How Yogurt Can Affect Your Metabolic Health

Yogurt has many potential health benefits and is a great source of protein, but does it support your metabolic health?

woman looking at different yogurts in a grocery store

Yogurt is one of my go-to breakfasts on most days during the week. Just add some fruit and nuts and this protein-rich breakfast will keep me satisfied all morning. It is also a great source of calcium and potassium, B vitamins and probiotics - all important nutrients for your bones, blood pressure and GI system. 

In this article we’ll take a look at why yogurt is good for your metabolic health, some of the different types of yogurt available and how to use it for a healthy breakfast. We’ll wrap up with a Berry Yogurt Bowl recipe that you can start adding to your morning routine. 

What Makes Yogurt a Good Choice for Metabolic Health

Yogurt is made by heating milk, adding a “starter” (a culture that contains bacteria), and allowing it to sit for 6-8 hours to ferment or coagulate.1 Yogurt was originally made as a way to increase the shelf life of milk when there was no refrigeration available.1

Yogurt contains healthy bacteria called probiotics. These bacteria compete with harmful bacteria in our GI tract, improve our digestion, support our immune system, and may have antioxidant properties.2

Probiotics feed on prebiotics: high-fiber foods (indigestible carbohydrates) in our GI tract. Together, prebiotics and probiotics have been shown to help:

  • Reduce constipation
  • Improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels
  • Support our immune system 
  • Increase intestinal absorption of nutrients3

Another benefit of consuming yogurt is a reduced risk of high blood pressure, especially when your diet includes other healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

A large study found that people who followed the DASH diet and had 5 or more servings of yogurt a week had a 30% reduced risk of high blood pressure.3

Another study with people who had hypertension found those who ate yogurt at least twice a week had a lower incidence of coronary heart disease and stroke.4

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn more about </strong> <a href="/blog/prebiotic-foods-list">the best prebiotic foods for gut health</a>.</p>

a woman wearing workout clothes and taking her pulse
A 2011 study found that the probiotics in yogurt lowered ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels.5

Types of Yogurt

Similar to other categories of packaged food, there are many types of yogurt products available in most supermarkets. What are the major differences, and how do you know which yogurt is best for metabolic health? Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types.6

Yogurt

Traditional yogurt is made by heating milk and then cooling it. “Live” cultures are then added, which thicken the milk and give it a creamy texture. You can find plain yogurt, or a variety that contains fruit or jam added along with natural or artificial sweeteners. 

A serving of plain yogurt has about 5g of sugar, which is all natural sugar found in dairy products.

Fruit flavored yogurts often have a lot of added sugars. Some flavored yogurts have as much as 20g of added sugar which might wreak havoc on your blood sugar leading to a spike. 

There are a couple of things you can do to make sure you are buying the best yogurt.

First, check the nutrition facts panel to see how much total sugar is in the product and how much is added. Stick to as little added sugar as possible. Then, consider adding your own fruit to your yogurt. While fruit has natural sugar in it, it also has fiber that is important for stabilizing your blood sugar. If you prefer your yogurt on the sweeter side, add a little monk fruit or stevia to give it a sweet boost.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is made the same way as traditional yogurt but is strained to remove most of the whey (liquid). It is much thicker than traditional yogurt and has a tangy flavor. There are many varieties of Greek yogurt available, from plain yogurt to those with fruit or flavors added. Many types of Greek yogurt have sugar added, but they are typically less sweet than traditional yogurt. 

Skyr Yogurt

Skyr or Icelandic yogurt is quite different from traditional or Greek yogurt. Skyr (‘skeer’) yogurt is made from skim milk and is technically a cheese. It takes 4 cups of milk to make 1 cup of yogurt so skyr is higher in protein than other yogurts. It isn’t as tangy as Greek yogurt. Skyr also contains live, active cultures and is rich in probiotics. 

Plant-Based Yogurts

Just as there is a variety of plant-based milk available today, you can also find plant-based yogurts in most supermarkets. The two most common are made from soy milk and almond milk but you can also find yogurt made from cashew milk, oat milk, and coconut milk. 

While many plant-based yogurts have the same consistency and a similar flavor to dairy-based yogurt, the nutritional breakdown is not always comparable. The protein content of many plant-based yogurts is often lower and fat content tends to be higher than dairy-based yogurt. Most have calcium added but not all so check the label. 

