The Best Yogurts For Your Health: Greek or Regular?

the best yogurt

The yogurt aisle isn’t what it used to be. In the last few years, greek yogurt has taken over a sizeable chunk of the refrigerator case, leaving non-greeks to compete for the remaining real estate.

Meanwhile, both greek and non-greek yogurts are branching out. Fat-free? Cream on top? You got ‘em. Fruit purée or fruit mousse? Yep. Lactose-free or no dairy at all? Got you covered. With so many options, how can you know which yogurts are the best yogurts?

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What is yogurt?

Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus are two of the strains of bacteria that companies add to milk to make yogurt. Many brands also add other bacteria.

You can tell if the bacteria are alive if the label says something like “live cultures” or “active cultures.” It may or may not carry the National Yogurt Association’s “Live & Active Cultures” seal, which requires a yearly fee. Live cultures decline over time, so the sooner you eat your yogurt, the more live cultures you’ll get.

So far, the only clear benefit of yogurt cultures is their ability to change milk’s naturally occurring sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. So people with lactose intolerance should have less diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms when they eat yogurt.

Does yogurt help restore beneficial bacteria to the gut after a course of antibiotics or help treat yeast infections? No good studies have looked.

Which are the best yogurts?

The best yogurts should be a good source of protein and calcium without loading you down with saturated fat, added sugars, or possibly unsafe sweeteners.

Should you look for added vitamin D?

If you need D from yogurt to help you reach your daily target – 600 IU for adults up to age 70 and 800 IU for people over 70 – check the label. Vitamin D is listed as a percent of the Daily Value (400 IU). So a yogurt with 20% of the DV, for example, has 80 IU.

What is Greek yogurt?

Greek yogurts are made by straining ordinary yogurt. The straining removes some of the liquid whey and leaves more concentrated solids behind. That makes Greek yogurt thick and rich – even if they’re fat-free – and higher in protein (about 17 grams for a 6 oz. fat-free plain) than non-Greek yogurts (about 8 grams).

The only downside: by straining out calcium-rich whey, the Greek yogurts end up with less calcium (about 15 to 20 percent of a day’s worth) than the non-Greek yogurts (25 to 30 percent).

One note about sugars in yogurt: Companies don’t have to disclose on their Nutrition Facts labels how many grams of sugar they’ve added and how many are naturally occurring in their milk or fruit ingredients. So we recommend reading the labels carefully.

Our recommendations (✔✔) are plain unsweetened yogurts. We’ve listed the criteria—maximums for calories and saturated fat and minimums for protein and calcium—at the beginning of each section. We disqualified products with artificial sweeteners. Within each section, yogurts are ranked from least to most calories, then least to most saturated fat, most to least protein, and most to least calcium.

Best Bites Yogurt Chart

And one last caveat regarding the best yogurts: Some items with yogurt included as an ingredient may not contain all that much in the way of actual yogurt. For instance, Post Honey Bunches of Oats Greek Honey Crunch has very little Greek yogurt in it.

What is your favorite yogurt? Is it on this list, or should we add it? Let us know in the comments. 

This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly. The nutrition facts are accurate as of November 2014.

NutritionAction.com doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government funding. Any products recommended by NutritionAction.com have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.

 

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44 Replies to “The Best Yogurts For Your Health: Greek or Regular?”

  1. Thought I appreciate the information given here, people generally eat yogurt for the microbes, not the protein.. What about that?

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: The two bacteria that make yogurt, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, break down lactose and curdle milk. But they don’t survive passage through the GI tract, which is essential if they’re going to have a probiotic effect in the large intestine. And the two bacteria have been tested in animals to see if they have any probiotic properties like inhibiting disease-causing bacteria, but they don’t.

      1. The reason I eat yogurt is for the “contains live and active cultures” noted in the list of ingredients. Am I understanding you correctly that those are destroyed in the yogurt making process and do little if nothing for us?

    2. I am a Registered Dietitian, RD and I recommend yogurt to my clients for various reasons; it’s calcium, probiotics and or protein content.

    1. Liberte 0% Plain Greek Yogurt is one of our recommended yogurts. In the chart it is mentioned on the same line as some of the other popular 0% fat plain greek yogurts.

    1. Fage 0% Plain Greek Yogurt is one of our recommended yogurts. In our chart it is mentioned on the same line as some other popular 0% fat plain greek yogurts.

