When it comes to yogurt, the options are endless! From Greek yogurt to dairy-free alternatives like coconut, almond, and cashew, there are numerous flavors and varieties to choose from. However, despite being known as a delicious and nutritious gut-nourishing superfood, not all yogurts are created equal — especially when it comes to their health benefits. So, what makes a yogurt nutritious? And with so many varieties, how do you know the healthiest yogurt options?
Ahead, all your yogurt questions answered, and more! Based on taste, ingredients, and the latest research, here’s all you need to know.
Health Benefits of Yogurt
The health benefits of yogurt will vary based on the type of yogurt (for example, dairy vs non-dairy, or full-fat vs non-fat) and ingredients used. However, when chosen mindfully (more on this below), consuming yogurt is associated with many good-for-you benefits!
For starters, many yogurts contain (or are fortified with) essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium, protein, and various vitamins such as B12 and B2. Plus, most dairy and non-dairy yogurts (especially those made from coconut, almond, and cashew) are often rich in healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In addition to contributing to the creamy indulgent flavor, the healthy fats found in yogurt can help to regulate blood sugar, increase satiety, boost energy, and aid in nutrient absorption.
And, of course, we can’t forget about the presence of probiotics — one of yogurt’s standout healthy features! These gut-healthy microbes are crucial for digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, weight management, and even mental health! Meaning, with regular consumption of probiotic-rich yogurt, you can experience potential improvements in your overall health.
There’s even some research to suggest that regular yogurt consumption may have a positive impact on heart health, potentially lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases! All this to say, yogurt is a healthy diet must-have.
But, how do you choose the best type?
Understanding Different Types of Yogurt
Known for its thick and creamy consistency, Greek yogurt is one of the more indulgent-tasting varieties. However, despite its rich taste, it’s incredibly healthy! One of the standout health benefits of Greek yogurt is its high protein content. Different from regular and dairy-free yogurt, Greek yogurt undergoes a straining process that removes the whey, resulting in a more concentrated product with a significantly higher protein content.
In addition to its rich levels of protein, Greek yogurt offers a range of essential nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B2 and B12. It’s also loaded with probiotics and relatively lower in carbs, compared to other yogurt varieties!
Traditional Dairy Yogurt
Regular, or traditional dairy yogurt, is the classic tried-and-true yogurt that has been known and loved for centuries. It’s made by fermenting milk with live cultures, which is what gives it its tangy flavor, creamy texture, and gut-healthy benefits. It’s often found in a variety of flavors and styles, such as grass-fed, organic, and even lactose-free.
To obtain all the nutritional benefits of traditional dairy yogurt (including protein, calcium, and probiotics), opt for unsweetened varieties free of additives and made with whole food ingredients.
Just as it sounds, low-fat yogurt is simply yogurt that has been made with reduced-fat milk. Traditionally, it’s made with dairy milk, but you can also find low-fat yogurt in dairy-free varieties. Because it contains less fat than regular yogurt, it’s a great choice for anyone looking to reduce their fat intake while still enjoying the benefits of yogurt. Opt for unsweetened varieties that are free from artificial ingredients or additives.
Classically, non-fat yogurt (also known as fat-free yogurt) is yogurt made from skim milk. This means it contains minimal to no fat, making it the lowest fat yogurt option available.
When it comes to non-fat varieties, choose between traditional non-fat yogurt or Greek-style non-fat yogurt. Both have a smooth and creamy texture, however, Greek-style yogurt is higher in protein and offers a thicker and creamier consistency.
And while both make a great choice for those following a low-fat diet, you’ll want to ensure there are no added sugars or sneaky ingredients!
With plant-based eating growing in popularity, there are endless non-dairy yogurt options to choose from. Most commonly, you’ll find store-bought brands made from dairy milk alternatives such as coconut (which is rich in healthy fats), almond (higher in protein, calcium, and vitamin E), and cashew milk (containing minerals such as magnesium and zinc).
Similar to dairy yogurts, dairy-free options contain live and active cultures, making them good for gut health and digestion. Plus, they’re a great option for individuals who are lactose intolerant, dairy-free, or follow a vegan or plant-based lifestyle.
