If you are looking for the best probiotic yogurts for a happy gut and a satisfied stomach, this article is perfect for you. We go over the seven best yogurts in each category: greek, icelandic, regular, no sugar added, drinkable, plant-based and lactose-free.
Yogurt is not only a great source of gut-friendly probiotics. It’s high in protein (some higher than others depending on the brand), high in calcium and tastes amazing, especially with some fresh fruit and granola or nuts and seeds.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our body, especially our guts. They play an essential role in digestion, prevention of sickness, synthesizing vitamins and nutrients and breaking down and absorbing medications.
Luckily, we are able to increase the amount and diversity of probiotics in our gut through the foods we consume. Eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics (the food that feeds probiotics) can help us do so. Foods like yogurt, kimchi, kefir, miso, kombucha, sourdough, sauerkraut and fermented pickles contain probiotics.
You can also take probiotics in pill form, but I highly suggest speaking with your doctor before doing so. Research still hasn’t definitively shown that probiotic supplements are beneficial for healthy individuals. That being said, probiotics from food sources seem to be beneficial for all.
What to look for in a probiotic yogurt
When searching for a yogurt, consider protein, calcium and added sugar. Ideally, one container of yogurt should contain at least 10 grams of protein, at least 10% of your daily calcium recommendation and less than 10 grams of sugar (added sugar, not total sugar). Just remember 10/10/10 for short!
If added sugar is a big concern, you can always consider purchasing plain yogurt and adding your own fresh fruit and honey for sweetness. You can also purchase yogurts sweetened with artificial sweeteners with no added sugar. Luckily this is being more popular and there are plenty of brands that offer this option.
You should also consider fat percentage. If you are looking for a low calorie option, nonfat or low fat is going to be your best option. That being said, whole milk yogurt tastes much better, plus there is emerging research to suggest full fat dairy may be beneficial.
Health benefits of probiotic yogurt
Consuming yogurt has a variety of health benefits. Firstly, it’s made from cow’s milk which is very nutrient dense. One cup of low fat plain greek yogurt is a good source of protein, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
All of these nutrients are essential for human health. Calcium and potassium in particular are important for building and maintaining healthy bones.
Probiotic yogurts are also fermented foods, meaning they are a good source of beneficial bacteria or probiotics. There are many benefits of probiotics, one of them including improved gut health. Overall, fermented foods like yogurt are good for the digestive system and can help relieve some mild digestive issues.
Downsides of probiotic yogurt
While probiotic yogurt is a great source of nutrients and probiotics there can be a few downsides that need to be considered.
Firstly, if you have lactose intolerance, it may be a good idea to avoid dairy products like yogurt. You can also choose a plant-based or lactose-free yogurt option (like the one I listed below). If you have mild lactose intolerance you may be able to tolerate small amounts of yogurt.
Irritable bowel syndrome is another condition that can cause discomfort associated with dairy products. In fact, lactose is the same carbohydrate that those with irritable bowel syndrome may be intolerant to. If you have IBS, you may need to avoid yogurt, but be sure to speak to your doctor and dietitian beforehand.
Finally, yogurt can have a high added sugar content, so be sure to keep this in mind. It’s best to reduce your added sugar intake to about 7-10% of your daily calories. This would be about 35-50 grams per day if you consume 2000 calories. Yogurt can have a lot of added sugar, so be sure to read the nutrition facts label.
Where to find probiotic yogurt
You should be able to find probiotic yogurt easily at any local grocery stores in the United States. When you enter the grocery store, head to the yogurt aisle (typically with the other dairy products). You should find a wide variety of yogurts from different brands and in a variety of flavors.
The list below includes pretty popular yogurt brands, though the specific variations I’ve listed can be more difficult to find. That being said, you will most likely be able to find at least one of these varieties of yogurt at your local store.
The Best Greek Yogurt: Fage Total Greek Yogurt 2%
This deliciously creamy yogurt contains 7 grams of added sugar (this differs depending on the flavor), 12 grams of protein and 10% of your daily calcium recommendation. Plus, this brand offers a variety of flavors so you never get bored.
The Best Icelandic Yogurt: Siggi’s 2% Lowfat Yogurt
Icelandic yogurt is so unique because it’s especially high in protein and has a thick and creamy texture. This yogurt contains about 6 grams of added sugar, 15 grams of protein and 10% of your daily calcium requirements.
The Best Regular Yogurt: Stonyfield Farm Plain Whole Milk Yogurt
If you dislike the creaminess or thickness of greek or icelandic yogurt, this regular yogurt is a good option. It contains 0 grams of added sugar (so you can add your own fruit and honey on top), 6 grams of protein and 15% of your daily calcium requirement. While I wish it had a bit more protein, you can always add some nut butter, nuts or seeds on top for an extra boost.
