How Healthy is Yogurt ? - Homemade vs Commercial Varieties

People‭ ‬everywhere have eaten yogurt for centuries.‭ ‬It is regarded as a health food,‭ ‬but is this true and why‭?‬ Is this really justified? Yogurt is made‭ ‬from cow‭'‬s milk‭ (‬or dairy-free soy milk‭)‬,‭ ‬to which is added live,‭ ‬active bacteria.‭ ‬The most common bacteria are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, but Acidophilus and priobiotics organisms are also used.‭ ‬

The bacteria ferments‭ ‬the milk and changes some of the milk‭’‬s sugar‭ (‬lactose‭) ‬into lactic acid,‭ ‬which gives yogurt its characteristic acidic and tangy flavor and‭ ‬its custard-like texture and firmness.‭ ‬

But the bacteria have little or no impact on the fat in the milk.‭ T‬hey add a little extra protein but don't significantly change the other‭ ‬macro‭ ‬nutrients (see the table below). There may be small changes in micro-nutrients, but any changes are small.‭ ‬Some of the water in the milk is removed and this concentrates the nutrients in the yogurt,‭ ‬in terms of nutrients per unit of weight.‭

So what is all the fuss about? Why do people by-pass the milk displays in the supermarket to get to the yogurt?

Yogurt is merely an attractive way to get all the nutrients in milk, in a convenient semi-solid form. ‬

However, yogurt is nothing more than concentrated milk in the form of a gel.

Greek yogurt is a little more concentrated than standard yogurt, but it is still just thickened milk.‭ ‬

This article reviews the nutrition data for various types of commercial yogurts compared with himemade yogurt to help you make informed healthy choices.‭

Food Serving 8oz
Calories
Fat
Carbohydrates
Protein
Whole Milk Yogurt
149
8.0g
11.4g
8.5g
Whole Milk
146
7.9g
11.0g
7.9g
Homemade yogurt is the healthiest of all
Homemade yogurt is the healthiest of all | Source
Homemade Greek Yogurt
Homemade Greek Yogurt | Source
Yogurt goes so well with fresh fruit
Yogurt goes so well with fresh fruit | Source
Fruit salad and fresh yogurt - A wonderful combination
Fruit salad and fresh yogurt - A wonderful combination | Source
Yogurt pairs beautifully with fresh fruit as the tangy, sweet taste and acidity or the fruit combines so well with fresh or frozen yogurt
Yogurt pairs beautifully with fresh fruit as the tangy, sweet taste and acidity or the fruit combines so well with fresh or frozen yogurt | Source
It is very easy to use the yogurt you have made into frozen yogurt for desserts and treats
It is very easy to use the yogurt you have made into frozen yogurt for desserts and treats | Source
Blueberry frozen yogurt can be made at home
Blueberry frozen yogurt can be made at home | Source
Fresh yogurt is easy to prepare at home
Fresh yogurt is easy to prepare at home | Source

Which Yogurts are Healthier Choices and Why?

Yogurt is‭ rightly ‬promoted as a delicious‭ ‬healthy food. It is chock a block full of nutrients. One cup of yogurt provides almost‭ ‬45%‭ ‬of‭ ‬the recommended daily allowance of Calcium and is an excellent source of other nutrients‭ ‬such as Protein,‭ ‬the B Group Vitamins,‭ P‬otassium and Iodine.‭ However, as shown in the table below the nutrients ‬in yogurt are very similar to those in milk.‭ ‬The conclusion from this is that yogurt is essentially a concentrated milk in a form that many people like and enjoy.‭ ‬The bacteria that ferment the milk do not boost the major nutrients by very much and the vitamins and minerals are very similar. The fermentation by the bacteria do add many beneficial trace elements and antioxidants, but the benefits are small.‭

However, s‬ome yogurts are healthier than others.‭ ‬What things should you look for in making healthy choices‭?

