If you’ve ever wondered, "how healthy is yogurt, really?" then this guide is for you. Here, a breakdown of all the different types of yogurts — plus the scoop on yogurt’s health benefits 
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement
Is Greek Yogurt Really That Good for You?

You might view your morning yogurt bowl mainly as a vehicle for granola and berries — but it does so much more for your body than that. And while the specific list of yogurt's benefits can vary slightly depending on type (e.g. Greek tends to have more protein than, say, almond milk varieties), the creamy stuff overall is known for being a nutritional powerhouse.

Read on to learn more about the sometimes surprising yogurt health benefits that will answer the question, "is yogurt healthy?" once and for all — and in doing so, make you want to eat this probiotic-packed treat every morning, afternoon, and night.

Types of Yogurt

FYI, there are, like, a ton of different types of yogurt. While they all have slightly different nutritional benefits, there's one important guideline to follow when it comes to buying yogurt that's healthy: Look for products with zero or very few grams of added sugar, since consuming too much added sugar can contribute to health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The key word here? "Added." Milk has naturally occurring sugar called lactose, so you won't find any yogurts with zero grams of sugar altogether.

Traditional. When you heard the word "yogurt," odds are you think of this bad boy, which is just fermented cow's milk, according to Washington State University Extension. ICYDK, yogurt forms when bacteria ferment lactose into lactic acid, creating the somewhat sour taste of plain yogurt. Depending on the type of milk used, this option is often available as low- or reduced-fat (from 2-percent milk), non-fat (from skim milk), or whole-fat (from whole milk).

Greek. When regular yogurt is strained to remove whey protein (the liquid that remains after the curdling process), you're left with Greek yogurt — a thicker, creamier, more protein-packed variety. And, thanks to the straining, it's also free of lactose (sugar), according to Harvard T.H. CHan School of Public Health. For example, Two Good Low-Fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt (Buy It, $2, target.com) has an impressive 12 grams of protein per serving. (See more: The Expert-Backed Guide to Full-Fat vs. Nonfat Greek Yogurt)

Skyr. Also the result of a straining process, this Icelandic yogurt is arguably the thickest in consistency of all the options on supermarket shelves — which makes sense, given it's technically a soft cheese. (Yes, really!) It also ranks No. 1 in terms of protein, with picks such as siggi's Strained Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt (Buy It, $2, target.com) boasting `16 grams of protein per 150-gram container.

Australian. Although it's unstrained, Australian yogurt still boasts a fairly thick consistency — one that's richer than traditional yogurt but not quite as creamy as that of Greek or Skyr. To achieve this texture, some brands such as Noosa (Buy It, $3, target.com) use whole milk while others such as Wallaby (Buy It, $8, freshdirect.com) adopt a slower cooking process. At the end of the day, however, both options offer plenty of protein.

Kefir. Bacteria and yeast team up to ferment milk and, in turn, create kefir, which is a liquid-y, drinkable type of yogurt that — due to the two microorganisms — is considered a more diverse source of probiotics than other yogurts. Take, for example, Lifeway Lowfat Milk Plain Kefir (Buy It, $8, walmart.com): A bottle boasts 12 (!!) live and active probiotic cultures. (For comparison, a container of Chobani Plain Greek Yogurt (Buy It, $5, walmart.com) only has five.)

Dairy-free or vegan. As the plant-based eating style continues to spread, there seem to be a growing number of dairy-free options in the yogurt section. And while the nutrient profile varies depending on the specific brand and kind you buy — coconut milk, almond milk, soy, oat milk, cashew, the list goes on — you'll be sure to get a rich blend of beneficial nutrients and gut-friendly probiotics with every spoonful. (See also: The Best Vegan Yogurt You Can Buy at the Grocery Store)

Yogurt Benefits

Promotes a Healthy Gut

The words "live and active cultures" on the container mean that your yogurt has probiotics, beneficial bugs that live in your digestive tract and help crowd out harmful microorganisms that can cause intestinal infections. (Only a very small number of companies put yogurt through a post-pasteurization process that kills off all bacteria.) But many varieties now also contain special strains of probiotics meant to help regulate your digestion or strengthen your immune system. The research on them isn't conclusive, however. "If you suffer from a particular health problem, like bloating or diarrhea, it's worth trying one of these products for a couple of weeks to see if it helps," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., the author of The Flexitarian Diet. Otherwise, save a few dollars and stick to conventional brands. (Related: 5 Legit Benefits of Probiotics-and How You Should Take Them)

Supports Weight Loss

Eat 18 ounces of yogurt a day and you can be even more on track to reach your goals — that is, at least, according to research. People who ate that much — in conjunction with cutting their total calories — lost 22 percent more weight and 81 percent more belly fat than dieters who skipped the snack, according to a study from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. They also retained one-third more lean muscle mass, which can help you maintain weight loss. "Fat around your waist produces the hormone cortisol, which tells your body to accumulate even more belly fat," says nutrition professor and lead study author Michael Zemel, Ph.D. This yogurt benefit is likely due largely in part to the calcium that signals your fat cells to pump out less cortisol, making it easier for you to reach your goals.

