogurt is made, current recommendations, health benefits, and the many types available.

What is yogurt?

The FDA considers yogurt to be a food produced by fermenting milk with two live bacteria cultures: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. This process results in the sour taste and thick texture of yogurt.

Are all yogurts probiotic yogurts?

In order to be considered a probiotic yogurt there needs to be live and active bacteria cultures present in the product. Take a look on your yogurt’s label to see if it says “live and active cultures” or look for the National Yogurt Association’s Live & Active Cultures Seal. As a general rule of thumb, the more cultures listed, other than the starter bacteria- Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, the better the benefit. Other bacteria added may include:Lactococcus lactis, Lactobacillus casei, or another kind of bifidobacteria.


What are the current recommendations for yogurt consumption?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend increasing intake of low-fat and fat free dairy products to improve intake of potassium, calcium, and vitamin D. These three nutrients are important for bone, teeth, and muscle health. These are also three nutrients that Americans do not eat enough of in their diet. Having one serving of yogurt per day can help increase intake of these important nutrients.

What about full fat yogurt?

The recent trend of high fat, low carb diets has led to many food companies producing full fat versions of their product. Researchers reviewed several studies and found that there is no risk of developing heart disease when eating either full fat or low fat/no fat dairy products.

Full fat Icelandic style yogurt 
Low fat Greek style yogurt 

Some things to keep in mind when comparing full fat vs low fat yogurt:

  • Full fat yogurt will contain more saturated fat, which the Dietary Guidelines and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend limiting to less than 10% of calories
  • Full fat yogurt also contains more calories
  • Some people find the creamier taste of full fat yogurt more appealing and filling than low/no fat varieties
  • Low fat yogurt can be easily incorporated into cooking recipes, or used as a substitute for sour cream (check out some recipes, tips, and yogurt-based dips)

What are some other health benefits of yogurt?

  • Yogurt is a complete protein- which means it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids we need to get from our diet
  • Yogurt types like “Greek” or “Icelandic” are higher in protein
  • Regular consumption of yogurt may lower risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, CVD, and obesity

What should I keep in mind when buying yogurt?

  • All yogurts are not created equally- some will have different protein, calorie, and nutrient amounts based on style, fat content, and flavor
  • Less is more! Choose a yogurt that has few ingredients listed
  • Check for sugar! Yogurt can be a great addition to a healthy diet but not if it is packed with sugar. As a general rule, if it sounds or looks like a dessert then leave it on the shelves. Many yogurts with added toppings can have up to 20 g of sugar in them. Try to look for yogurts with less than 10g of sugar per serving. Another great way to keep sugar content low is to buy the plain flavor and sweeten it yourself with a teaspoon of honey or some fruit
This yogurt has 24 g of sugar! 

What is the difference between all the different styles of yogurt?

Check out the table below for some helpful information about the different styles of yogurt, how they are made, their cost, and more!

Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 1.57.28 PM


Takeaway points:

  • Yogurt is a good source of potassium, calcium and vitamin D, making it a excellent component of a healthy diet
  • Choose a yogurt that will work best for you, whether that be full-fat, low-fat, flavored, unflavored, high protein or moderate protein
  • Make sure you check the nutrition facts label for sugar content

Now that you have all this yogurt knowledge you are ready to tackle that yogurt aisle like a pro!






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