Fat Content‭

Yogurts like milk, and other dairy products, vary due to the amount of milk fat they contain.‭ ‬Yogurt made from whole milk usually must contain at least‭ ‬3.25%‭ ‬milk fat.‭ ‬Low-fat yogurts are‭ ‬made from‭ ‬reduced fat milks‭ (‬2%‭ ‬and‭ ‬1%‭ levels of fat in ‬milk‭)‬.‭ ‬Fat-free yogurts are made from skim milk and contain virtually no fat.‭ ‬ Removing the fat dramatically lowers the calories in the various types of yogurts.‭ ‬Most people‭ ‬think that‭ ‬the high-fat‭ ‬yogurts‭ ‬taste better,‭ ‬are creamier, and have a less watery consistency and are thicker.‭ ‬So reduced‭ ‬fat and fat free yogurts are the healthier choices in terms of weight control and dieting because they contain less fat.‭ It follows that these reduced fat yogurts will have the lowest calories for plain yogurts.

The two tables below provide lists of common yogurt varieties with their major nutrient values.‭ ‬The yogurts are ranked with the lowest calorie ones at the top.‭ ‬One table compares yogurts for serving sizes of‭ ‬100g,‭ ‬the other compared yogurts using their standard serving sizes‭ (‬4-8oz‭)‬.

‏The reduced fat yogurts have lower calories, less carbohydrate and slightly more protein than the standard yogurts. The best ones are those with no fat, made from skim milk.

Is Greek Yogurt Always a Healthier Choice?

Greek yogurt is an excellent alternative for people who want the‭ ‬thick texture and creamy taste a of full-fat yogurt‭ ‬with‭ ‬less calories and‭ ‬less fat.‭ ‬Greek yogurt‭ ‬comes in reduced fat and no-fat varieties,‭ ‬but all Greek yogurts have more protein and less lactose than equivalent standard yogurts and are generally thicker.‭ ‬Greek yogurt is made with an extra step in the processing.‭ ‬The liquid whey, produced from the fermentation, is strained out, ‭ ‬reducing the moisture content and thereby concentrating the protein and other nutrients,in the yogurt.‭ ‬

This process also concentrates the fat in the yogurt and so Greek Yogurts are not lower in fat than standard yogurts.‭

Greek yogurts are essentially a more concentrated version of standard yogurts. Up to three times as much milk is needed to make Greek yogurt.‭ ‬ Given this concentration, is important to choose fat-free and low-fat Greek yogurts to reduce the fat and calories.‭

Beware of the label‭ “‬Greek‭ ‬style,‭" ‬which often means that standard yogurt has been articfially thickened with gelatine.‭

Pros and Cons of Greek Yogurt

Protein - Real Greek yogurt‭ ‬can have‭ ‬13-18‭ ‬grams of protein per serving,‭ ‬which is 2-3 times more protein than in traditional yogurts. This amount of protein is equivalent to that in‭ ‬2‭ ‬to‭ ‬3‭ ‬ounces of lean meat.‭ ‬A similar size serving of regular yogurt,‭ ‬has about 9‭ ‬grams or protein, about half that in Greek yogurt.‭

Carbohydrates‭ ‬-‭ ‬Greek yogurt made with whole milk (6.1 g per 100g) has a little more carbohydrates than regular natural yogurt (3.4 g per 100g). This difference also applies for the reduced fat varieties. However, the differences depend on the bands and some Greek yogurt has less carbohydrate because some of the lactose disappears in the whey.

Fat - Don't assume that‭ ‬Greek yogurt, despite its reputation of being healthier, has less fat.‭ J‬ust‭ ‬7‭ ‬ounces (200 g) of many brands of full-fat Greek yogurt contains more than‭ ‬16‭ ‬grams of saturated fat (8% of weight). this amount of saturated fat is about 75% percent of your total daily allowance. This is more fat than in three candy bars. Some regular full-fat yogurt has only‭ ‬8‭ ‬grams of saturated fat in a similar size serving.‭ So it pays to read the labels of Greek yogurt carefully

Calcium‭ ‬-‭ ‬Standard yogurt has about 3 times the amount of calcium as Greek yogurt,‭ ‬because some of the calcium is lost in the whey.‭ ‬However, Greek varieties of yogurt are still excellent source of calcium.‭

