Yogurt can be one of the best foods for people with diabetes to eat. Or one of the worst.
It is the probiotic food that we eat the most. These foods have friendly bacteria that help us to drive out the bad ones. This can be good for our health, the U.S. Government’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says.
But to get this benefit from yogurt or other probiotic foods, we have to avoid any of them that say on the label that they were heat treated after culturing. That kills the active cultures.
Even worse is when we eat the usual yogurt preparations that are loaded with added sugars. This includes not only frozen yogurts but also what most of us think of as regular yogurt. For example, a little 6-ounce container of “Yoplait Original Blackberry Harvest” sounds great. But its 13 ingredients include so much sugar that it packs 33 grams of carbohydrate, according to the Nutrition Facts label on the company’s website.
When we want to eat a healthy yogurt, we have to start by limiting our selection to plain ones. Then, if we like, we can add a little fresh fruit and perhaps some non-caloric sweetener. I often add a few organic blueberries and a small sprinkling of stevia.
Somebody asked me a few months ago if I could find any organic, Greek style, full fat, plain yogurt. I can’t.
But we can come close. I recommend full fat yogurt, particularly for those of us who follow a low-carb diet, because non-fat or 2 percent yogurts always have added bulking agents that increase the carbs. They don’t taste as good either.
I also recommend organic yogurt, but perhaps out of an excess of caution. I do eat organic fruit and vegetables whenever I have a choice, because I want to avoid consuming all the insecticides and herbicides conventional farmers spray on their crops. But I can’t find any organic yogurt that is both full fat and plain.
Getting Greek style yogurt isn’t a problem. We can make yogurt from a starter culture or turn any yogurt into the thicker and healthier Greek style yogurt with a nifty little strainer. The traditional method is to strain the yogurt through cheesecloth. But that’s too time-consuming for me and too messy. A much better way is to use a Cuisipro Donvier Yogurt Cheese Maker. I just dump a container of yogurt into it and wait a few hours for the whey to drain out.
When we strain out the whey, yogurt has less lactose, which is the sugar in milk and milk products. Whey is almost all sugar and water, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Actually, even without straining, yogurt has a lot fewer grams of carbohydrate in it than the Nutrition Facts labels say. Yogurt is a fermented food, and fermentation converts the lactose into lactic acid, which doesn’t raise our blood sugar levels and isn’t a carbohydrate. The book, Four Corners Diet: The Healthy Low-Carb Way of Eating for a Lifetime, explains why.
“For a standard 8-ounce container of plain yogurt, which usually says it has about 12 grams of carbohydrates, you need to count only 4,” write Drs. Jack Goldberg and Karen O’Mara with my friend and colleague Gretchen Becker. “This is not just speculation. Dr. Goldberg has actually measured the carbohydrate content of yogurt in his own laboratory.”
Some people will still need to limit their selection of yogurt even further. This includes those of us who have celiac disease and those who are lactose intolerant. Since I think I have a degree of lactose intolerance, I generally avoid yogurt made from cow’s milk. I first switched to sheep’s milk yogurt — until I discovered that sheep’s milk has more lactose than cow’s milk. Redwood Hill Farm makes yogurt from goat’s milk, and it is my current yogurt of choice. It’s not organic and it includes a couple of thickeners (tapioca and pectin) that I wish it didn’t have, but it’s the best I can find.
Yogurt fits within the very low-carb diet that I have been following since 2007. At the same time I generally limit what I eat to what people call the Primal Diet, which is the variant of the Paleo Diet that includes some dairy. The right type of yogurt is one of those rare foods that is not only exceptionally healthy but tastes great.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
Never Miss An Update
Subscribe to my free newsletter “Diabetes Update”
I send out my newsletter on first of every month. It covers new articles and columns that I have written and important developments in diabetes generally that you may have missed.
Thank you for sharing your research! Have you seen Siggi’s Icelandic style yogurt? I would love to know your thoughts on its plain yogurt.
Yes, I have, Diane. For a non-fat yogurt it tastes very good. But certainly nothing like the full-fat yogurts from Straus and Wallaby.
I personally don’t have diabetes but this is very interesting. Personally, I enjoy Stoneybrook yogurt, which I recently found out comes in to-go.
Stoneybrook makes a great yogurt, and I recently found a new one myself that just because available in the Rocky Mountain states. It is Straus organic, plain, whole milk, greek yogurt.
Wallaby’s makes a delicious whole milk organic greek yogurt. We make labneh out of it, usually.
Thank you. I agree, as I wrote in my more recent review of Greek yogurt. Wallaby’s is delicious, but after careful comparison, I decided that the other yogurt I reviewed in my more recent article, Straus Family Creamery’s organic plain whole milk Greek yogurt is both healthier and tastes even better than Wallaby’s. Try it and see that you will probably agree!
Thank you for your article!
You may have found this already, but Straus Family Creamery out of Petaluma, CA makes a plain Full fat Greek yogurt that is organic & free of additives…made only with whole organic milk & live active cultures…and the label states their cows are grass fed, as well! My favorite for sure! I’m currently mixing it with raw carob powder, stevia, & raw shredded coconut…enjoy! 🙂
That sounds perfect and I will look for it here. All the Straus Family Creamery yogurt that I have found so far is their organic but thin “European style” yogurt. The Fage yogurt that I have been eating is nice and thick and tasty, but not organic.
Dear David, I have read the nutritional labels on the 3 brands of Greek yogurt available in my area. Two are national premium yogurts.
I find no reference to any bulking agents. Are they required to be on the nutritional label in the US?
Is it correct, then, for me to round up the GL of Greek yogurt to 2 for for 8 oz. (1 cup)?
Thanks! Great info, really!
Yes, the bulking agents, if any, would have to be stated. But I don’t know what the GI or GL woud be.
I can’t seem to find yogurts with less than 4grams of sugars listed. What do you consider the low sugars range?
I’ve just been diagnosed with L.a.d.a. Diabetes. I’m still wading through the right foods jungle so I fear anything above 1gram of sugar.
Please re-read my article carefully. I tried to explain in great detail how yogurt actually has much less sugar than is actually listed on the Nutrition Facts label.