Yogurt is a delicious and nutritious food that can benefit your gut health. With endless potential mix-ins, it’s easy to get your daily intake of healthy fats, protein, prebiotics, probiotics, vitamins, and minerals.
There are numerous yogurt options in grocery stores, so it helps to know their differences before you shop.
This article will take you through the nutritional profiles of different types of yogurt and how they impact your gut health. Keep reading to learn more about yogurt and which one might be best for you.
Yogurt starts as milk. It’s created by adding starter cultures to milk and fermenting them. During fermentation, the bacteria transform lactose, the sugar in milk, into lactic acid. The acidic pH causes the milk proteins to gel together. This results in a thicker, tangier product that we know as yogurt.
Yogurt is naturally a good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins. It may also be fortified with vitamins A and D. In many cases; yogurt contains added beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that provide specific health benefits to support gut health.
Nutritional Profiles of Yogurt
There are many types of yogurt that vary in taste, texture, and nutritional value. Some common types of yogurt include:
- Plain Yogurt. This yogurt has a smooth and creamy texture. It’s unstrained and doesn’t contain added flavors. Plain yogurt is a good source of probiotics, protein, and calcium.
- Greek Yogurt. This yogurt is thicker than traditional yogurt. It’s strained multiple times to remove whey, the liquid part of milk. Removing the whey also decreases the lactose content. This makes Greek yogurt easier to digest than traditional yogurt. Greek yogurt has a tangy flavor and is commonly used in savory dishes.
- French Yogurt. This type of yogurt starts out as whole milk and bacteria cultures in individual glass jars. The bacteria ferment in the milk for several hours to create a creamy texture. French yogurt isn’t strained, so it contains lactose.
- Goat Milk Yogurt. This yogurt has more protein than yogurt made from cow’s milk. It’s also more easily digestible and contains less lactose.
- Icelandic Yogurt. This yogurt is thicker than Greek yogurt. It’s not heat-treated, allowing curds to form during fermentation. This yogurt gets strained multiple times, which creates a cheese-like consistency.
- Non-dairy Yogurt. This type of yogurt uses non-dairy milk such as soy, almond, cashew, coconut, and oat milk. It’s a good alternative to traditional yogurt if you don’t eat dairy products or are sensitive to lactose. Non-dairy yogurt contains healthy fats but is lower in protein. It also doesn’t have much calcium unless fortified.
- Kefir. This type of yogurt contains added probiotics. It has a greater variety of bacteria and yeasts compared to other yogurts. Kefir is fermented with clusters of microbes called kefir grains. It’s a thin, drinkable yogurt that resembles milk. Kefir contains more protein than traditional yogurt but less than Greek yogurt.
Understanding the Ingredients
When selecting yogurt at the grocery store, examining the nutritional label is important to ensure you pick a healthy gut option. Yogurts labeled with “live and active cultures” contain probiotics.
Look for yogurts that contain no or low amounts of added sugar. Added sugars can cause an inflammatory response and blood sugar spike. This can lead to digestive problems such as abdominal pain and bloating. In comparison, natural sugars help maintain blood sugar levels for longer. They also contain nutrients such as vitamins and minerals because they come from whole food sources like fruits.
When possible, pick a yogurt that has a short ingredient list. Yogurts that contain added sugars, artificial flavors, dyes, stabilizers, and preservatives can reduce the health benefits of yogurt. These types of ingredients are poorly absorbed and can irritate your gastrointestinal tract.
Tips for Selecting Yogurt
All yogurt starts with the same three ingredients: milk, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Streptococcus thermophilus. Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are starter cultures used to convert milk into yogurt. These bacteria naturally improve your ability to digest lactose.
Selecting a yogurt containing “live and active cultures” on the nutritional label ensures that live bacteria are present. Some types of yogurt are heat-treated after fermentation, which kills off the bacteria. You can find the “live and active cultures” seal on refrigerated and frozen yogurts. This seal means the yogurt isn’t heat-treated and contains at least 100 million cultures per gram. And frozen yogurt contains at least 10 million cultures per gram. You should avoid heat-treated yogurts because they lack probiotics.
You should also avoid yogurt that contains fake fruit. Ingredients such as fruit juice concentrate and fruit purées are technically added sugar. Opt for yogurt with actual fruit listed on the label or plain yogurt with fruit for improved flavor. Combining fruit and yogurt provides antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, polyphenols, fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals.
Lastly, picking yogurt that’s non-fat or low-fat isn’t always better. These types of yogurt often add flavor with added sugars. Make sure you check the ingredients before selecting a non-fat or low-fat yogurt. Our bodies need healthy fats to thrive. Fat is an essential part of a balanced diet and helps our bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, and E. Reduced-fat yogurt, such as 2% Greek yogurt, is a nutritious option.
Best Yogurt for a Healthy Gut
When choosing your food choices, you should think about the 100 trillion microorganisms in your gut. Basically, your gut bacteria eat what you eat. The saying “you are what you eat” couldn’t be more accurate.
Consuming probiotics in yogurt increases the beneficial bacteria in your gut and balances your gut microbiome. Research shows that probiotics may benefit your health by:
- Improving mineral absorption
- Preventing constipation, diarrhea, intestinal infections, and inflammatory bowel disease
- Reducing blood cholesterol levels, lactose intolerance, and blood pressure
- Lowering your risk of colon cancer
- Boosting your immune system
Not all yogurts are good sources of probiotics. Picking yogurts labeled with “live and active cultures” is the best way to confirm that yogurt contains probiotics. The ingredient label may also list additional types of bacteria cultures. You should select a yogurt that is low in sugar and doesn’t contain additives. But there’s no one best yogurt for all.
Picking a yogurt that tastes good and suits your diet and lifestyle habits will help make it a daily part of your diet. Yogurt supports your gut health with probiotics, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
If you want to improve your gut health or are concerned about digestive issues, you can request an appointment online or call our office at 210-615-8308.