Sodium‭ / Salt ‬-‭ ‬Greek yogurt generally has half the the amount of sodium as regular yogurts.‭

Calories‭ ‬-‭ ‬Plain,‭ ‬reduced fat and‭ ‬non-fat versions of Greek‭ ‬yogurt have similar or slightly higher levels of calories than‭ ‬regular yogurt,‭ ‬despite the reduced carbohydrates‭

Texture‭ ‬-‭ ‬Greek yogurt is much creamier and thicker than regular yogurt because it's strained and concentrated, with loss of water.‭

Cooking - Greek yogurt is better for cooking as it does not curdle so easily when heated, compared with regular yogurt.

Greek Yogurt Selection Tips‭

Be careful to read the labels for Greek yogurts, despite their healthy reputation. A small 6 oz serve of certain brands can contain more than‭ ‬300‭ ‬calories,‭ ‬3‭ ‬teaspoons of added sugar and 14‭ ‬grams of fat. ‭

Some tips for making healthy choices for Greek Yogurts are:

  • Look for non-fat, skim milk or low-fat Greek yogurt.‭ ‬A‭ ‬6 oz or 8oz serving should have no more than 2.5‭ ‬grams of total fat and‭ ‬150‭ ‬calories.
  • A 6-8 oz serving of flavored Greek yogurt should not have more than‭ ‬20‭ ‬grams of sugar (check the label). Note that the sugar listed on unflavored and unsweetened yogurt is the sugar‭ ‬found naturally in‭ ‬the‭ ‬milk and is not added sugar.‭

Yogurt Additives and Flavorings to Look for on Labels

Flavorings‭ - many flavors, including artificial ones are added to yogurts. Always check the labels.

Additional dairy products - This can include casein, nonfat dry milk solids and whey. They boost the protein and calcium but may also boost the fat and calories ‭

Colorings - added for aesthetic reasons, may be harmful or trigger allergies‭

Gelatin and / or pectin - These are often added as thickeners and stabilizers.‭ ‬Vegetarians and vegan should be particularly wary of these animal derived additives. ‭

Caloric Sweeteners - Many sweeteners are added including ‭ ‬fruit juice,‭ ‬fruit juice concentrate,‭ ‬ sugar,‭ ‬honey,‭ ‬maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup.‭ ‬ Be careful that many low-fat and fat free yogurts have more sweeteners added to them than whole milk yogurts,‭ ‬ to boost the taste and flavor and to compensate for the missing fat.

What to Look for on the Yogurt Label When Shopping

The following‭ ‬tips‭ ‬help to‭ ‬make it easier to choose healthy yogurt.‭

One‭ ‬6-8 oz‭ ‬serving of yogurt should contain:‭

  • Less than‭ ‬180‭ ‬calories, and less than 120 for those on diets. ‭
  • Less than‭ ‬4‭ ‬grams of Total Fat.‭ ‬Yogurts made from whole milk will have‭ ‬7-9‭ ‬grams of fat‭; low‬-fat yogurts have‭ ‬2-4‭ ‬grams of fat. Non-fat yogurts should have zero‭ ‬grams fat, but some may be added in the various things added to the yogurt.‭
  • Less than‭ ‬30‭ ‬grams of sugar.‭ ‬About‭ ‬12‭ ‬grams of milk sugar will occur naturally in a 6-8 oz serving, which is not added sugar.‭ ‬That leaves an extra 18 grams of added sugar that is permitted.‭
  • More than‭ ‬5‭ ‬grams of protein.‭ ‬
  • More than 20%‭ ‬of your daily recommended allowance of‭ ‬calcium.‭ ‬
  • More than 10%‭ ‬of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin D.‭ ‬Many yogurts are fortified with vitamin D and other vitamins, and have added calcium as well.

Homemade Yogurt The Healthiest Choice

The healthiest yogurt of all, is the one you make yourself, as you control exactly what goes into the yogurt. There is a sparsity of information on the nutrients in homemade yogurt, but the summary below will provide a guide.

