How to Choose a Healthy Yogurt

The Health Benefits of Yogurt

Photo by flickr user ‘quimpg’ used under a creative commons license.

High in protein, rich in calcium and delicious, there’s no wonder as to why yogurt is becoming an increasingly popular part of the American diet. But the benefits of yogurt don’t stop here! According to an article published by Fitness Magazine yogurt can also:

  • Aid in weight loss and fat loss
  • Provide the body with good-for-you bacteria
  • Provide the body with vitamins such as potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, iodine, zinc, vitamin B5, and vitamin B12
  • Help the body recover from workouts faster
  • Prevent high blood pressure
  • Improve immune system function
  • Improve dental health

As the popularity of yogurt increases, so does the number of varieties of yogurt in the dairy case. Are all varieties of yogurt created equal? How can you be sure you are choosing the healthiest yogurt? Of course, the healthiest yogurt would be homemade. But what if you want to buy a store-bought variety? Here are some tips!

1. Choose yogurt that is organic. Keep in mind, the yogurt may not always be labeled organic. Some of the smaller dairies do follow all organic principles but just might not be able to afford to purchase the USDA “organic” label. You can usually find this information by calling the dairy directly or by visiting the dairy’s website.

2. Choose yogurt that is grassfed. Grassfed dairy contains more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). CLA causes an increase in lean skeletal muscle tissue, and decrease in stored body fat. Studies show that individuals that include CLA in their diets may:

        • reduce their risks of developing certain cancers, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and heart disease
        • experience an increase in metabolism
        • lower their cholesterol and triglycerides
        • lower their insulin resistance (a Penn State study found that CLA mimicked synthetic diabetes medication)
        • experience a reduction in belly fat, especially in the overweight and obese
        • experience an increase in lean muscle

3. Choose yogurt that is made from milk from an A2 Beta Casein cow (Guernsey is best, but there are other breeds such as Brown Swiss and Jersey etc.). This information is sometimes more difficult to find, in most cases you would have to either contact the dairy directly, but sometimes the dairy does include this information on their website. If you want to play it safe, goat milk yogurt or sheep milk yogurt will always contain A2 Beta Casein.

4. Avoid “fat-free” or “low fat” yogurt. Here are a few reasons that I avoid fat-free and low-fat dairy:

A study at Harvard found that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy per day, like skim milk or yogurt, had 85% higher risk of infertility than those that ate full-fat dairy products.” – Chris Kresser

“Low fat milk causes weight gain. This is how farmers fatten pigs. If they give them whole milk, the pigs stay lean.Low fat milk is missing all the vitamins that you get in the fat. The industry has figured out that they make a lot more money on butter and butterfat if they put it in ice cream. So they take the cream out of the milk, put it into ice cream. They would much rather you spend the money on ice cream, than on butter or buttercream; they make a lot more money.” -Sally Fallon, Weston A. Price Foundation

“A note on the production of skim milk powder: liquid milk is forced through a tiny hole at high pressure, and then blown out into the air. This causes a lot of nitrates to form and the cholesterol in the milk is oxidized. Those of you who are familiar with my work know that cholesterol is your best friend; you don’t have to worry about natural cholesterol in your food; however, you do not want to eat oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, to atherosclerosis. So when you drink reduced-fat milk thinking that it will help you avoid heart disease, you are actually consuming oxidized cholesterol, which initiates the process of heart disease.” -Weston A. Price Foundation, Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry

“Let us get rid of one fallacy which is that skim milk is actually milk that has had the cream skimmed off the top. That actually sounds logical but it is not how is done, at least not in this modern world. That process would not remove all the cream so what is done in modern processing is the milk is spun around with centrifuges, eventually completely separating the cream (fat) and milk. It is first clarified, then separated, then pasteurized (or ultra-pasteurized), and then finally homogenized. This over-processing has now removed every healthy vitamin, living enzyme, and natural mineral. Welcome to your now-dead beverage……Skim milk will not support life. So by removing the cream you have essentially turned the milk into something completely useless, especially the pasteurized variety as you have not only removed the healthy fat but you have also as stated removed the living nutrients.”
-Raw Milk Truth

“Researchers from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute conducted a study that monitored the dietary habits of more than 20,000 Swedish women for a decade. It turned out that women who consumed full fat milk or cheese had a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than the rest of the group. The results were convincing enough for the researchers to recommend that a glass of full fat milk every day will cut weight gain by 15%, and a portion of full fat cheese each day will cut weight gain by 30%. Alicia Wolk, professor at the Karolinska Institute stated, ‘The surprising conclusion was that increased consumption of (full fat) cheese meant that overweight women lost weight.’

Yet skim and 1% milk is pervasive in school lunch programs, and throughout the American diet. If you summarize the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid you see an emphasis on grains plus skim milk, the very combination that fattens hogs so efficiently! In fact, the USDA recommends we start the low-fat habit early: children as young as pre-school are recommended to consume non-fat or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. With a food pyramid like this it’s little wonder we face an obesity epidemic from childhood onward.” -Ann M Childers, MD. Life Balance Northwest

“Guess what they feed a pig if they want to make it as fat as possible as fast as possible? Low-fat milk, because if they give the pig milk with fat in it, the pig gets satiated. It’s satisfied and won’t eat any more. But if they give it low-fat milk, it will eat the grain they feed it forever because it’ll have a deficiency of fat.

Now think of what we’re eating for breakfast in this country…If you don’t want to get fat you’re told to drink low-fat milk, and corn or wheat or oat-based cereal. It’s the prescription to make you as fat as possible as quickly as you can get there. You’ll never stop wanting to eat because you’re never getting any food that causes satiation. Americans are told to eat a diet that is scientifically designed to make you as fat as possible as fast as possible.” -Dr. Al Sears, MD. Power for Healthy Living

Secondly, the body needs fat soluble vitamins in order to digest protein. Vitamin A is one of the vitamins it needs; this is most common in animal fat. If the body isn’t getting fat soluble vitamins from the food it is trying to digest, it’s going to start pulling vitamins from the liver. The liver of those recovering from eating disorders and obesity is already under a lot of stress so fat free/low fat sources of protein are not the way to go, if attaining maximum health is the goal. Additionally, those with eating disorders such as anorexia are usually quite deficient in vitamin A; there is also a high prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in the obese population.

5. As with all food choices, when choosing a yogurt you should try to find the least processed variety. If available in your area, yogurt made from raw milk is ideal. In many areas, raw milk yogurt is not available, so try to find a variety that is lightly pasteurized.

6. Be sure to check the ingredients label for unwanted ingredients such as agave syrup, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Be sure to check for hidden sources of MSG such as skim milk powder, natural flavors, gelatin, pectin (Truth in Labeling provides a list of all hidden sources of MSG). Typically, unflavored yogurt is your safest bet. You can always add your own organic fruit, or maybe a bit of coconut nectar if you find it is too tart.

Currently, one of my favorite brands of yogurt is Erivan. It has no added thickeners, stabilizers, or milk solids. The cows on Erivan Dairy are primarily grassfed; any supplemental feed is fertilized organically. Calves are fed their mother’s milk. According to the Erivan website, the yogurt is made from “a choice blend of the freshest raw cow’s milk, pasteurized only once – just before culturing”. Erivan also notes that since the yogurt “is incubated in its own container, valuable whey, containing minerals, vitamins and protein is not lost.”

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. //’


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