Have you taken a good hard look at the dairy case lately? If it’s a lot bigger than you remember, it’s likely because yogurt has commandeered much of the space. With so many flavors and varieties to choose from, it can be tricky to figure out what to buy.
- What is yogurt?
- What are the benefits of yogurt for people with diabetes?
- How can yogurt affect diabetes?: Yogurt’s darker side
- Which yogurt is best for diabetics?
- Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE
- Best Yogurts for Diabetes
- What are the best yogurts for diabetes?
- Yogurt for Diabetes: Is One Type Better Than Another?
- The Benefits of Yogurt for People With Diabetes
- What to Look for on the Nutrition Facts Label
- Which Type of Yogurt Is Best for You?
- What’s in your pot?
- The good news
- Spotlight on sugar
- Spotting ‘free sugars’
- Popular yogurts
- The findings
- Childrens’ yogurts
- Kids’ yogurt nutritional information
- And finally…
- Much more than yogurts…
- Why Greek Yogurt Should Be Part of Your Type 2 Diabetes Diet
- How to Find the Right Greek Yogurt
- Healthy and Delicious Ways to Use Greek Yogurt
- Smooth(ie) sailing
- GOOD ADVICE
- Tips for Choosing the Best Yogurt for Your Health
What is yogurt?
Yogurt is probably one of the oldest foods around. The word yogurt is Turkish in origin, and it’s thought that it dates back to the Neolithic people of Central Asia around 6000 B.C. Yogurt was actually “discovered” accidentally: herdsman would carry milk in animal stomachs. The enzymes from the stomachs curdled the milk, turning it into what we know today as yogurt. Turkish immigrants brought yogurt to North American in the 1700s but it really caught on in the 1940s when the son of the Danone company founder started a small yogurt factory in the Bronx. We now know this company now as Dannon.
What are the benefits of yogurt for people with diabetes?
Yogurt has a lot going for it. It’s rich in a number of nutrients, including:
• Vitamin D
• Vitamin B-12
• Vitamin B-2
Protein and magnesium are two key nutrients for diabetes management. Protein provides a feeling of fullness and can even out blood sugar levels. Magnesium helps improve insulin sensitivity, which can also help improve blood sugar levels.
Along with the above nutrients, yogurt contains probiotics, also known as “good” bacteria. While more research is needed, evidence points to these friendly bacteria as helping to boost the immune system, improving digestion, preventing urinary tract infections, and easing certain skin conditions, such as eczema.
How can yogurt affect diabetes?: Yogurt’s darker side
While yogurt seems to be bursting with nutrition, some types of yogurt contain ingredients that aren’t so healthful. Many yogurts on the market today are full of some type of added sugar, including sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, and fruit juice. Yogurt naturally contains sugar from milk (called lactose), but food manufactures often add extra sweetness, turning a healthful food into a high-calorie sugar bomb.
Light-style or no-sugar-added yogurts contain one or more nonnutritive sweeteners, such as aspartame, acesulfame potassium, or stevia. These sweeteners aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you prefer to avoid them, it’s important to check out the ingredient list before you buy.
Yogurts vary in their fat content, based on the type of milk used. Some yogurts are made with whole milk, which provides a rich, creamy flavor. Nonfat yogurts are made with nonfat milk. And low-fat yogurts are made with 1% or 2% milk. The good news is that some research indicates that whole milk may not be all that bad for us. The not-so-good news is that some health experts are still skeptical and recommend limiting whole-milk products due to its high saturated fat content.
Colorings and fillers
Some brands of yogurt contain coloring (to make the yogurt look pretty), along with gelatin, modified food starch, pectin, inulin (a type of fiber) and carrageenan. Again, these ingredients aren’t necessarily harmful, but if you’re more of a purist when it comes to food, pay close attention to that ingredient list.
Which yogurt is best for diabetics?
Look for a seal on the container that reads, “Live & Active Cultures.” This ensures that the yogurt contains probiotics.
What yogurt has the least amount of sugar?
Bypass yogurt that lists sugar as the first or second ingredient.
Skip the flavored or fruited yogurt (which may not even contain real fruit). Instead, buy plain or vanilla yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.
Go for yogurt that has:
• At least 5 grams of protein per serving.
• Less than 1.5 grams of saturated fat per serving.
