Head to the yogurt aisle and you’re bound to see a bounty of styles that may make your decision to include these healthy probiotics in your daily fare a bit daunting. There’s Greek, Icelandic, whole milk, soy and even coconut milk yogurts. What’s a yogurt lover to do? Here’s a quick rundown on a variety of yogurts out there.
Fat-Free, Low-Fat and Whole Cow’s Milk Yogurt: All are a good source of milk protein (9 grams per 5.3-ounce container, 18% of the Daily Value). There’s some talk that whole milk yogurt is “better for you,” but in actuality if you are trying to curb saturated fat intake and calories, stick with non-fat and low-fat varieties.
Greek Yogurt: This type is made like regular yogurt, but then strained three times during processing to yield a thicker and creamier yogurt with almost twice as much protein (about 15 grams per 5.3-ounce container, 30% of the Daily Value).
Goat or Sheep’s Milk Yogurts: These yogurts offer a different taste profile due to the milks’ compositions, and are slightly lower in milk sugar lactose. All yogurts are lower in lactose than regular milk, so for someone who is lactose intolerant, small amounts of yogurt may be much better tolerated than the same amount of regular milk.
Icelandic Yogurt: Originating in Iceland, this yogurt style, called skyr, is strong in flavor and thicker (along the lines of Greek yogurt). In Iceland, the yogurt is viewed more as a soft cheese, but in the U.S. it’s ended up in the yogurt aisle. It’s richer in protein than regular yogurt and made with live bacterial cultures said to originate from Iceland. These Icelandic bacteria give this fermented dairy a different taste and texture compared to traditional yogurts.
Non-Dairy Yogurts*: Soy milk yogurt offers a good source of protein that is high in quality, and the advantage of being lactose free and containing no dairy make it a great option for vegans and those allergic to milk proteins such as casein or whey. Coconut yogurt, which is fermented coconut milk (used in Indian and Thai cuisines), is loaded with fat (mostly saturated) and sparse on protein (1 gram per 6-ounce container). For a healthy option, it’s best to choose a lower-fat and higher-protein non-dairy yogurt, like soy.
*Yogurt by definition is made from dairy (cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s or other mammals’ milk) with added live bacterial cultures (law requires at least two strains) that ferment the natural milk sugars creating tart flavor, as well as providing the benefits of probiotics to boost intestinal tract health. Non-dairy “yogurts” by definition are not yogurt since they are not made with milk. So these products are referred to as “cultured soy milk” or “cultured coconut milk.”