Offers Essential Vitamins and Nutrients

One serving is a significant source of potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, iodine, zinc, and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). Yogurt also contains B12, which maintains red blood cells and helps keep your nervous system functioning properly. "Vitamin B12 is found mostly in animal products, such as chicken and fish, so strict vegetarians can easily fall short," says Jackie Newgent, R.D., the author of Big Green Cookbook. Eating more yogurt can help close the nutrient gap: An 8-ounce serving contains 1.4 micrograms of the vitamin, about 60 percent of what adult women need daily (2.4 micrograms, according to the National Institutes of Health.)

Promotes Recovery

With the right ratio of protein to carbohydrates, yogurt, particularly high-protein Greek yogurt, makes an excellent post-sweat-session snack. "The perfect time to grab a container is within 60 minutes of exercise," says Keri Gans, R.D., a nutritionist in New York City. The protein provides the amino acids your muscles need to repair themselves, explains Gans, and the carbohydrates replace your muscles' energy stores, which are depleted after a hard workout. For an even bigger boost to join this benefit of yogurt, enjoy it alongside a bottle of water: The protein in yogurt may also help increase the amount of water absorbed by the intestines, improving hydration. (Related: The Best Foods to Eat Before and After Your Workout)

Strengthens Bones

Since it naturally contains bone-boosting calcium, you'd think the yogurt health benefits and vitamin D amount would be the same no matter which yogurt you pick. Eh, not so much. "The levels can vary widely from brand to brand, so you really need to check the label," says Newgent. How much is in a container depends on processing. For instance, fruit yogurt tends to have less calcium than plain because the sugar and fruit take up precious space in the container. "Vitamin D isn't naturally in yogurt, but because it helps boost calcium absorption, most companies add it," explains Newgent. Reach for a brand such as Stonyfield Farms Fat-Free Smooth and Creamy (Buy It, $4, freshdirect.com), which contains at least 20 percent of your daily value for both nutrients. (Related: Vitamin D May Improve Your Athletic Performance)

Prevents High Blood Pressure

The vast majority of adults consume more than 3,400 miligrams of sodium a day — far more than the recommended 2,300 miligrams as set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The potassium in yogurt, however, is clutch, as the nutrient may help flush some of the excess sodium out of your body. In fact, adults in a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition who ate the most low-fat dairy (two or more servings daily) were 54 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who ate the least.

Boosts Immune System

How about this for a surprising yogurt health benefit: Dig into 4 ounces each day and you may find yourself sniffle-free in the months ahead, according to a study at the University of Vienna. Women eating this amount had much stronger and more active T cells, which battle illness and infection, than they did before they started consuming it. "The healthy bacteria in yogurt help send signals to the immune-boosting cells in your body to power up and fight off harmful bugs," says lead study author Alexa Meyer, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at the university. Allergy sufferers, who typically have low levels of certain T cells, may also find relief by adding yogurt to their diets. In a study in the Journal of Nutrition, people who ate 7 ounces a day had fewer symptoms than those who opted for none at all.

Helps Maintain a Healthy Smile

Despite its sugar content, yogurt doesn't cause cavities. When scientists at Marmara University in Turkey tested low-fat, light, and fruit flavors, they found that none of them eroded tooth enamel, the main cause of decay. The lactic acid is another benefit of yogurt — it appears to give your gums protection as well. People who eat at least 2 ounces a day have a 60 percent lower risk of acquiring severe periodontal disease than those who skip it, according to the research. (Related: Are Cavities Contagious Through Kissing?)

Promotes Satiety

You probably already knew about this yogurt health benefit: Yogurt can be an excellent source of protein. But apparently, "one variety may contain more than double the protein of another," says Blatner. Greek yogurt, which is strained to make it thicker, has up to 20 grams of protein per container; traditional yogurt may have as few as 5 grams. If you're eating it for the protein, look for brands that provide at least 8 to 10 grams per serving.

And all of that protein is a big benefit of yogurt in the way that it helps fuel your muscles — and in its impact on reducing hunger pangs, finds a study published in the journal Appetite. Study participants snacked on Greek yogurt with varying amounts of protein three hours after lunch for three days straight. The group that ate yogurt with the highest amount of protein (24 grams per serving) reported feeling fuller and didn't feel hungry enough for dinner until almost an hour later than the group who ate lower-protein yogurt.