• At least 20% of the daily value for calcium and 10% of the daily value for vitamin D.
• No more than 10 grams of added sugar per serving (keep in mind that all yogurt contains, on average, about 15 grams of natural sugar per serving).
If you’re looking for more protein, choose a Greek-style yogurt or skyr, which is an Icelandic yogurt that is milder than regular yogurt, but also high in protein. Again, watch out for Greek yogurt with a lot of added sugar. Going with plain is always your best bet.
A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Good Measures, LLC, where she is a CDE manager for a virtual diabetes program. Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition & Meal Planning, a co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet, and has written for publications including Diabetes Self-Management, Diabetes Spectrum, Clinical Diabetes, the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation’s newsletter, DiabeticConnect.com, and CDiabetes.com
Best Yogurts for Diabetes
Yogurt of all types is touted as a tasty dairy food with a myriad of health benefits. There are a variety of choices that can make anyone feel confused at the grocery store especially when you have diabetes and are counting carbohydrates. All types of yogurt are considered carbohydrates. Let’s compare Greek, light and fit, whipped, regular and goat’s milk yogurts to find the best ones when you have diabetes.
- Yogurt is made from milk and milk solids with added bacteria cultures (formally called lactobacillus bulgarius and streptococcus thermophilus). Yogurt also contains lactic acid which gives it a slightly sour taste. Yogurt can be made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and even water buffalo. Fruit, nuts, flavorings and other additions may be found on the bottom, in a separate packet, or pre-mixed into the yogurt.
- Yogurt can be a viable option for those who are lactose intolerant, but still want to get the health benefits of consuming dairy foods. Eating yogurt can help build bones with nutrients such as vitamin D and calcium. The added cultures found in most yogurts can help improve your digestion. Check the label to verify the yogurt contains active cultures to support gastrointestinal health. People with diabetes need to carefully read the labels before buying any yogurt. Keep diabetes supplies on-hand to test your glucose levels two hours after eating yogurt to help you find the best varieties based on your blood sugar levels.
- Greek yogurt has become a buzzword among health food enthusiasts. It is also called Mediterranean yogurt. It can be used to make Greek dips or dressings. It can be used as a marinade or sauce for a lamb dish. Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt with a creamier texture. It holds up well to heat, which makes it a good choice for cooking. While Greek yogurt tends to have more protein, it can also contain more fat and calories than other types of yogurt. It comes in regular, low fat and fat free varieties so always read your labels.
- Light and fit yogurt usually contains less fat, carbohydrates and calories than other varieties of yogurt. It might also be made with sugar substitutes and/or skim milk. The way it is processed often means it can have a more watery consistency than other types of yogurt. The added artificial sweeteners may have an aftertaste. Again, it is important to read the label to find out how or if it fits into your daily dietary requirements. Some light and fit yogurts may be formulated to have a similar texture to regular or Greek-style yogurt. Look for what types of additives are being used to achieve this consistency.
- Whipped yogurt is a form of regular or traditional yogurt that has greater air content for a lighter texture. Often whipped yogurt is served as a dessert with light whipped cream or fresh fruit. It may have added gelatin to achieve the whipped texture. The nutritional content is much like other types of yogurt. Some types of whipped yogurt have more saturated fat than others, so always read the labels to keep track of your carbohydrate and fat intake.
- Regular yogurt is also referred to as traditional yogurt. It is a timeless choice that has been on grocery shelves for decades. Traditional yogurt offers a tangy taste and nutritional value with calcium, riboflavin, potassium, protein and phosphorus. There are also low-sugar, sugar-free and low-fat options. From generic to fancy brands, regular yogurt has a thick and creamy texture. Try plain yogurt and add a handful of nuts, granola or fresh fruit for flavor and fiber. This gives you better control of the fat and carbohydrate intake.
- Goat’s milk yogurt is made with milk from a goat rather than a cow. Goat’s milk yogurt is good for those who are lactose intolerant. It still contains probiotics, the beneficial bacteria found in most yogurt, as well as essential vitamins and nutrients. However, goat’s milk yogurt often does not have artificial flavorings, colors, preservatives, sugar and/or gelatin. In many instances, goat’s milk yogurt is promoted and sold in health food stores and farms. As a result, it might not be made with pesticides, antibiotics, or added growth hormones. It is also possible to find these benefits in certain varieties of cow’s milk yogurt, which may be labeled as organic. Always read the label to get the facts, as promotional language can be deceiving.
