Written by Gaby Burt-D’Agnillo, BSc Nutrition Candidate
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD
Yogurt may be a simple food, but the science can be complex. Today, let’s talk about how yogurt is made, what benefits it can offer, and how to choose the best yogurt for you and your family.
What is Yogurt and How is it Made?
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product that is made by adding bacterial cultures to milk. Bacterial cultures called Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus ferment lactose (milk sugar) to produce lactic acid. The fermentation of lactose gives rise to the characteristic flavours and textures of yogurt.
Yogurt can be made from any type of milk. Full fat yogurt is made from whole milk and contains at least 3.25% milk fat. Low fat yogurt is made from low fat milk and contains ~2% milk fat. Non-fat yogurt is made from skim milk and contains less than 0.5% milk fat. Plain unsweetened yogurts will offer the most health benefits.
Nutrients in Yogurt
Yogurt is rich in a variety of nutrients. It is an excellent source of calcium, B vitamins, and trace minerals including phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Unlike milk, current Canadian regulation does not permit yogurt to be enriched with vitamin D. However, certain brands of yogurt are made with milk that is enriched with vitamin D and can be identified by referring to the Nutrition Facts table on the packaging.
Just one cup of plain whole-milk yogurt provides 8.5 grams of easily-digestible protein. Protein promotes feeling of fullness to help with appetite management. Greek yogurt is especially high in protein (and lower in sugar). It is made by straining out the whey and lactose in regular yogurt to create a product that is thick, creamy and tangy.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can be found in a variety of foods. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are active probiotic cultures often added to yogurt. They may enhance immune function, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, improve digestive health, and protect against diarrhea and constipation.
Tips for Purchasing Yogurt
Be sure to read the ingredient list and nutrition facts table before purchasing your yogurt. The best yogurts contain few ingredients. Look for:
- Plain unsweetened yogurt
- Fat content of 2%
- At least 15% Daily Value (%DV) of calcium
- No added sugars
- Probiotic cultures
Plain yogurt is very versatile and can be substituted for other fats in cooking or baking. Yogurt can be used in place of cream cheese, oil, butter, sour cream or mayonnaise to decrease fat and increase protein in your favourite foods. Try a dollop of plain yogurt on your burrito, in a veggie dip, or on top of waffles! What else have you substituted yogurt for?
Interested in Skyr yogurt? Read our product review here.
Recipes Using Yogurt: