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Best Yogurt Brands for Gut and Immune Health

by Coach Shandy

With a wide variety of yogurt brands and types of yogurt on the market, it can feel overwhelming trying to decide which type is best. 

According to the FDA, yogurt is defined as a fermented dairy product created from milk by 2 specific cultures. Plant-based yogurts are also fermented, but aren’t defined by particular cultures. 

The Yes Health coaching team has compiled the reasons yogurt is so beneficial to your health and which brands to look for.

Health Benefits of Yogurt

Yogurt provides a slew of impressive health benefits. It offers essential nutrients like calcium, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin D, which support gut health, immune health, and even a healthy weight.  

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report states: "Consumption of dairy foods provides numerous health benefits including lower risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and obesity." 

How to be a Yogurt Label Detective

When choosing the type and brand of yogurt that is best for you, consider these essential factors:

Live and Active Cultures

Yogurts start with either Streptococcus thermophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus. However, these healthy bacteria do not survive pasteurization. If the product clearly states: "live and active cultures," these beneficial bacteria or others have been added back to support gut health. They can potentially lessen unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammation. 

If you're new to yogurt (or any fermented food), start with a small amount and slowly work your way to a normal portion.

Low in Added Sugars 

Yogurt may contain naturally occurring sugar from milk, known as lactose, or added sugars from honey, cane sugar, or high fructose corn syrup. Ideally, choose plain yogurt or options with less than 9 grams of added sugar. (The amount of added sugar is listed on the Nutrition Facts label.) You can add a natural sweetener if you'd like, such as a small amount of honey or maple syrup.

Natural vs. Artificial Sweeteners 

Yes Health Coaches recommend limiting artificial sweeteners. While they are calorie-free or low-calorie, most artificial sweeteners and sugar-free products can actually hinder weight loss. If you opt for a low-calorie sweetener, try going with a natural choice such as stevia or monk fruit whenever possible. 

Check out this article for the ultimate guide to artificial sweeteners: https://blog.yeshealth.com/consumer/artificial-sweeteners-good-true

 

Which Yogurts are Highest in Protein?

Protein is important for satiety and balancing blood sugars, among many other bodily functions. Some yogurts are higher in protein than others. 

Traditional yogurt contains 8-10 grams of protein per 8 ounces. Australian yogurt is unstrained and made with whole milk, providing approximately 10-15 grams of protein per 8 ounces. French yogurt is unstrained and provides 6-10 grams of protein per 8 ounces. Greek yogurt is a strained, thicker yogurt containing approximately 15-17 grams of protein per 8 ounces. Icelandic, also known as Skyr yogurt, is the thickest type of strained yogurt and can provide 20-25 grams of protein per 8 ounces. 

Best Yogurt Brands for Health

Stevia and monk fruit-sweetened options

Oikos Triple Zero, Dannon 2 Good, Chobani Zero Sugar 

Low-sugar options 

Any plain yogurt such as Chobani, Fage, Wallaby, or Trader Joe's brands. For flavored options, look for: Chobani Less Sugar, Siggi's, Icelandic Provisions, Greek God's Less Sugar, Wallaby No Added Sugar, Yoplait YQ, Chobani Complete 

Plant-based options (lower in protein)

If you avoid dairy, you can still enjoy many of yogurt’s benefits with non-dairy options. Non-dairy yogurts tend to be lower in protein and the protein quantity can vary, so it’s a good idea to check the nutrition label carefully. If the yogurt you choose is lower in protein, try pairing it with another source of protein, like nuts.

Kite Hill Plain Almond Yogurt, So Delicious Plain Coconut Yogurt*, The Collaborative*, Siggi's Plant-Based Blend, Lava, Kite Hill Greek Yogurt (11 grams of protein per serving).

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Yogurt

  1. Make a breakfast parfait. Adding fruit to plain yogurt is a great way to add sweetness and keep added sugars in check. Create a parfait with layers of low-sugar or plain yogurt, fresh fruit, and a touch of low-sugar granola, nuts, or seeds.
  2. Start your day with a smoothie. Frozen fruit blended with low-sugar yogurt, a splash of milk, nut butter, and/or a handful of greens will make a quick and balanced breakfast. More tips on building a healthy smoothie here: https://www.yeshealth.com/smoothie/
  3. Have a grab-and-go snack. Pack yourself a yogurt for your afternoon snack at work. The protein will keep you full until your next meal and will prevent an afternoon energy dip.
  4. Use it as the base for your dip or dressing, and enjoy with fresh spices and/or vegetables.
  5. Use plain whole milk yogurt as a substitute for sour cream when cooking, such as in Coach Becky's Beef Stroganoff.

Takeaway

Well, there you have it! Everything you wanted to know about how to choose the best yogurt for your gut health, immune health, and more. If you're not a yogurt fan, you can benefit from other fermented foods for the same probiotic benefits, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha tea, and miso. 

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