- There are a variety of other types of yogurt to consider. European style, which is smooth and creamy, is also called stirred curd yogurt. French-style has a texture like pudding and might be referred to as custard-style yogurt, which is often used as a dessert. Probiotic yogurt contains plenty of active cultures to help promote better gastrointestinal health. Kefir is a fermented milk drink with a tangy taste that is often sold in the yogurt section of the grocery store.
Yogurt offers nutritional and health benefits, but it can be tricky to find the right ones. Always read the labels to choose low-fat brands and keep track of the calories and carbohydrates. The proper kinds of yogurt are a tasty way to include dairy products into your daily diabetes diet.
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What are the best yogurts for diabetes?
Share on PinterestThe probiotics in yogurt may help reduce inflammation.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend yogurt as part of a healthful diet. Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Research also suggests that the probiotics, or “beneficial bacteria,” in yogurt may help to reduce inflammation.
People who have type 2 diabetes tend to have high levels of inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can increase the risk of certain complications, such as heart disease and stroke.
The following sections outline the effects of yogurt consumption on diabetes.
Effects of probiotic yogurt vs. no yogurt
A 2016 study investigated the effects of probiotic yogurt consumption on various markers of health in people with type 2 diabetes.
Some of the participants who took part in the study ate a little less than two-thirds of a cup of probiotic yogurt per day for 8 weeks. Others consumed yogurt with a type of pumpkin or just pumpkin alone. A control group received dietary advice on managing diabetes but did not consume any yogurt.
Researchers tested each participant’s blood pressure and blood glucose levels at the start of the study, and again at the end. They also tested levels of fats and inflammatory markers in the blood. Inflammatory markers are chemicals in the blood that indicate inflammation in the body.
The participants who ate yogurt and yogurt and pumpkin showed a significant reduction in blood pressure. Their blood tests also revealed the following health improvements:
- a significant decrease in blood glucose levels
- significantly lower levels of the inflammatory marker “CRP”
- significantly lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol
The control group did not show significant improvements in any of the above markers of health. The researchers concluded that consumng probiotic yogurt might be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
Effects of probiotic yogurt vs. conventional yogurt
Probiotic yogurts contain active, live cultures. The amount and type of “healthy” bacteria can differ significantly between brands. However, probiotic yogurt usually contains substantially more beneficial bacteria than conventional yogurt.
A 2014 study suggests that probiotic yogurt may have more significant health benefits than conventional yogurt for people with type 2 diabetes.
The study included 44 participants who were overweight or obese. Over 8 weeks, one group of participants ate just over a cup of probiotic yogurt per day. The other group ate the same amount of conventional yogurt per day.
The participants who ate the probiotic yogurt showed significant decreases in one out of three inflammatory markers tested. They also showed a significant reduction in blood glucose levels. The volunteers who ate conventional yogurt did not show these effects.
The researchers concluded that probiotic yogurt consumption might help to control inflammation. This, in turn, may help to reduce the risk of diabetes complications.
Probiotics and glucose control
A 2015 review of 17 randomized controlled trials investigated the relationship between probiotics and glycemic control.
The review found that probiotics significantly reduced fasting blood glucose and fasting plasma insulin (FPI) levels. Lower levels of FPI indicate more effective glycemic control.
Although the changes in blood glucose and FPI were statistically significant, the size of these changes was modest. Nonetheless, the authors state that even a small reduction in blood glucose can be beneficial, especially for people with type 2 diabetes.
Yogurt for Diabetes: Is One Type Better Than Another?
Yogurt has a place in a healthy diet — but if you have diabetes, you have to choose wisely. “Yogurt can be a great protein source. However, many varieties have added sugar, which is important to be aware of when managing diabetes,” says Despina Hyde Gandhi, RD, CDE, a dietitian at New York University’s Langone Weight Management Program in New York City.
Even seemingly innocent fruit-on-the-bottom varieties can really be desserts in disguise. “You have to be careful with yogurt, as it’s marketed as healthy but may contain more sugar than ice cream,” Gandhi says.
