Yogurt is one of the most popular fermented dairy products in the world, made by adding live bacteria to milk.
It has been eaten for thousands of years and is frequently used as part of a meal or snack, as well as a component of sauces and desserts.
In addition, yogurt contains beneficial bacteria and may function as a probiotic, providing a variety of health benefits above and beyond plain milk.
Most yogurt is white and thick, but many commercial brands are artificially colored.
This article tells you everything you need to know about yogurt.
The nutrients in 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of plain, whole-milk yogurt are detailed below.
Nutrition Facts: Yogurt, plain, whole milk — 100 grams
Yogurt is a rich source of protein.
One cup (245 grams) of plain yogurt made from whole milk packs about 8.5 grams of protein.
The protein content of commercial yogurt is sometimes higher than in milk because dry milk may be added to yogurt during processing.
Protein in yogurt is either whey or casein, depending on its solubility in water.
Water-soluble milk proteins are called whey proteins, whereas insoluble milk proteins are called caseins.
Both casein and whey are nutritionally excellent, rich in essential amino acids, and easy to digest.
Most of the proteins in yogurt (80%) are caseins. Alpha-casein is the most abundant.
Casein increases your absorption of minerals like calcium and phosphorus and promotes lower blood pressure.
Whey accounts for 20% of the protein in yogurt.
It is very high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), such as valine, leucine, and isoleucine.
Whey protein has long been popular amongst bodybuilders and athletes.
In addition, consumption of whey protein supplements may provide various health benefits, promoting weight loss and lower blood pressure.
The amount of fat in yogurt depends on the type of milk it’s made from.
Yogurt can be produced from all kinds of milk — whole, low-fat, or fat-free. Most yogurt sold in the United States is either low-fat or fat-free.
The fat content can range from 0.4% in nonfat yogurt to 3.3% or more in full-fat yogurt.
Most of the fat in yogurt is saturated (70%), but it also contains a fair amount of monounsaturated fat.
Milk fat is unique because it provides as many as 400 different types of fatty acids.
Ruminant Trans Fats in Yogurt
Yogurt hosts trans fats called ruminant trans fats or dairy trans fats.
Unlike trans fats found in some processed food products, ruminant trans fats are considered beneficial.
The most abundant ruminant trans fats in yogurt are vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid(CLA). Yogurt may have even more CLA than milk.
Researchers believe that CLA has various health benefits — but taking large doses of CLA supplements may have harmful metabolic consequences.
Carbs in plain yogurt occur mainly as simple sugars called lactose (milk sugar) and galactose.
However, the lactose content of yogurt is lower than in milk. This is because bacterial fermentation results in lactose breakdown.
When lactose is broken down, it forms galactose and glucose. The glucose is mostly converted to lactic acid, the substance that contributes the sour flavor to yogurt and other fermented milk products.
Most yogurts also contain considerable amounts of added sweeteners — usually sucrose (white sugar) — alongside various flavorings.
As a result, the amount of sugar in yogurt is highly variable and may range from 4.7% to 18.6% or higher.
SUMMARY: Yogurt is a great source of high-quality protein, offers various amounts of fat, and contains small amounts of lactose. Many brands are also high in added sugar and flavorings.
Vitamins and Minerals
Full-fat yogurt contains almost every single nutrient you need.
However, nutritional value varies substantially among different types of yogurt.
For example, the nutritional value may depend on the types of bacteria used in the fermentation process.
The following vitamins and minerals are found in particularly high amounts in conventional yogurt made from whole milk:
- Vitamin B12. This nutrient is found almost exclusively in animal foods.
- Calcium. Milk products are excellent sources of easily absorbable calcium.
- Phosphorus. Yogurt is a good source of phosphorus, an essential mineral that plays an important role in biological processes.
- Riboflavin. Milk products are the main source of riboflavin (vitamin B2) in the modern diet.
SUMMARY: Yogurt is an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin.
Probiotics are live bacteria that have beneficial health effects.
These friendly bacteria are found in fermented milk products, such as yogurt with live and active cultures.
The main probiotics in fermented milk products are lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.
Probiotics have many beneficial health effects, depending on the species and the amount taken.
- Enhanced immune system. Studies indicate that probiotic bacteria may promote enhanced immunity.
- Lower cholesterol. Regular intake of certain types of probiotics and fermented milk products may lower blood cholesterol.
- Vitamin synthesis. Bifidobacteria can synthesize or make available many kinds of vitamins, including thiamine, niacin, folate, and vitamins B6, B12, and K.
- Digestive health. Fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium may promote digestive well-being and relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Protection against diarrhea. Probiotics may help treat diarrhea caused by antibiotics.
- Protection against constipation. Several studies suggest that regular consumption of yogurt fermented with bifidobacterium may reduce constipation.
- Improved lactose digestibility. Probiotic bacteria have been shown to improve the digestion of lactose, lessening the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
These health benefits do not always apply to yogurt because some types of yogurt have been pasteurized after the probiotic bacteria were added — thus neutralizing the bacteria.
For this reason, it is best to choose yogurt with active and live cultures.
SUMMARY: Yogurts with live and active cultures contain probiotic bacteria that may improve digestive health.
Health Benefits of Yogurt
The health effects of milk and fermented dairy products like yogurt have been widely studied.
Probiotic yogurt can provide numerous impressive health benefits that go well beyond that of non-fermented milk.
Probiotic yogurt is associated with a variety of digestive health benefits.
Regular consumption of yogurt with live and active cultures may help treat antibiotic-associated diarrhea by restoring balance in your intestinal flora.
In addition, probiotic yogurt with bifidobacteria may lessen the symptoms of IBS and help reduce constipation.
Probiotics may also alleviate the symptoms of lactose intolerance by improving your digestion of lactose.
Osteoporosis and Bone Health
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones.
It is common among older adults and is the main risk factor for bone fractures in this age group.
Dairy products have long been considered protective against osteoporosis.
In fact, dairy is associated with higher bone density, an effect linked to its high calcium and protein content.
Abnormally high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors for heart disease.
Studies suggest that regular consumption of yogurt may lower blood pressure in people who already have high readings.
However, this effect is not limited to yogurt. Studies on the intake of other milk products have provided similar results.
SUMMARY: Consumption of probiotic yogurt may improve gut health, reduce your risk of osteoporosis, and combat high blood pressure.
Yogurt may cause adverse effects in certain people — especially in anyone who’s lactose intolerant or allergic to milk proteins.
Yogurt contains less milk sugar (lactose) than milk.
That’s because some of the lactose in milk breaks down into glucose and galactose during yogurt production.
Therefore, it is better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
However, probiotic bacteria may also help by improving your ability to digest lactose.
Notably, lactose-intolerant individuals tolerate yogurt with added lactose better than milk with the same amount of lactose.
Milk allergy is rare and more common among children than adults. It is triggered by the milk proteins — whey and casein — found in all milk products.
Therefore, yogurt should be avoided by people who have a milk allergy.
Keep in mind that many low-fat yogurts have copious amounts of added sugar.
High sugar intake linked to numerous health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For this reason, it’s best to read the label and avoid yogurt that has sugar — usually in the form of sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup — in its ingredients.
SUMMARY: Yogurt may pose health risks for anyone with lactose intolerance or a milk allergy. What’s more, commercial varieties often include significant amounts of added sugar, which can be harmful when consumed in excess.
The Bottom Line
Yogurt is a dairy product made by fermenting milk.
Natural probiotic yogurt with live and active cultures is one of the healthiest dairy products, especially when it’s free of added sugar.
It has various digestive benefits and may reduce blood pressure and your risk of osteoporosis.