To figure out the healthy yogurt, we’ve introduced these different yogurts. Particularly high or low values are spotlighted throughout, so you can pick the yogurt that works best for you.
Packed with metabolism-revving protein and overflowing with gut-healthy probiotics, yogurt has all the makings of one of the very best weight-loss foods around.
Yogurt has always had an enviable reputation as the ultimate health food, which is well-deserved. It’s brimming with nutrients, and there’s evidence that yogurt eaters may have an easier time staying at a healthy weight and have a lower risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
The Mediterranean yogurt’s creamy, smooth, and slightly thick texture is comforting but indulgent. Its pleasantly sour and moderately sweet taste is intriguing yet familiar. And between the gut-friendly probiotics, healthy fats, and muscle-building protein, it boasts an impressive display of health benefits.
But tread carefully in the aisle of the fermented milk products. Manufacturers have a knack for cramming as much sugar and artificial ingredients into yogurt pots and bottles as they do candy bars—all while marketing their products as the picture of health.
Then came the Greek yogurt revolution. When Chobani launched in 2007, Greek yogurt accounted for less than 1% of the yogurt market in the United States. By 2017, it accounted for half of the category. During that period, Chobani became a billion-dollar company. Yoplait decided Greek was a fad, realized its mistake (as parent General Mills registered serious losses), then scrambled to take a slice of the pie. The original Greek yogurt distributor, Fage, which had modestly entered the American market in 1998, began building plants across the country. And spiritually-similar yogurt types, like Iceland’s skyr, under the Siggi’s label, learned to ride Greek yogurt’s coattails to notoriety and success.
Follow this guide to find out what to look for and what to avoid when shopping for healthy yogurt.
The Food and Drug Administration defines yogurt as a milk product cultured (or fermented) by two specific bacterial strains—Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus—although other types of bacteria may be added, too. The type of milk—whether it’s nonfat, low-fat, or full fat (or plant milk)—as well as the way the yogurt is made and the cultures used help determine its consistency, flavor, and texture.
In general, though, the bacteria in yogurt convert the lactose naturally present in milk into lactic acid. This is what gives yogurt its signature tanginess. And it means that the lactose in yogurt is more easily digested than that in milk, so yogurt may be more gut-friendly for people who get gas and bloating when eating dairy foods.
Greek or Icelandic yogurt (known as skyr) is often strained, which thickens the yogurt and changes its nutrition. “Straining removes some of the carbohydrates and concentrates the protein content of what’s left behind,” says Debbie Petitpain, MS, RD, wellness director at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. The dairy yogurts in our tests had 4 to 15 grams of protein per serving, with Greek and Icelandic types containing the most.
Australian and French yogurts are unstrained, with a thinner consistency that has more in common with typical American yogurts. The Australian yogurt brands have a creamy texture either from whole milk or a slow culturing process. French yogurts, typically made with whole milk, are “pot set,” cultured in individual glass jars rather than in larger batches, which gives them a dense, creamy texture. Plant-based yogurts are made from almond, cashew, coconut, oat, or soy milk with added cultures. And, as with some dairy yogurts, they may have thickening ingredients like pectin, tapioca starch, or gums.
When Is Yogurt Good for You?
Whether yogurt is a healthful choice depends on the person consuming it and the type of yogurt.
Yogurts can be high in protein, calcium, vitamins, and live culture, or probiotics, which can enhance the gut microbiota.
These can offer protection for bones and teeth and help prevent digestive problems.
Low-fat yogurt can be a useful source of protein on a weight-loss diet.
Probiotics may boost the immune system.
Some argue that they could also impact brain functioning, too, although more research is necessary to confirm some of these claims.
In 2014, researchers found that consuming yogurt may help protect against type 2 diabetes. Other types of dairy product did not appear to impact the likelihood of developing the condition.
Other scientists have suggested that yogurt containing probiotic bacteria successfully protects children and pregnant women against the effects of heavy metal exposure.
It is also a nutritious option when people find it difficult to chew their food.
Non-dairy yogurts offer an alternative for people who do not consume dairy or animal products or have allergies or intolerances.
Yogurt contains less lactose than milk because the lactose is used up in the fermentation process.
When Is Yogurt Bad for You?
Not all yogurts are healthful. Those without added sugar or unnecessary additives can be a healthful addition to the diet, but some products have high quantities of added sugar and other ingredients that may not be beneficial.
Natural yogurt can be a low-calorie, high-nutrient food packed with protein.
How to Choose The Healthy Yogurt
Yogurt starts as fresh milk or cream. It is often first pasteurized, then fermented with various live bacteria cultures, and incubated at a specific temperature to encourage bacteria growth.
The culture ferments the lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. This produces lactic acid, which gives yogurt its distinctive flavor.
- It should be low in fat. Although fat can help you feel full and satiated, it also adds extra calories. “If you’re trying to control your calorie intake for weight loss, opt for low-fat or non-fat yogurts,” says Kostro Miller.