The Best Low Sugar Yogurt: Dannon Light & Fit
This was my go to yogurt when I worked an office job because it’s super tasty by itself and the perfect snack. It contains about 2 grams of added sugar, 12 grams of protein and 10% of your daily calcium recommendation. The toasted marshmallow flavor is the best (in my opinion).
The Best Drinkable Yogurt: Activia Probiotic Dailies
If you don’t like the taste or texture of probiotic yogurt, this is your best shot. These taste just like those Danimals yogurt drinks you had when you were a kid. One drink contains 6 grams of added sugar, 3 grams of protein and 10% of your daily calcium recommendation.
These do fall short on protein, but they taste great and are easy to consume, so they made the list. Plus, the probiotic strain added to this yogurt is really well researched, which I love to see as a dietitian.
The Best Plant-Based Yogurt: Siggi’s Plant Based
These are the best plant-based yogurt I was able to find. They are high in protein, creamy just like greek or icelandic yogurt and taste great. One container contains about 7 grams of added sugar, 10 grams of protein and 4% of your daily calcium recommendation.
They do fall short on calcium, but honestly it’s difficult to find a plant-based yogurt that doesn’t. If you avoid dairy, try consuming a plant-based milk alternative or orange juice that is fortified with calcium. You can also get calcium through consuming canned fish with bones, calcium set tofu and calcium fortified breakfast cereals.
The Best Lactose-Free Yogurt: Fage Best Self Plain Yogurt
If you are lactose intolerant, but don’t want to eat a plant-based yogurt, this lactose-free yogurt is perfect for you. One container has about 0 grams of added sugar, 15 grams of protein and 15% of your daily calcium requirement. Add some fruit, honey, granola or nuts and seeds on top to add some more flavor and sweetness!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do probiotic yogurts contain live bacteria?
Yes. The probiotics in yogurt are considered “live” and can be killed with high heats. So if you do end up adding yogurt to a baked dessert or heat it in any way, the probiotics will likely die. If this happens, there is no danger, but you won’t get the benefits of the probiotics.
What probiotic strains are found in yogurt?
The kind of probiotic strain you will find in yogurt largely depends on the brand you purchase. That being said, the FDA states all yogurt must contain two lactic acid-producing bacteria strains, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Another common bacteria strain used in yogurt is L. acidophilus.
Are artificial flavors bad for you?
If you read the ingredient list on a yogurt, so may notice some unrecognizable words. Some of these ingredients may be artificial flavors. While there has been concerns over these food additives, I can assure you that they are completely safe. Food additives are regulated by the FDA to determine safety and efficacy.
Can you make your own yogurt?
Yes, you can make your own traditional yogurt using starter cultures. Start by microwaving your milk until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Let it cool to around 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit and add your yogurt starter. Let sit for 6-12 hours and keep slightly warm by keeping it on a heat pad or in the oven with the oven light on. Then transfer the refrigerator and enjoy once cooled down.
What is the best type of yogurt?
There is no “best” type of yogurt. You should enjoy whatever kind of yogurt you enjoy the most and helps you reach your nutrition goals (if you have any). Greek and Icelandic yogurt tends to be higher in protein and lower in sugar compared to regular yogurt, so if you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, they may be better options.
But, if you hate the taste or texture of Greek or Icelandic yogurt, then it’s find to consume regular yogurt. It still contains protein and you are easily find low sugar options.
What’s difference between harmful bacteria and healthy bacteria?
Honestly, it’s hard to say. There are some strains of bacteria that evidence suggests are beneficial to your health and others that are harmful. One obvious example is C. diff, which is an incredibly harmful and contagious bacteria. The bacteria found in fermented foods have evidence to suggest they are beneficial, on the other hand.
That being said, the research behind “good” and “bad” bacteria is still very new and it’s hard to say definitively what is good and what is bad. All we can do at this point is make the best guesses based on the current body of evidence that is available to us.
What are the best probiotic foods?
There are so many fermented foods that are rich in probiotics and great for your gut health. A few examples include:
- Kimchi: A traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables, such as cabbage, radishes, and carrots, seasoned with spices and chili peppers.
- Sauerkraut: Fermented cabbage dish originating from German cuisine, often used as a condiment or side dish.
- Pickles: Cucumbers or other vegetables that have been preserved in a brine solution, resulting in a tangy and crunchy snack or topping.
- Natto: A traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans, known for its unique sticky and pungent taste.
- Raw cheese: Cheese made from unpasteurized milk, often preferred by cheese enthusiasts for its distinct flavors and potential health benefits.
- Miso: A traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans and grains, commonly used in soups, marinades, and dressings.
- Tempeh: A fermented soybean product originating from Indonesian cuisine, known for its nutty flavor and firm texture, often used as a meat substitute in vegetarian and vegan dishes.