What Is the Best Yogurt for People With Diabetes?

Nutritional Benefits You May Not Be Aware Of

Glass of Greek yogurt with berries
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Yogurt, typically made from cow's milk is a source of carbohydrate which is also full of good bacteria, calcium, and protein. If you have diabetes, yogurt can be a smart food choice; however, the trick is to know which kind of yogurt to choose and which to skip out on. 

Benefits of Yogurt

In the best kinds of yogurt, you get a good balance of protein and carbohydrate, along with calcium and healthy probiotics. You also don't get a lot of added sugar, additives, food coloring, or saturated fat.

Choosing a low-fat or non-fat yogurt version can help you to reduce your total calorie intake as well as keep your saturated fat (the type of fat that increase bad LDL cholesterol) low. In addition, since yogurt is a source of carbohydrate, you'll want to choose a yogurt that is low in added sugars such as fruited yogurts or those yogurts with added granola, or other toppings that are rich in sugar.

A 2017 study published in Evidence-Based Care Journal reported that people with type 2 diabetes who consumed three 100-gram portions of yogurt per day had lower blood glucose, cholesterol, and diastolic blood pressure than a matched set of individuals who didn't consume yogurt.

As a rule, it is always best to choose plain, low-fat yogurt. If you need to add sweetness, top your yogurt with some berries or peaches. Frozen varieties can make your yogurt seem "syrup-y", too, for more fiber and less added sugar. 

If you are looking to be "greener" and have some added healthy fats to your diet, you can choose a yogurt that is made from grass fed cows.

Greek vs. Regular Yogurt

Greek yogurt is regular yogurt that's been strained, removing some of the whey and leaving behind a thicker, more protein-rich yogurt. Greek yogurt is readily available in regular grocery stores; find it in the refrigerated dairy section.

Regular yogurt provides 5 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving, while Greek yogurt provides up to 20 grams, depending on the brand. Because it has more protein, Greek yogurt has about 1/3 the carbohydrate of regular yogurt. 

Because lactose is a key source of carbohydrate in dairy products, this means that Greek yogurt is often easier to digest than regular yogurt, making it a good alternative for those people who have lactose intolerance

On the other hand, some varieties of Greek yogurt (mostly flavored ones) have less calcium than traditional yogurt, so keep that in mind if you're eating yogurt for calcium. 

For people with diabetes, plain, low-fat, or non-fat Greek yogurt is an exceptional meal and snack option due to the low carbohydrate and high protein content. Avoid those Greek yogurt varieties that have added syrups, fruit preserves, sweeteners, or added toppers on the side.

In addition to its benefits in people with diabetes, yogurt (whether Greek or regular) can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent if consumed daily, according to a 2017 review of studies published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Ways to Enjoy Yogurt

Yogurt for breakfast is a no-brainer. For an extra special treat, top 6 to 8 ounces of plain low-fat Greek yogurt with one serving of fresh or frozen seasonal fruit (like berries, sliced peaches, chunked apples, etc.) and 1 tablespoon of chopped nuts for texture, protein, and healthy fats. If you like, add a sugar-free sweetener, cinnamon or vanilla powder for added flavor. 

Beyond breakfast, there are other great ways to enjoy yogurt:

  • Yogurt in dips: Plain low or non-fat Greek yogurt can also be used almost exclusively in place of sour cream in dips and other recipes. You can also sub out some of the mayo in coleslaw recipes for a lighter, tangier version.
  • Yogurt in baking: Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream when making baked goods, such as cookies, scones, or cake.
  • Yogurt in smoothies: Add some low-fat Greek yogurt to your smoothies for added thickness, texture, and protein. 
  • Yogurt as a topper: Swap out honey and maple syrup and top your whole grain pancakes or waffles with a dollop of Greek yogurt. 
  • Yogurt as dessert: Instead of eating ice cream for dessert, try a frozen container of Greek yogurt. Top it with some fresh or frozen berries and you have a sweet after dinner treat. 

Alternatives to Greek Yogurt

The thick texture and consistency of Greek yogurt may not be for everyone. If you'd like an alternative you can always opt for a low-fat plain variety. When possible, keep it organic.  Moreover, if you are lactose intolerant, you can choose a coconut-based yogurt or one made from almond or cashew milk. 

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