  • Yogurt made with‭ ‬1‭ ‬quart of low-fat milk, and‭ ‬1/2‭ ‬cup of skim milk powder added, to boost the protein levels, will yield a yogurt with 180‭ ‬calories in a‭ ‬1 cup serving.
  • Yogurt made with‭ ‬1‭ ‬quart of non-fat milk plus‭ ‬1/2‭ ‬cup of skim milk powder,‭ ‬will yield a yogurt with 137‭ ‬calories in a‭ ‬1 cup serving.

Nutritional Facts for Homemade Yogurt‭ (Serving Size 1 cup)

Whole Milk Yogurt

  • ‬Calories‭ ‬149‬
  • Total Fat‭ ‬7.9‭ ‬g‭
  • ‬Total Carbohydrate‭ ‬11.7‭ ‬g‭
  • ‬Protein‭ ‬7.6‭ ‬g‭

Skim Milk Yogurt

  • Calories‭ ‬89
  • Total Fat‭ ‬0.2‭ ‬g
  • Total Carbohydrate‭ ‬13.0‭ ‬g
  • Protein‭ ‬8.9‭ ‬g

Is homemade Yogurt Healthier than Commercial Yogurt?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting

Comparison of the Major Nutrients in 100g of Various Types of Yogurt with Lowest Calorie Yogurts Listed First

Yogurt Type (100g serve)
Calories
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Calcium (mg)
Natural Low Fat
48
5.9
0.2
5.8
209
Fat Free BioDynamic Yoghurt
48
4.9
0.1
6.8
180
Fat Free Natural Yoghurt
52
5.3
0.1
7.4
170
Fat Free Natural Yoghurt
52
5.3
0.1
7.4
160
Yogurt plain skim milk
56
5.7
0.2
7.7
 
Natural Regular
67
4.7
4.4
4.7
171
Strawberry Low Fat
71
5.2
0.2
12.8
179
Whole Milk Natural Yoghurt
78
5.3
4.8
3.4
120
Whole Milk BioDyanmic Organic Yoghurt
83
4.3
4.6
6.3
180
Genuine Leben European Style Yoghurt
83
5.3
3.9
6.8
130
Strawberry Reduced Fat
83
4.9
0.9
14.5
160
Vanilla Regular
87
4.9
3.4
9.7
170
Low Fat BerryFruit Yoghurt
89
5.4
2
12.6
130
Strawberry Regular
91
4.9
2.8
12.4
171
Low Fat Strawberry Yoghurt
94
5.4
2
11.9
130
Low Fat Greek Natural Yoghurt
100
5.7
3
8.3
190
Premium Blend Natural Creamy Yoghurt
101
5.7
5
8.3
160
Low Fat Vanilla Yoghurt
105
5
2
16.8
160
Bush Honey BioDynamic Organic Yoghurt
106
4
4.3
12.8
190
Blueberry BioDyanmic Organic Yoghurt
112
5.2
4.6
12.5
93
Premium Fruits of the Forest Creamy Yoghurt
114
4.7
4.5
13.9
190
Premium Vanilla Creamy Yoghurt
121
5.4
4.7
14.5
170
Premium Strawberry Creamy Yoghurt
125
5.5
4.9
14.9
130
Greek Natural Yoghurt
129
3.8
10
6.1
85
Premium Honey Vanilla Creamy Yoghurt
129
5.6
4.4
16.8
130
Greek Vanilla Yoghurt
130
3.8
9
10.1
88
Greek Honey and Cinnamon Yoghurt
136
3.8
9
10.8
180

Comparion of the Nutrients in 100g of whole milk and 100g of yogurt made from whole milk with added Vitamin D

Nutrient
Units
Nutrients in 100g of Whole Milk Yogurt
Nutrient in 100g Whole Milk 3.25% milkfat, with added vitamin D
Energy
Cals
61
61
Protein
g
3.47
3.15
Total lipid (fat)
g
3.25
3.25
Carbohydrate
g
4.66
4.8
Fiber, total dietary
g
0
0
Sugars, total
g
4.66
5.05
Minerals
 
 
 