      1. I’m troubled because Fage is in the list but the container I buy provides nutrition data that is not consistent with your list. First, it refers to a cup as a serving (8 oz), but the sugar content is 9g which does not equate to 1.5g for a 5.3 or 6 oz serving. Does that mean they add more sugar when sold in different quantities or what? It’s 0% fat, plain “Greek Strained Yogurt” with “live active yogurt cultures.” Help me understand, please?

      2. From one of our nutritionists: It looks like you’re buying the multi-serve containers, which list 8 oz. (1 cup) as a serving. The chart shows (smaller) single-serving containers, which have 1.5 teaspoons (sugar g/4.2) per 6 oz. container.

  2. I like Greek Gods Traditional (plain) Greek Yogurt. I agree with Joseph – I also prefer full fat yogurt and cheese and don’t understand the no/low fat craze.

  3. How about adding Kirkland (Costco) Non-fat plain yogurt — 32 oz. Ingredients are just fat free milk and a variety of live/active bacteria…no thickeners added.

  4. I buy organic whole milk and make my own plain yogurt. So, I don’t know the calories, ect. But, it is very tasty plain, or with a little honey and cinnamon, or blackberries and walnuts.

  5. I’d like to add that Yogurt is Yogurt. Made my own for many years with one of the many inexpensive yogurt ”makers” available. Love it plain, unflavored, no ”junk” mixed in. Making it required only 2 ingredients: a quart of milk and 4 teaspoons of a previous yogurt mixed in the milk to carry the yogurt culture forward. Sharpness of the finished batch depended on the length of time ”cooked”; mild about 6 hours to extra-sharp about 8 hours. What they have named ”Greek” yogurt is just YOGURT at double the price of standard yogurt.

  6. How does Cabot Nonfat Yogurt Plain rate? I eat 3 cups/680 grams a day of it so I would like to know how it compares to the other yogurts on your list.
    thank you very much, Fieke Fabricant
    Thank you very much

  7. Here’s a question for Nutrition Action: I have been led to believe that yogurt is a derivative product of dairy products. However, some yogurt has an abundance of soy in the product and sometimes even in the brand name. Is the soy yogurt really soy dominant with no dairy products therein?

    1. Soy yogurts, like Stonyfield Organic O’Soy, are a soy based alternative to traditional dairy yogurts. So instead of adding bacterial cultures to cow’s milk, companies like Stonyfield are adding bacterial cultures to soy milk to make these soy yogurts. The ones we found did not contain any dairy ingredients.

  8. I was surprised and disappointed that you did not include any store-label brands in your listings. These often tend to be indistinguishable from the better-known and more expensive brands. I looked at the ingredients panel of my 32-oz container of Giant brand non-fat plain Greek yogurt, and it seems to meet the criteria mentioned in the article. Even just a brief mention of some of the qualifying store brands would have been useful.

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: Our monthly newsletter usually lists some major store brands for the products we review. But being a national publication, we can’t possibly cover every major private-label product there or in our digital posts, where we have even less room.

    2. Our monthly newsletter usually lists some major store brands for the products we review. But being a national publication, we can’t possibly cover every major private-label product there or in our digital posts, where we have even less room.

  9. I haven’t liked any of the Greek yogurts I’ve tried. They’re boring! I much prefer my local (Alberta, Canada) BlesWold plain yogurt. But maybe what I like is a little sharpness, and as George explained, the Greek yogurt I’ve tried hasn’t been “cooked” long enough.

  10. Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt Plain. Tart. I prefer the regular (not nonfat) version as I use this yogurt to substitute for oils, butter and other fats in recipes besides eating as is.

  11. I noticed that you did not even list Fage. A truer greek yogurt than chobani and the others. I know since I spent time in Greece eating my way thru the country. hank

  12. Hi — if plain yogurt is hard to swallow, especially for children, you can add berries or fresh, frozen or canned fruit (canned in juice, not syrup and not artificially sweetened) and even add a sprinkle of sugar. Some yogurts have up to 8 teaspoons of added sugar per cup…much more that anyone would add on their own!

  13. When I was hospitalized for diabetes they served me Dannon Light & Fit. I have also used Dannon Light & Fit Greek. Why isn’ty this evaluated?
    Thanks

  14. I’d be interested in your reviewing yogurt/kefir/etc. *drinks*, perhaps as an alternative to the frequent recommendation of drinking milk as a post-exercise drink.

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