The Benefits of Yogurt for People With Diabetes
Don’t let that scare you away, though. A meta-analysis published in July 2015 in PLoS One found that probiotics like those found in yogurt can help control blood sugar. And another review, published in July 2013 in Frontiers in Endocrinology linked dairy intake with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
What to Look for on the Nutrition Facts Label
To make sure you pick a healthy one, be a stickler about inspecting the nutritional facts, Gandhi says. You’ll never find a sugar-free yogurt because it’ll always have lactose, a natural sugar found in milk, but check the ingredients list for added sugars, such as cane syrup, fruit juice, or brown rice syrup, says Kathy Namolik, RD, CDE, a consultant for Sarasota Memorial Health Care System in Sarasota, Florida.
Heather Cunningham, RD, CDE, a wellness consultant for Hackensack Meridian Health in Old Bridge, New Jersey, suggests reaching for an option that has fewer than 20 grams (g) of total carbohydrates and clocks in at no more than 150 calories per serving. “People should also look at the calcium content — this should be at least 15 percent or higher of the USDA recommended daily allowance,” she says.
And while plain full-fat yogurt can make a healthy snack, people with diabetes are better off reaching for the nonfat variety, Namolik says. That’s in line with recommendations from the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association, which advise diabetic people to opt for low- and nonfat foods when possible, as these individuals are at a greater risk of heart disease.
Which Type of Yogurt Is Best for You?
Gandhi ranked four common yogurt varieties in order from best to worst for people with diabetes.
1. Greek (tie)
Greek yogurt is generally a better option than regular because it has fewer carbohydrates and less sugar, which is something people with diabetes should always look for. Plus, it has more protein, which means you’ll stay full longer. “Protein also gets your pancreas to release a little bit more insulin,” Namolik says. The protein count makes Greek yogurt a good follow-up to strength training.
Your best bet is to choose a plain Greek yogurt, which usually has fewer than 7 grams of sugar, Gandhi says.
2. Icelandic (tie)
Icelandic yogurt is very similar to Greek yogurt both in the way it’s made and in its nutritional profile. “It’s made by straining excess liquid and concentrating the protein so the resulting product is higher in protein by two to three times when compared with regular yogurt,” Gandhi says.
Not a fan of the thick consistency of Icelandic and Greek yogurt? Try a whipped Greek yogurt instead. “It can still provide the higher protein levels but has a lighter texture,” Cunningham says.
Some types of yogurt have higher levels of probiotics than others, and those that contain friendly bacteria can help boost your immune system and gastrointestinal health. To make sure you’re getting your fill of gut benefits, look for the words “live and active cultures” on the container, Namolik says. “The friendly bacteria help improve your insulin levels when you have type 2 diabetes, and can help prevent infections, which may be difficult to control when you have type 2 diabetes,” Namolik says.
Namolik says regular yogurt can be a great choice for people with diabetes (bonus: it’s usually less expensive than other options). But it comes in last on our list because these yogurts tend to be higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein compared with others, Cunningham says.
If you prefer regular, always go for plain and add your own fruit if you need some sweetness. That way you can control what goes in and can ensure you’re only adding natural fructose.
Yogurt is a a common breakfast or snack food and known for its benefits on gut health. Is yogurt good for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes?
How Yogurt Can Help Diabetes
Yogurt is low in carbohydrates and therefore, it will not cause blood sugar spikes. But other than this, there are several other benefits that diabetics can get out of eating yoghurt.
Several studies and researches were done in order to find out the health benefits of yogurt. Research shows that fermented foods like yogurt contains probiotics, which are good bacteria that helps to improve gut health. Probiotics is good for ones overall health condition, including people with diabetes.
Further research shows that regular consumption of yogurt can be associated with lowering insulin resistance and blood glucose levels. Another study also found a possible link between regular consumption of yogurt and a reduced risk on Type 2 Diabetes. Such studies are really great news for those with diabetes, although more studies are needed in order to determine if there are any other links between yogurt and diabetes.
How to Choose a Yogurt for Diabetes
Most of the dairy products, including yogurt are known to have low glycemic index. As such, they are great for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes. In order to get the most out of your yogurt consumption, it is important to choose the type of product that you buy. Read labels and select the type of yoghurt that has live and active cultures.