While not technically yogurt, kefir is a tangy fermented dairy product that shares many yogurt similarities. Compared to yogurt, it’s actually a more powerful probiotic, containing upwards of 50 different probiotic strains. It benefits digestion, and supports immune function.
Best of all, you can find different kefir variations, including sheep, cow, and goat’s milk kefir, as well as plant-based options such as coconut and almond milk kefir.
What to Look For When Choosing a Yogurt
#1 Avoid Added Sugars & Artificial Ingredients
No matter the flavor or type, make sure you read the ingredients! Many store-bought yogurts — especially flavored varieties — contain added sugars, artificial flavors, and other sneaky ingredients. Ideally, you’ll want to opt for unsweetened varieties or look for yogurts with natural sweeteners, like real fruit or raw honey.
#2 Prioritize Probiotics
To get the gut-healthy benefits of your yogurt, look for brands that contain labels indicating the presence of live and active cultures. You can also look at the ingredient label to find the specific probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidum. The more diverse and plentiful the probiotics, the better!
#3 Consider Protein Content
Including higher protein yogurts in your diet, like Greek yogurt and almond-based yogurts, can support your health in many ways. As the most satiating macronutrient, protein can help reduce sugar cravings, keep you feeling fuller for longer, and even aid in weight management. However, the other ingredients matter too! So, make sure you’re reading the ingredient label and reaching for plain or unsweetened varieties to avoid added sugars.
#4 Reach For High-Quality, Whole Food Ingredients
In addition to avoiding added sugars and sneaky additives, you’ll also want to opt for options made with high-quality, whole food ingredients! Ideally, grass-fed and organic is best. But, if that’s not doable, simply stick to real ingredients that you can recognize and pronounce.
Top 26 Healthiest Yogurt Options
- Stonyfield Organic Grass-fed Greek Yogurt
- Straus Family Organic Greek Yogurt
- Wallaby Organic Greek Yogurt
- Fage Total Greek Yogurt
- Chobani Greek Yogurt
Natural Full-Fat Yogurt
- Maple Hill Grass-fed Organic Yogurt
- Siggi’s Icelandic-Style Skyr
- Icelandic Provisions
- Noosa Whole Milk Yogurt
- Nancy’s Grass-fed Probiotic Yogurt
- Alexandre Family Farms Grass-Fed Organic A2 Yogurt
- Redwood Farm Goat Milk Yogurt
- Green Valley Organics Plain Kefir
- Raw Farm Raw Milk Kefir
- Maple Hill Organic Kefir
- Lifeway Organic Kefir
- Alexandre Family Farms Grass-Fed Organic A2 Kefir
- Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Kefir
- Inner Eco Probiotic Coconut Water Kefir
- Coconut Cult Coconut Yogurt
- Kite Hill Greek-style Almond Milk Yogurt
- Harmless Harvest Coconut Yogurt
- Forager Project Cashew Milk Yogurt
- Siggi’s Plant-Based Coconut Yogurt
- Culina Dairy-free Yogurt
- CocoJune Coconut Yogurt
Making the Most of Your Yogurt: Healthy Add-ins
By customizing your yogurt at home, you can control the ingredients, keep it healthy, and avoid sneaky add-ins. Plus, there are so many delicious add-ins that enhance both nutrition and flavor!
Here are some of our favorites:
- Fresh berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
- Sliced banana
- Diced apples
- Stone fruits, such as peaches, mangoes, and cherries
- Raw or dry-roasted nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and pistachios
- Seeds, such as hemp, chia, flax, and pumpkin
- Raw honey or maple syrup
- Spices, such as cinnamon and nutmeg
- Low-sugar granola or muesli
Your Go-To Guide to The Healthiest Yogurts
Offering a range of health benefits, yogurt can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet. Whether you’re opting for protein-packed Greek yogurt, going dairy-free with coconut, cashew, or almond-based blends, boosting your gut health with Kefir, or keeping it classic with traditional dairy yogurt, there are so many reasons to include simple and delicious food. However, with so many brands and varieties out there, remember to shop smart. When choosing the healthiest yogurt options, remember to read the ingredient labels, avoid added sugars, and consider factors such as protein and probiotic content.
With these tips in mind, you can navigate your healthy yogurt journey with ease. So, grab a spoon and dig in!