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/best-vegetarian-protein-options">the best plant-based protein sources</a>.</p>

Benefits of Having Yogurt for Breakfast

Yogurt is an easy breakfast or snack choice for many people. It’s a convenient “grab-and-go” type of food that can be eaten at a desk or combined with cereal and fruit for a quick breakfast.

Because yogurt is high in protein it makes a filling breakfast. When you combine yogurt with high-fiber foods like fruit and whole-grain cereal it is a great way to include other high-quality, nutritious foods and start the day on a healthy note.   

Yogurt is pretty versatile. You can add yogurt to a smoothie, or stir in some fruit and nuts. Yogurt can replace sour cream in recipes, making baked goods a little lower in fat and adding some extra protein. 

When shopping for yogurt, examine nutrition labels carefully for protein content, calcium, and added sugars. Remember that dairy-based yogurt will naturally have some sugar from the milk. This is from the milk sugar (lactose) and it is fine. The added sugars are more of a concern, so look for plain, unsweetened yogurt or flavored varieties that use stevia or monk fruit as sweeteners.  

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn about </strong> <a href="/blog/protein-for-weight-loss">why protein helps with weight loss</a>.</p>

Recipe: Berry Yogurt Bowl with Chia and Walnuts

bowl of yogurt topped with walnuts, raspberries, blueberries and chia seeds
Eating a high-protein breakfast with yogurt can promote weight management.

Ingredients:

1, 5.3 oz. container of Greek or Skyr yogurt (plain or vanilla)

1 cup of mixed berries

2 tbsp. chopped walnuts

1 tbsp. chia seeds

Drizzle of sweetener and a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon if desired (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place yogurt in a medium bowl.
  2. Top with berries, walnuts, and chia seeds.
  3. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg and drizzle with a sweetener like stevia or monk fruit if desired. 
  4. Mix and enjoy.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 330, Total Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 1.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1.g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 100mg, Carbohydrates: 32g, Fiber: 13g, Sugars: 15g, Protein: 22g, Vitamin D: 0meq, Calcium: 281mg, Iron: 2mg, Potassium: 425mg

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Find more </strong> <a href="/blog-category/recipes">healthy recipes to promote stable blood sugar</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Aryana, KJ and Olson, DW. (2017). A 100-Year Review: yogurt and other cultured dairy products. Journal of Dairy Science, 100(12): 9987-10013. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2017-12981 
  2. Cuamatzin-García, L., Rodríguez-Rugarcía, P., El-Kassis, E. G., Galicia, G., Meza-Jiménez, M. L., Baños-Lara, M., Zaragoza-Maldonado, D. S., & Pérez-Armendáriz, B. (2022). Traditional Fermented Foods and Beverages from around the World and Their Health Benefits. Microorganisms, 10(6), 1151. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms10061151
  3. Buendia, J. R., Li, Y., Hu, F. B., Cabral, H. J., Bradlee, M. L., Quatromoni, P. A., Singer, M. R., Curhan, G. C., & Moore, L. L. (2018). Long-term yogurt consumption and risk of incident hypertension in adults. Journal of Hypertension, 36(8), 1671–1679. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000001737
  4. Buendia, J. R., Li, Y., Hu, F. B., Cabral, H. J., Bradlee, M. L., Quatromoni, P. A., Singer, M. R., Curhan, G. C., & Moore, L. L. (2018). Regular Yogurt Intake and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Among Hypertensive Adults. American Journal of Hypertension, 31(5), 557–565. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpx220
  5. Jones, M. L., Martoni, C. J., Parent, M., & Prakash, S. (2012). Cholesterol-lowering efficacy of a microencapsulated bile salt hydrolase-active Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 yoghurt formulation in hypercholesterolaemic adults. The British Journal of Nutrition, 107(10), 1505–1513. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114511004703
  6. A Brief Guide to the Different Types of Yogurt (2021). The Dairy Alliance. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from: https://thedairyalliance.com/blog/a-brief-guide-to-the-different-types-of-yogurt/

About the Author

Laura M. Ali Headshot
Laura is an award-winning food and nutrition communications consultant, freelance writer, and recipe developer.
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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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