It is also important that you pay close attention to its nutrient facts. Go for yogurts that have high protein but low carbohydrates. Many of yogurt products have added sugars so be careful with that. Natural yogurt is sour so if your yogurt taste sweet, it most likely has added sugar. Avoid flavored yogurt.
What to Watch Out For
The extra toppings on your yogurt may have some hidden carbohydrates and calories in them, so be careful with this as well. Some toppings might cause a spike to your blood sugar level. Opt for the plain yogurt and ignore the toppings. This way, you will be able to control the serving size as well as the added sugar. But if you must add toppings, go for a combination of sliced almonds and fresh berries.
Some yogurts may have artificial sweeteners in them. While these sweeteners are originally marketed as a means to help people to curb sweet tooth yet maintain weight, some studies suggest that artificial sweeteners can actually lead to weight gain so you have to be mindful about your use of artificial sweeteners not only on yogurt but on other things.
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What’s in your pot?
According to consumer research, the UK population spends a staggering 1.7 billion a year on yogurt and fromage frais.
With an ever-increasing range of yogurt varieties on offer, it can be difficult to work out why one variety may be more or less healthy than another.
Here at Enjoy Food, we thought it was about time we took a closer look at this popular product and find out what exactly is in those pots…
The good news
Yogurt provides many health benefits. Made with milk, it contains protein and calcium needed for healthy bones and teeth. Some yogurts also have added vitamin D, which helps our body to absorb calcium. It’s also good to know that low-fat yogurts have just as much calcium as the full-fat versions.
Some research even suggests that eating yogurt can help you to feel fuller, which may make it easier to manage your weight.
As well as a useful portable snack, or instant pudding when you fancy a sweet fix, plain, natural, or greek yogurt can be used as a topping on fruit and desserts instead of cream, in smoothies, or in cooking.
Spotlight on sugar
As with most manufactured food products, you need to take a step back from the marketing hype and take a closer look at the food label, to check whether that innocent looking pot is as healthy as it seems.
Many yogurts, particularly the ones aimed at children, are crammed full of the ‘free sugars’ we all need to cut back on.
Looking at the label, the carbohydrate ‘of which sugars’ provides useful information. An amount in grams (g) will be given.
Spotting ‘free sugars’
This figure includes sugars which come naturally from the milk used to make the yogurt, known as ‘lactose’, as well as any sugar added to the yogurt, ie ‘free sugars’, and sugar that comes naturally from any fruit or fruit puree that has been used to make the product.
As a general rule, in any 100g of yogurt, the first 5g of sugar listed is the milk sugar (lactose) found naturally in the milk used to make the yogurt. Lactose is not a ‘free sugar’.
If sugar is second or third on the ingredients list, you know that a lot has been added as the order of ingredients is dictated by the quantity present. Other forms of sugar that you may see added include fructose, dextrose, glucose, fructose syrup, and honey.
If you carb count, it’s the total amount of carbs that you need to count.
By looking at the ‘of which sugars,’ together with the ingredients list, you can gain a fairly accurate picture of the amount of sugar added, especially if you remember that the first 5g of any 100g of yogurt is generally a result of the lactose in milk.
Added fruit is sometimes listed as a percentage. If it is a long way down the ingredient list, it means that very little has been added. Generally, more expensive yogurts have the most fruit added.
Below is the nutritional information for 10 everyday yogurts so you can see how they perform…
*These nutritional values were accurate at the time of publication, but some of these values may have changed. Please check the food labels for the latest nutritional information.
Muller Light – Strawberry
|Per 100g||Per 175g serving|
Danone Light & Free – Blueberry Burst
|Per 100g||Per 115g serving|
Liberté 0% – Natural
|Per 100g||Per 125g serving|
Danone Activia 0% Fat – Peach
|Per 100g||Per 125g serving|
Skyr Fat Free – Simply Natural
|Per 100g||Per 150g serving|
Nestle Ski Smooth – Strawberry
|Per 100g||Per 120g serving|
Yeo Valley – Natural
|Per 100g||Per 120g serving|
Alpro Soya – Simply Plain
|Per 100g||Per 120g serving|
Rachel’s Organic Greek Style – Natural
|Per 100g||Per 120g serving|
Sainsbury’s Low-Fat Greek Style – Natural
|Per 100g||Per 120g serving|
We’ve used the governments’ colour coding front-of-pack scheme so that you can see whether the amount in each yogurt is high (red), medium (amber) or low (green). As you can see, they are all coded green or amber for sugar, fat, and salt. One was coded red for saturated fat, probably because whole (blue top) milk is used in the recipe. However, this brand’s range also offers lower fat and saturated alternatives.