- Opt for a sugar-free yogurt or one with no added sugars. “Because the lactose in dairy is a natural form of sugar, some sugar is fine, but you want to make sure that there hasn’t been a lot of sugar added on top of that,” says dietitian Sarah Marjoram, MS, RDN, LD. The healthiest yogurt will have little to no added sugar.
- Look for high protein yogurts. “Protein helps you stay full for several hours, so getting enough protein can prevent early hunger, which is good for someone who is trying really hard to control their calories,” says Kostro Miller. “While yogurt, in general, is a good source of protein, Greek yogurt varieties have around double the amount of protein as regular yogurt, which will help keep you full and satisfied,” adds Matchett.
- Pay attention to ingredients: This list should be short. “It really should be the milk, active cultures, and sometimes there’s added vitamins depending on what the brand chooses to do,” says Harris-Pincus.
- Cap the sugar: Harris-Pincus notes that the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sugar to 24 grams for women and 36 grams for men. Many yogurts can hit way beyond 20 grams per serving, she warns. (Our picks below hover around 10 grams of sugar or less.)
- Look at the fat: Harris-Pincus enjoys non-fat yogurt varieties and adds her own mix of satisfying toppings, such as fiber-rich fruits, as well as seeds and nuts to boost the healthy fat content. Langer, meanwhile, opts for 2 to 4% percent milkfat yogurts, because she prefers the creaminess and satiety that a higher-fat yogurt offers. The option you choose really depends on what you’re looking for in consistency, taste, and nutrition.
- Pump up the protein: For cow’s milk yogurt, Langer suggests aiming for a minimum of 5 grams of protein per serving. But both Langer and Harris-Pincus agree that choosing a strained yogurt brand, like a Greek yogurt, can boost that number significantly—which can ultimately help you stay fuller for longer.
Always Read the Label
Reading the label should always be your first step when deciding what food to buy.
This is because reading the label is essential to knowing what is really in your food.
On the outside, it may seem like all yogurts are the same. However, if you know what to look for, the label on each yogurt can tell a different story.
Although all yogurts start out as plain yogurt, they often contain a variety of added ingredients, such as sugar, artificial flavors, dyes, stabilizers and preservatives.
When possible, choose a yogurt without large amounts of added ingredients. Instead, try to choose a yogurt with few ingredients.
They should include milk, the bacterial cultures used to turn milk into yogurt and not much else.
Ingredients are listed by weight, so avoid yogurts that have sugar listed near the top.
Better yet, simply avoid all yogurts that have any type of added sugar on the ingredients list.
Sugar can be listed under a number of different names, including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, cane sugar and agave nectar.
The nutrition facts on the label can give you some of the most specific information.
The serving size and calories per serving are listed at the top. The nutrition facts can also tell you how many carbs, fat, protein and sugar are in each serving.
Note that there may be more than one serving per container, meaning there are more calories too.
Right now, the nutrition label does not distinguish added sugar from naturally occurring sugar, which can make it difficult to tell how much sugar has been added.
However, labeling guidelines have recently changedTrusted Source so that the grams of added sugar per serving will also be listed on labels in the future.
The nutrition information will also tell you how much calcium and vitamin D each yogurt serving contains.
Ideally, your yogurt will contain vitamin D and a significant part of your daily calcium needs. This will be listed as percentage of daily value (% DV) on the label.
Healthiest Yogurts You Can Buy
YQ Plain Yogurt
PER 6 OZ: 100 calories, 3 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 17 g protein
This is the closest you’re going to get to a sugar-free yogurt. YQ (which is supposed to be a play on IQ) is made with ultra-filtered milk, which gets rid of most of the naturally-occurring sugars in milk while retaining very high levels of protein. The result is yogurt with only one gram of natural sugar and an incredible 17 grams of protein: the perfect combination for weight loss. A bonus is that it’s 99% lactose-free.
Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt
PER 7 OZ: 140 calories, 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 65 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (0 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 20 g protein, 20% DV calcium
There’s a reason Fage is one of the most popular Greek yogurts available. “While it’s not organic, Fage is one of the—if not the—best-tasting Greek yogurt available,” Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, CDN, and founder of NYC-based health and wellness practice Middleberg Nutrition says.
Fage yogurts are also impressively high in protein, packing in 20 grams per larger-than-industry-average 7-ounce container. (For comparison, that’s equivalent to 15 grams per 5.3 ounces.) Just make sure you side-step flavors like honey, which can pack a massive 29 grams of sugar into your morning meal. Honey might be better than table sugar, but that doesn’t mean you should eat it by the cup. We explain here in our exclusive report every added sweetener ranked by nutrition.
Wallaby Organic No Sugar Added Greek Yogurt
“Many yogurts on the market are not organic—I like Wallaby because they provide organic dairy which many of my clients prefer,” explains Shapiro. This line packs delicious flavor without added sugar, and they use whole food ingredients and spices to sweeten the yogurt. Wallaby also contains fat and protein, which both give the yogurt delicious mouthfeel and helps keep you satisfied.
