Swiss style, Greek, probiotic…What are the differences between the types of yogurt and which one is best for you? Read on to find answers to commonly asked questions about yogurt.
What is yogurt?
Yogurt is made by fermenting warm milk with beneficial lactic acid bacteria.
What are the health benefits of eating yogurt?
Eating yogurt as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet is associated with a lower risk of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Certain strains of probiotics in yogurt are also associated with improved digestive health and gut function.
What types of yogurt can I find in the grocery store?
The most common types of yogurt are:
- Swiss-style or stirred yogurt: This is the traditional type made by fermenting milk in a large tank, then cooling it down and stirring it for a creamy texture. It can be plain or flavoured. Other ingredients, such as fruit purees, may be stirred into the yogurt for added flavour.
- Sundae style: The flavoured ingredients are on the bottom of the container. If you invert the container and shake the contents into a bowl, you’ll end up with yogurt that has the flavoured ingredients on top, sundae style!
- Balkan-style or set-style yogurt: This yogurt is a bit thicker in consistency than Swiss-style. It is made by fermenting milk in individual containers rather than a large tank.
- Greek-style or Greek yogurt: A thick, creamy tasting plain or flavoured yogurt. It is also known as Mediterranean or Mediterranean-style yogurt. It is thickened by:
- straining milk’s whey (the liquid portion)
- adding milk solids and stabilisers
- or starting with higher fat milk or cream.
What is the hype about Greek yogurt?
The thickening process may increase the protein content of Greek yogurt, making it a great choice for people looking to boost their protein intake. But not all Greek or Greek-style yogurts are the same when it comes to protein content. Depending on how it is thickened, Greek yogurt contains between 7 and 21 grams of protein per ¾ cup (175 g). In comparison, a serving of Swiss-style or Balkan-style yogurt typically has about 7-9 grams of protein per ¾ cup (175 g), which is still considered a good source of protein.
Which yogurt is a better choice?
Yogurt is an excellent source of nutrients including protein, calcium and B vitamins. What you choose to buy is a matter of personal preference.
If you like thick and creamy yogurt or are trying to increase your protein intake, choose a Greek yogurt that contains more protein. Check the label to be sure you are getting what you expect.
If you are trying to increase your calcium intake, choose yogurts that provide at least 15% of the Daily Value of calcium per serving.
Is there sugar in yogurt?
All yogurts naturally contain lactose, a milk sugar. Flavoured yogurts have added sugars in addition to lactose. If you are trying to limit your added sugar intake, choose plain yogurts and add your own fruit or a light drizzle of honey for sweetness. Check the ingredients list, and keep an eye out for added sugar.
Should I worry about fat in dairy products?
Both full-fat yogurt and low-fat yogurt have been linked to a decreased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. If you are trying to limit your fat intake, choose yogurts that are 2% milk fat (M.F.) or less.
Can I eat yogurt if I am lactose intolerant?
People who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down the milk sugar lactose. In this case, getting too much lactose can cause symptoms such as gas, abdominal discomfort or diarrhea. Yogurt is better tolerated than milk, since the lactic acid bacteria it contains will help you digest the lactose.
For more information on lactose intolerance, read:
I’m lactose intolerant and can’t drink milk
Should I be looking for yogurt with live bacterial culture?
These days, all yogurts contain live bacterial culture, as the milk is pasteurized before any culture is added. There is no heating process following the additions of bacterial culture to yogurt, so the bacteria are not killed off. In fact, if you want to culture your own yogurt, you can use any store-bought yogurt as your starter culture.
What bacterial cultures are in yogurt?
In Canada, all yogurt must contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Manufacturers may choose to use additional species to develop unique flavour characteristics or health benefits.
Do all yogurts contain probiotics?
Probiotics are specific strains of live microorganisms shown to provide a health benefit when consumed in adequate amounts. All yogurts contain bacterial cultures, but not all bacterial cultures will have a probiotic effect. Wondering if your yogurt contains probiotics? The label on the yogurt indicates the type and amount of probiotic added.
For more information on probiotics read:
Probiotics: What You Need to Know
The Probiotic Effects of Lactic Acid Bacteria
What about kefir?
Kefir is milk that is fermented with yeast in addition to bacteria, while yogurt is only fermented with bacteria. Similar to yogurt, kefir is a good source of protein and calcium. It has a thinner consistency than yogurt and is often consumed as a beverage. It is a great addition to smoothies!
Read All about kefir: Answers to five top questions
How can I use yogurt?
Yogurt is a versatile food that can be consumed as is for a quick and easy snack, or can be used in smoothies, creamy dressings and dips, frozen treats or even baked goods! Here are some delicious recipes to try:
How can I make yogurt at home?
Check these 2 recipes:
- Mozaffarian D. Dietary and policy priorities for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Circulation. 2016;133:187-225. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018585
- Parvez S, Malik KA, Kang SA, Kim HY. Probiotics and their fermented food products are beneficial for health. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100:1171-1185. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02963.x
- Dairy Goodness. Types of yogurt. https://www.dairygoodness.ca/yogurt/types-of-yogurt. Accessed April 25, 2016.
- Canadian Nutrient Files 2015. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php. Accessed April 25, 2016.
- Eat Right Ontario. How to choose the best yogurt. http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Grocery-Shopping/How-to-choose-the-best-yogurt.aspx#.Vxf9AjEoEaw. Accessed April 25, 2016.
By Amy Tan, dietetic intern and Rola Zahr, MPH, RD
Updated by Carmen Gorlick, RD, November 2019