Though many of the yogurts had no added sugar, a few did, with sugar and fructose listed in the ingredients list.
Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, acesulfame K, and aspartame were added to a few of the yogurts to sweeten them. These are not counted as ‘free sugars’ and provide neglible amounts of cals and carbs.
Yogurts can be a useful snack to pop into your kids’ lunch boxes, or to enjoy at work or home as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
It pays to check the label rather than be blinded by the marketing hype, especially if you carb count.
Kids’ yogurt nutritional information
Muller Kids Corner Butterflies
Carbohydrate per 100 g = 19.8g and per 135 g pot = 26.7g
Carbohydrate ‘of which sugars’ per 100g = 17.3g and per 135g pot = 23.3g
Munch Bunch – Strawberry and Vanilla
Carbohydrate per 100 g = 13.9g and per 85g pot = 13.4g
Carbohydrate ‘of which sugars’ per 100g = 11.8g and per 85g pot = 11.4g
Petits Filous Magic Squares – Raspberry/Vanilla
Carbohydrate per 100g = 13g and per 80g pot = 10.4g
Carbohydrate ‘of which sugars’ per 100g = 12.4g and per 80g pot = 9.9g
Muller Kids Corner Blast Off
Carbohydrate per 100g = 19.8g and per 135g pot = 26.7g
Carbohydrate ‘of which sugars’ per 100g = 16.4g and per 135g pot = 22.1g
Yoplait – Strawberry and Raspberry
Carbohydrate per 100g = 13.3g and per 70g pot = 9.4g
Carbohydrate ‘of which sugars’ per 100g = 13.2 g and per 70g pot = 9.4g
Remember to check the ingredients listed above before purchasing a yogurt for your child. Different yogurts can vary considerably and some offer far healthier options than others.
With entire supermarket aisles, and pages and pages of online shopping sites dedicated to yogurts, you’re bound to find one you enjoy. Or, why not experiment and add your own delicious toppings and fruits to natural or greek yogurt for your very own unique flavour?
Much more than yogurts…
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Why Greek Yogurt Should Be Part of Your Type 2 Diabetes Diet
Smooth, creamy, thick — Greek yogurt is one of the hottest foods around, and its popularity shows no signs of abating. With a pudding-like texture and a slightly tart flavor, Greek yogurt also has more protein and fewer carbs and fewer sugars than traditional yogurt. This means that Greek yogurt can be even better for people with type 2 diabetes, says Tami Ross, RD, CDE, a diabetes educator in Lexington, Kentucky.
“My patients love the consistency of it,” Ross explains. “Even the patients who are not big on yogurt or milk products overwhelmingly seem to like Greek yogurt.”
Greek yogurt’s thick consistency comes from straining it to remove liquid whey. This process increases the amount of protein per serving and removes some of the carbohydrates, which people with diabetes must watch carefully.
“For folks with diabetes, the lower carbs are a plus,” Ross notes. “You can work in the yogurt for a snack without having to account for so many carbohydrates.”
The increased protein can also help you feel that you’ve had a more substantial snack, so you’ll feel more satisfied and won’t be hungry for something else quite so quickly. “In terms of promoting satiety and helping people feel full, it’s great,” Ross says. And starting your day with Greek yogurt may even help you manage your blood sugar throughout the day. Eating low-GI foods for breakfast helps prevent blood-sugar spikes later on, one recent study found.
How to Find the Right Greek Yogurt
Of course, not all Greek yogurts are created equal. With many brands and flavors on the market, it’s important to read nutrition labels carefully to find one that will work with a diabetes-friendly diet. Carbohydrate content is the most important item to look for on the nutrition label of Greek yogurt, since it accounts for the sugar content that people with diabetes must watch. “The best choice is always a nonfat version,” Ross says.
In terms of flavor, plain varieties also work best over the fruit-filled choices. “If there’s fruit on the bottom, it means there’s going to be more sugar and carbs in it,” Ross warns. “If you really want a flavored yogurt, you can flavor it yourself with fruit at home.”
