Healthiest yogurt to choose: How much protein is in Greek, Icelandic, regular yogurt?

One of my favorite grocery store grabs is an individual yogurt cup. I grab three every week, so there’s a challenge: How weird can I get with the flavors? Will I opt for a tried-and-true strawberry banana? Key lime pie? An almond coconut? And what’s that – s’mores yogurt?

But beyond flavor, there’s something out there for everyone. There’s Greek or Icelandic yogurt; you could switch it up with a goat’s or sheep’s milk yogurt. Even non-dairy manufacturers are well into the yogurt world with coconut milk and almond milk options.

So how do they all measure up when it comes to your health?

What is the healthiest yogurt?

While any type of yogurt can fit in a healthy diet, Greek yogurt and skyr (Icelandic yogurt) are the healthiest choices because they tend to be lower in sugar and higher in protein, says registered dietitian Jamie Nadeau.

These two options will always be higher in protein because of the way they're made, however exact amounts depend on the brand.

Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that’s been strained to remove the whey or liquid. The result is a thicker yogurt with a more concentrated, tangy flavor. Because Greek yogurt is more dense, it has more protein than regular, unstrained yogurt.

Skyr is also strained and requires much more milk to make than regular yogurt, which makes this thick yogurt a high-protein choice.

For example, 100 grams of plain yogurt contains about 3.5 grams of protein. The same serving of Greek yogurt has 9 grams of protein and skyr has 10 grams.

But if you’re not into the thick, tangy taste of Greek and Icelandic yogurt – don’t stress. Because all yogurt is healthy, you should choose a type that tastes good and makes you want to keep eating it.

“It’s kind of an experimenting game,” Nadeau says. “You might choose a lower-sugar yogurt and absolutely hate it but you might like one that has just a little bit of added sugar.”

Whichever type you choose, make sure to add some fat and fiber on the side to make it a balanced meal, Nadeau says. She suggests fruit (even frozen), cereal, granola, peanut butter or almond butter.

Is yogurt healthy?

Yes – yogurt makes a healthy snack or addition to any meal. It contains calcium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, iodine, riboflavin and vitamins B5 and B12, experts previously told USA TODAY. A 2020 study also found regular yogurt consumers had a higher quality diet, a lower risk of obesity and higher intakes of fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin D.

Yogurt also contains probiotics, which support gut health. Probiotics are living microorganisms that exist both naturally in the gut and are found in food products, dietary supplements and beauty products. They work against bad bacteria and maintain the amount of good bacteria in the gut, experts previously told USA TODAY.

Yogurt is also versatile – the health benefits don’t have to be limited to breakfast time.

“You can use it for savory dishes, you can use it for sweet dishes and dessert-type dishes, you can cook with it,” Nadeau says.

Two of her favorite ways to use yogurt are as salad dressings and dips. You can make your own savory seasoning blend or try out a pre-packaged type, like ranch or Italian seasoning. Add seasoning to your yogurt and stir it up to make a dip. Whisk in a little milk to thin it out into a salad dressing.

The only drawback with yogurt is the potential sugar content. It’s about as easy to find a candy-flavored yogurt option as it is a plain one.

“I always look at the label to check for added sugar content because it can definitely get pretty high,” Nadeau says. “Some of the Greek yogurts even have upwards of 18 grams of added sugar.”

You may be better off adding your choice of flavor to plain yogurt or choosing one that contains real fruit.

Do all yogurts have probiotics?

Most yogurt on the grocery shelves contains probiotics, but not all do.

Yogurt is made by combining heated milk and bacteria, which begins the fermentation process and converts the sugar in milk to lactic acid and allows the milk to thicken and become tart.

Probiotics are specific strains of this bacteria. Some yogurts are heat-treated, which kills the cultures. Others have live active cultures stirred directly in, rather than fermenting. The International Dairy Foods Association offers a “Live & Active Cultures” label to yogurts that contain “significant amounts of live and active cultures.”

While some yogurts boost extra added probiotics, Nadeau says it’s more important to eat the kind of yogurt you like rather than stress over the kind containing the highest amount.

“I don’t think it’s worth micromanaging,” Nadeau says. “But most yogurts do list the probiotics in the ingredients on the back, so if we look at the ingredients list you can see ‘this one has one type of bacteria and this one has five types of bacteria’ so maybe I’ll choose this one because I have a more diverse list.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is the healthiest yogurt? Protein and sugar in Greek, skyr, more.