Yogurt is a nutrient-dense food that is a good source of protein, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and phosphorous. Some yogurts also have vitamin D added. Read more about sweetened yogurt, full fat yogurt, lactose, cultures, and yogurt for infants and toddlers below.
Flavored and sweetened dairy products, such as flavored yogurt, are an important part of encouraging adequate intake of dairy products, which are under-consumed by 90% of Americans. Flavored yogurt is nutrient dense and provide significant nutritional benefits. The moderate levels of added sugars in these products increase palatability, thereby encouraging Americans to eat these nutrient-dense foods, and for consumers looking for flavored yogurts with lower sugar content, there are now many options on store shelves.
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recognize the role that sweetened and flavored dairy foods and beverages can play in increasing consumption of nutrient dense options and improving nutrient intakes, particularly of under-consumed food groups and nutrients. The DGAs state that “[a] small amount of added sugars…can be added to nutrient-dense foods and beverages to help meet food group recommendations….”[i]
Full fat yogurt, made from whole milk, may have 4-5% milkfat, or around 6 grams of fat per 6 ounce serving.
A growing body of evidence indicates that full fat dairy, particularly fermented dairy products like yogurt, may have beneficial health effects. Like yogurt with added sweetener, full fat yogurt contains the same protein, calcium and other nutrients present in lower fat varieties, just with the fat naturally found in milk remaining in the yogurt.
A review of the recent science stated: “No long-term studies support harms, and emerging evidence suggests some potential benefits, of dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods …. ”[ii] Another stated, “The present evidence suggests that whole-fat dairy foods do not cause weight gain…that yogurt consumption and probiotics reduce weight gain, that fermented dairy consumption including cheese is linked to lower CVD risk, and that yogurt, cheese, and even dairy fat may protect against type 2 diabetes. Based on the current science, dairy consumption is part of a healthy diet, without strong evidence to favor reduced-fat products; while intakes of probiotic-containing unsweetened and fermented dairy products such as yogurt and cheese appear especially beneficial.”[iii]
Yogurt is a more easily digestible alternative to milk for many people because, on average, it contains less lactose than milk.[iv] In addition, yogurt’s live and active cultures continue to have activity in the intestinal tract and may allow lactose intolerant individuals to enjoy dairy products with fewer associated symptoms.[v] Avoiding dairy products altogether can make it harder for people to get enough calcium, potassium and vitamin D —nutrients already lacking in the American diet[vi],[vii]—so it’s important to know that yogurt can be a good option for those who with lactose intolerance or maldigestion.
Yogurt was identified as one of the first foods for infants and toddlers, with the 2020-2025 DGAs recommending that infants can begin consuming yogurt at 6 months of age.[viii] Consumption of yogurt by infants younger than 12 months of age is also supported by the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners[ix] and the American Academy of Pediatrics.[x] The Infant Feeding Guide for WIC includes yogurt in a list of protein-rich foods that are appropriate to introduce to children between the ages of 6 and 8 months of age.[xi]
Yogurt remains a recommended food item for toddlers over the age of 12 months, providing essential nutrients and servings toward dairy recommendations.
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, meaning that it has been created through the action of helpful microorganisms or “cultures”—in the case of yogurt, two specific types of bacteria. This process is very similar to that used in cheese-making, in that these cultures transform milk into a product with unique taste, texture and health attributes.
Other beneficial “probiotic” cultures may also be added to yogurt, such as certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidus. For more information, please visit our Live and Active Cultures web page.
[i] U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
[ii] Mozaffarian D. Dietary and Policy Priorities for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity: A Comprehensive Review. Circulation 2016; 133: 187-225.
[iii] Mozaffarian Dariush, Dairy Foods, Obesity, and Metabolic Health: The Role of the Food Matrix Compared with Single Nutrients, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 10, Issue 5, September 2019, Pages 917S–923S, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz053
[iv] Webb D, Donovan SM, Meydani SN. The role of yogurt in improving the quality of the American diet and meeting dietary guidelines. Nutr Rev. 2014; 72(3):180-189
[v] Lomer MC, Parkes GC, Sanderson JD. Review article: lactose intolerance in clinical practice—myths and realities. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008;27:93–103.
[vi] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 8th Edition.
[vii] Savaiano DA, Boushey CJ, McCabe GP. Lactose intolerance symptoms assessed by meta-analysis: a grain of truth that leads to exaggeration. J Nutr. Apr 2006;136(4):1107-1113.
[viii] U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
[ix] National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and International Food Information Council Foundation. Starting Solids: Nutrition Guide for Infants and Children 6 to 18 Months of Age. Found at: http://www.foodinsight.org/Content/6/startingsolids1-05.pdf. Accessed April 10, 2015.
[x] Dietz, WH and Stern L, Ed. Nutrition: What Ever Parent Needs to Know, 2nd edition. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011.
[xi] United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Infant Nutrition and Feeding: A Guide for Use in the WIC and CSF Programs. Revised March 2009.