Another alternative is to select vanilla Greek yogurt varieties, which are usually lower in carbohydrates than those with fruit. “My patients feel like they are getting a decadent treat,” Ross says. “It’s almost too good to be true.” To avoid accidentally exceeding your carbohydrate limit, you should also check the label to find out how many servings are in a single package “In some products, one container may be two servings, so you have to be careful,” Ross says.
Healthy and Delicious Ways to Use Greek Yogurt
Most people with diabetes have anywhere from 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates to “spend” on each meal, and snacks should range from 15 to 30 grams. With many nonfat Greek yogurts weighing in at about 7 to 12 grams of carbohydrates per serving, it’s easy to integrate them into a meal or as a between-meals snack, Ross says.
Greek yogurt can also be used in recipes. Ross suggests using plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream on baked potatoes or in dips; blend in your favorite chopped fresh or dried herbs. You can also try this decadent-tasting dessert: Mix a teaspoon of honey and a handful of chopped walnuts into a single-serving size container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. If desired, add in a drop of your favorite extract, such as vanilla or almond, for extra flavor.
“This can give you a nice treat without all the carbs you’d get with ice cream or other foods,” Ross says.
The Nutrition Information Centre at Stellenbosch University (NICUS) provides a few diet tips to help prevent and treat type-2 diabetes:
- Losing as little as five to 10% of your body weight improves insulin resistance;
- Try to have at least two cups of dairy (milk, cottage cheese or yoghurt, or a plant milk alternative) per day, preferably low-fat products, because these products contain all the necessary protein and calcium, but with less fat.
- Eat at least three balanced meals a day;
- Drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day;
- Increase your fibre intake by including foods such as wholewheat bread and pasta, whole grains, brown rice, legumes, fruit and veg, and oats in your daily diet;
- Limit your fat intake, especially that of foods containing saturated and transfats. Rather opt for mono-unsaturated fats in limited amounts (for example use canola or olive oil instead of sunflower oil, or use avocado or peanut butter instead of margarine on bread);
- Eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day and include as much variety as possible;
- Use healthy cooking methods (eat food raw, or boil, steam, bake, grill or braai it and use as little fat as possible when preparing your food);
- If you consume alcohol (beer and wine), do so moderately (one to two glasses a day, and always with a meal), and
- Manage your sugar intake and limit or avoid food that is very high in energy, but low in nutrients.
Tips for Choosing the Best Yogurt for Your Health
By Catherine Newman
Some basic principles about yogurt – its benefits, pitfalls, types, and traps
When I was a child, way back in the Pleistocene era of the 1970s, there was one brand of yogurt, Dannon, and it came in a waxed-cardboard container, and you knew it was healthy because there were million-year-old Slavic people in the commercial for it, the point being that if you ate yogurt you would live forever. If you liked yogurt, you bought Dannon; if you didn’t like yogurt, you didn’t buy it.
Those were the days! Because now the yogurt aisle is fourteen miles long and more baffling than a word problem about colliding trains. Plus, yogurt is extra-tricky, since it still shines with that gloss of alleged good health – even if it’s flavored with cotton candy and contains as much sugar as your average serving of Laffy Taffy. In other words, you’ve got to watch out for the wolf in yogurt’s clothing. And if you are managing diabetes – or otherwise limiting your intake of sugar and carbs – then the stakes are even higher, and the yogurt aisle can feel like even more of a health landmine.
But yogurt, when it’s good yogurt, is good for you. And eating yogurt is linked with a lower risk of obesity, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes; a 2014 Harvard School of Public Health analysis actually found that eating (plain) yogurt every day was associated with a reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes by a significant 18%.
We set out to clarify some basic principles about yogurt – its benefits, pitfalls, types, and traps. After arming yourself with this information, we encourage you to go to the store and take a look for yourself!
Click to jump to a section:
What is yogurt?
Regular or Greek?
Non-fat, low-fat, or whole-milk?
Plain or flavored?
What else might you see on a yogurt label?
What is yogurt?