Rachel’s Greek Style Natural Yoghurt
Verdict: While Rachel’s contains a rather sizeable amount of fat, it has a much lower quantity of sugar than many of the other yoghurts available.
Dr Sana Khan says, “This yogurt is great for a snack as it helps support blood sugar levels. It’s not packed full of sugar and does contain some fat. You can add a portion of fresh fruit to this if you wish.”
Chobani Gili Cherry Less Sugar Greek Yogurt
This is a great choice if you’re looking to cut sugar or simply can’t stand the taste of something super sweet so early in the morning.
“Chobani Less Sugar yogurt provides the same high-protein benefit of Greek, without the excessive sugar of other brands,” says Taub-Dix.
Per serving: 110 calories, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g sat), 10 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 50 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 12 g protein
Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr
“Siggi’s, an Icelandic style of yogurt called skyr, is creamier and thicker than Greek yogurt,” says dietitian Leigh Tracy, RD. “It’s also low in added sugar and contains live active bacteria to help promote gut health.”
Per serving: 130 calories, 4.5 g fat (3 g sat), 11 g carbs, 60 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 12 g protein
Light & Fit Two Good Greek Low-Fat Yogurt, Vanilla
PER 3.5 OZ: 80 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 35 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
Like YQ, this is another nearly sugar-free yogurt. Two Good’s unique slow-straining process also removes the naturally-occurring lactose in milk, which renders a super low-sugar cup with only 2 grams of sugar. This Greek yogurt is high in protein, tasty, and less than 100 calories. A touch of stevia is added to round out the flavor.
Maple Hill Creamery Greek Yogurt
PER 5.3 OZ: 140 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 70 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (0 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 13 g protein, 10% DV calcium
Maple Hill Creamery’s yogurts are made with just two ingredients: grass-fed milk and live cultures. That difference in milk might be reflected in the price, but it’s well worth the extra cents if you can afford it. “Grass-fed yogurt contains more omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acids, both of which help prevent heart disease, inflammation, diabetes and various cancers,” Middleberg explains. Bonus: Maple Hill Greek yogurts are rich, creamy and taste way more decadent than they are considering their high protein content will help you lose 10 pounds.
Dannon Oikos Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
At only 80 calories, six grams of sugar, and with 15 grams of protein, Oikos makes a perfect balanced snack. “It’s a great hunger squasher,” says Taub-Dix. Add your own fresh fruit and almond butter for flavor.
Per serving: 80 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat), 6 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 60 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 15 g protein
Stonyfield Farm Organic
“Both [Stonyfield’s] regular and Greek yogurts are non-GMO, free of growth hormones, and contain excellent sources of live active cultures,” says McGrane. They also offer soy yogurt, which is a good source of probiotics for dairy-free eaters.
Per serving: 170 calories, 9 g fat (5 g sat), 13 g carbs, 125 mg sodium, 0g fiber, 12 g sugar, 9 g protein
Icelandic Provisions, Vanilla Skyr
PER 5.3 OZ: 130 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 50 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (0 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 15 g protein
If you want a high-protein yogurt but don’t like the tart taste of Greek yogurt, try Icelandic Provisions’ skyr. The Icelandic heirloom cultures Icelandic Provisions uses help transform their dairy base into a creamy, decadent yogurt. This vanilla skyr will fill you up with an impressive amount of protein for the fewest grams of added sugar.
Straus Valley Creamery Organic Low-Fat Greek Yogurt, Plain
3/4 CUP (170 G): 130 calories, 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (0 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 16 g protein
“My absolute favorite Greek yogurt is Straus Family Creamery. Their dairy products have the best flavor and really limited processing,” says Self.
Dewsnap loves Nancy’s Organic yogurts because they’re rich in probiotics and delicious flavor. You can get them in bigger bulk servings to keep on hand throughout the week, too. Since their plain version is a little higher in sugar, top it with some fats and proteins for balance.
Per serving: 140 calories, 3 g fat (2 g sat), 160 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 16 g sugar, 11 g protein
Organic Valley Grassmilk 100% Grass-Fed Whole Milk Yogurt, Plain
PER 6 OZ: 130 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 7 g protein
When you can, splurge for a grass-fed yogurt like this new tub from Organic Valley. Grass-fed cows provide more omega-3 fatty acids and two to five times more conjugated linoleic acid than their corn- and grain-fed counterparts. CLA contains a group of chemicals that provide a wide variety of health benefits, including improved blood-sugar regulation, maintenance of lean body mass and reduced body fat.
Another Australian yogurt pick from McGrane, Noosa has a nice texture and a solid dose of fats and gut-regulating bacteria. Since the flavored varieties are high in sugar, enjoy them as an occasional treat. Otherwise, stick with plain.
Per serving: 320 calories, 13 g fat (8 g sat), 110mg sodium, 39 g carbs, 0g fiber, 35 g sugar, 12 g protein.