Food Preparation

Yogurt: 9 Tips on What to Buy and What to Ignore

January 11, 2017   /
Nutrition411 Staff

With so many different types of yogurt these days, it is hard to know which one is the best to buy. These tips can help you understand what to look for and what to ignore.

  1. Probiotics: Look for a statement that reads “contains live and active cultures” to guarantee that your yogurt contains gut-friendly probiotics. 
  • While probiotics are very likely to help improve gut health, they are not a cure for digestive problems. In fact, a class action lawsuit was brought against Dannon for claiming that Activia® is “clinically proven to help regulate the digestive system when eaten twice daily for two weeks.” Experts point out that fluid consumption, total fiber intake, physical activity, and stress reduction also are important for a healthy digestive tract. 
  • Not all frozen yogurt contains probiotics. Only some manufacturers add probiotics. Read the label to see if your favorite brand contains these healthful bacteria.
  1. Vitamin D: Not all yogurts are fortified with vitamin D, as milk is. It is important to read the label carefully.
  2. Fruit-flavored yogurt: Many fruit-flavored yogurts contain no actual fruit at all. The healthiest form of yogurt is plain. Just add your own fruit to sweeten plain yogurt to your liking.
  3. Best bites: The much-respected Center for Science in the Public Interest states that the “best bites” in yogurt contain 180 calories or less, 1.5 grams (g) of saturated fat or less, 30 g or less of sugar, more than 5 g of protein, and more than 20% of your daily value for calcium in a 6-ounce cup.
  4. Fiber: The source of fiber in most of the yogurts boasting fiber content is in the form of inulin, which is not proven to improve regularity, lower blood pressure, or even help blood sugar levels the way that the fiber that is found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables does. In addition, inulin may cause gas, bloating, and gastrointestinal distress in some people.
  5. Immune booster: Bifidobacterium-12 and/or Lactobacillus casei, the bacteria that is used in some popular yogurts, is touted as an “immune booster,” but are not conclusively proven to do so. While some studies show a possible increase in immune function, others show no such correlation.
  6. DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is not confirmed to prevent memory loss or have any other effects on your mind. Even if DHA did have positive effects on mental health, the amounts found in yogurt labeled with slogans such as “boost your brain” would not contain enough to make any difference.
  7. Digestive benefits: Yogurts that are labeled as having special digestive benefits do not. These yogurts often contain much of the same bacteria types and levels as other yogurts, and any extra ingredients are not proven to bestow any extra digestive help to the consumer.
  8. Greek-style yogurts: Greek-style yogurts have become very popular, not only because of their thickness and creaminess, but also because they contain more protein than regular yogurt. 

References and recommended readings

Hitti M. Yogurt maker sued over health claims. website. Published January 25, 2008. Accessed December 2, 2015.

Hurley J, Liebman B, Schardt D. Yogurt: Super food or super swindle? Nutrition Action Newsletter website. Published July 2008. Accessed December 2, 2015.

Nestle M. What to Eat. 1st ed. New York, NY: North Point Press; 2006:99-107.

Tsang G. What to look for in a yogurt. website. Published February 1, 2009. Accessed December 2, 2015.