Calcium, Ca
mg
121
113
Iron, Fe
mg
0.05
0.03
Magnesium, Mg
mg
12
10
Phosphorus, P
mg
95
84
Potassium, K
mg
155
132
Sodium, Na
mg
46
43
Zinc, Zn
mg
0.59
0.37
Vitamins
 
 
 
Vitamin C
mg
0.5
0
Thiamin
mg
0.029
0.046
Riboflavin
mg
0.142
0.169
Niacin
mg
0.075
0.089
Vitamin B-6
mg
0.032
0.036
Folate
g
7
5
Vitamin B-12
g
0.37
0.45
Vitamin A, IU
IU
99
162
Vitamin E
mg
0.06
0.07
Vitamin D
g
0.1
1.3
Vitamin K
g
0.2
0.3
Fatty acids, total saturated
g
2.096
1.865
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated
g
0.893
0.812
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated
g
0.092
0.195
Cholesterol
mg
13
10
Water
g
87.9
88.13

Major Nutrients in Common Types of Yogurts per Serving with Lowest Calorie Ones at the Top

Yogurt Standard Serves
Cals
Fat (g)
Protein (g)
Sugars (g)
Sweeteners and Additives
Light & Fit, non-fat, flavored
60
0
5
7
Sucralose
Greek yogurt, non-fat, plain (5.3 oz)
80
0
15
6
 
Light, No-Sugar Added, flavored
80
0
7
7
Sucralose
Light, non-fat, flavored
80
0
6
7
Aspartame
Various brands, non-fat, plain
85
0
9
12
 
Greek yogurt, non-fat, plain
100
0
18
7
 
Weight Watchers, low-fat, flavored
100
0.5
6
12
Fructose, Sucralose
Yoplait Light, non-fat, flavored
100
0
5
14
Aspartame, HFCS
Yoplait Light
100
0
5
14
Aspartame, corn syrup, red #40
Various Brand, low-fat, plain
105
3
8
12
 
Oikos (Vanilla, 5.3 oz)
110
0
15
11
 
Dannon All Natural, low-fat, flavored (4 oz)
120
1
5
19
Sugar
Light (8 oz)
120
0
7
15
Aspartame, corn syrup
Organic, fat-free, flavored
125
0
7
22
Sugar
No Fat
130
0
7
24
 
Stonyfield Farms Low fat
130
1.5
6
22
 
Organic, low-fat, flavored
140
2.5
7
21
cane juice
Greek yogurt, non-fat, plain (8 oz)
140
0
24
8
 
Fat Free
140
0
7
26
 
Yoplait Whips (4 oz)
140
2.5
5
21
corn syrup
Soy Yogurt, low-fat, flavored
150
2
4
18
cane juice
Organic Yogurt, low-fat, flavored (8 oz)
150
1.5
7
24
Maple syrup
Low Fat
150
2
6
25
 
All Natural (Vanilla)
150
2.5
7
25
 
Fruit on the Bottom
150
1.5
6
26
corn syrup
Organic Lowfat
150
2.5
7
21
 
Yoplait Original
170
1.5
5
27
corn syrup
Water Buffalo Milk
174
9
5
19
 
Cream Top
180
6
5
27
 
Organic Fat Free
180
0
9
33
 
Whole Milk
190
6
6
24
 
Yoplait Thick & Creamy Custard Style (vanilla)
190
3.5
7
28
corn syrup
Classic (8 oz)
230
2
7
42
corn syrup
Creme Savers (8 oz)
240
3.5
7
36
corn syrup, many additives
Fage Total Classic (7 oz)
260
20
12
6
 

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 3 comments

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I love yogurt. Recently I've gotten into Greek and Aussie Yogurt. The thicker texture seems to appeal to me more now. And I do feel that it is healthier than the processed brands that were marketed before. However, even if Greek/Aussie Yogurt goes out of style I'd probably still eat yogurt-maybe trying to make my own. Interesting hub!


Taranwanderer profile image

Taranwanderer 2 years ago

REally beautiful yogurt pictures - makes me want some right now!


Taranwanderer profile image

Taranwanderer 15 months ago

Lovely ode to the wonders of Greek yogurt in this hub. Really look forward to trying the recipes.

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