Yogurt is made from milk that’s been fermented. And thanks to fermentation, yogurt also contains probiotics, which are bacteria that might play a role in keeping your gut healthy, essentially by crowding out other, less healthy, microorganisms. Some yogurts may claim extra-special probiotic status, but pretty much any yogurt from a refrigerated dairy case is going to contain “live and active cultures,” i.e., bacteria. Please note that “yogurt” in the form of a candy coating (yogurt-covered pretzels, I’m looking at you) is not yogurt and, alas, not healthy.
According to Alice H. Lichtenstein, executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, “Given the most prominent yogurt choices on the market today, the first criterion should be the amount of added sugar. The best option is to choose plain, unflavored yogurt and customize it to your personal preferences by adding fresh, frozen, or dried fruit and/or flavorings such as vanilla and cinnamon.”
Regular or Greek?
Regular yogurt is made from milk that gets tart and thick, thanks to the added cultures. Greek yogurt is regular yogurt that’s been strained so that it gets even thicker. This thickening actually works to accomplish two things, nutrition-wise: it concentrates the protein which makes it more satisfying and reduces the naturally occurring sugar (lactose), much of which drains out with the whey (the liquid left after straining). One 5.3-ounce serving of Greek yogurt can offer as much as 20 grams of protein (as well as a quarter of your daily calcium needs), making it a satisfying, energy-boosting, and nearly instant meal. (Icelandic yogurt, also called Skyr, is also strained, and similar to Greek yogurt, nutrient-wise.)
- Choose Greek Yogurt (or Icelandic Skyr)
- Look for 12 or more grams of protein per 5.3-ounce (150 grams) serving to help keep you satisfied
Nonfat, low-fat, or whole-milk?
Although researchers are not exactly sure why this is true – and although we’ve been led to believe the opposite for decades – whole-milk products, including yogurt, may actually be better for you than their lower-fat or nonfat counterparts.
Although higher in calories, whole-milk yogurt tends to be more satisfying and lower in natural sugar and added carbs (like thickeners) than lower-fat yogurt. And if all that doesn’t convince you? Higher-fat yogurt is simply richer and more delicious, which means that you’ll be more likely to eat it plain or with as little added sweetener as possible.
- Choose Whole-Milk Yogurt (or 2%).
- Look for 2 or more grams of fat per 5.3-ounce (150 grams) serving.
Plain or flavored?
If you already like plain, unsweetened yogurt, then read no further! You’re all set. Buy it, eat it, love yourself. Because while unsweetened yogurt is a wonderful, nutrient-dense food, sweetened yogurt offers diminishing returns. Sure, it’s healthier than soda – after all, it’s still got protein and calcium – but the added sugar is going to dramatically jack up the carbs and wreak havoc on your blood glucose levels. If you don’t eat your yogurt plain, then look very carefully at the label so that you can be certain you’re choosing a yogurt with less than 20 grams of total carbs – and ideally that number will be closer to 15 or even 10. (For reference: plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt contains 5 to 9 grams of naturally occurring carbs from the milk itself.) Thanks to Nordic tastes, Icelandic Skyr, even in its flavored incarnations, tends to have less added sugar than its American or Greek counterparts.
Some yogurts are sweetened artificially (with aspartame, acesulfame potassium, or sucralose) or with naturally-derived stevia. I’m not a huge fan of artificial sweeteners, but they may be better than real sugar.
- Choose Plain Yogurt (or choose sweetened or flavored yogurt very carefully).
- Look for 20 or fewer grams of carbohydrates per 5.3-ounce serving (150 grams).
- Avoid artificial sweeteners (and flavors and colors, while you’re at it) if you can.
Beware any yogurt – especially kids’ yogurt – in 2-ounce tubes or 4-ounce tubs, which might seem to offer a reasonable amount of sugar until you recalibrate the serving size.
For example, converted to 5.3 ounces, a typical yogurt tube would have 30 grams of carbs and only 6 grams of protein. Yikes!
What else might you see on a yogurt label?
- Thickeners, which might include pectin, gelatin, agar, guar gum, and corn or tapioca starch. These are not inherently bad or harmful, but may impact blood glucose and indicate that a product lacks natural richness.
- Artificial flavors or colors: avoid these.
- An indication that the milk is non-GMO, organic, or from cows not treated with rBGH (a growth hormone). These are all good and potentially more expensive things, and you can pay attention to them if your budget allows.