+ Well Nourished | Health Benefits of Yogurt

Simply Well Nourished – Yogurt, why it’s healthy and clever ways to eat it.

Yogurt is one food I consume regularly.  But like so many foods, not all yogurts are created equal.  So why is it such a healthy food and how do you choose the most nutritious type?  Let’s explore…

Yogurt isn’t sweet
You may be surprised by this, but real yogurt is not sweet.  You’re forgiven if you haven’t realized this when the contents of the supermarket dairy cabinet are largely sugar laden.  If your yogurt tastes sweet, even a little, it has some form of sugar in it.  In fact, many yogurts have alarming amounts of sugar; many supposedly healthy brands have more than ice-cream!

Real yogurt is sour.  By real yogurt I mean full fat natural or Greek yogurt, they should be your only choice when shopping for this health-giving food.  If you or your children don’t like the taste of real yogurt, then keep reading for some inspiring suggestions.

Why is ‘real’ yogurt so healthy?
Because it contains probiotics.  The word probiotic means ‘for life’ and refers to the living good bacteria that when eaten in sufficient quantities, benefits the health of your digestive system (which in turn supports nutrient absorption, your immune system, hormones and mental health).  You can read more about the importance of improving your digestion here.

When considering the probiotic content, there’s yogurt and then there’s yogurt!  You see in some yogurts, the beneficial ‘probiotic’ bacteria are not always present as live and active cultures.  Some yogurts are also pasteurized after they have been colonised  (a process to kill the bacteria in dairy) – why?  Goodness knows, there’s simply no logic in this.

I also question the ‘aliveness’ of bacteria in high sugar environments.  Studies comparing identical probiotic foods, with and without sugar, have not yet been conducted.  However, it is recognized that sugar (and salt) are used by the food processing industry to preserve food, based on the principles that sugar breaks down the cell walls of bacteria leading to cell death.  Considering the large amounts of sugar found in most fruit and flavored yogurt, I question whether the probiotics in these yogurts are indeed viable.  Another reason to consume only natural or Greek yogurt.

Eat yogurt, lose weight
Studies have also extended the benefits of yogurt to weight loss.  In a study based on three trials over 20 years, yogurt was found to be the number one food associated with weight loss.  Interestingly enough, it also found that quality counted more than calories including that eating organic foods, resulted in weight loss.  No surprise that potato chips were rated the most likely cause of weight gain!  There were some confounding factors for these results, but interesting none the less.  Some studies are currently investigating the role probiotics have on the way that calories are dealt with in the digestive tract, again leading to weight loss.

Full fat or low fat?
ONLY full fat, I can’t be more emphatic.  Why?  Firstly it is closer to its natural state this way (milk is supposed to have fat in it so why mess with it)?  Also, removing the fat from dairy disrupts the important enzymes that assist in its metabolism.   Many experts claim that this process, makes low fat, indeed more fattening.  The sugar content in low-fat dairy is also concerning and also contributes to weight gain (it is sugar, not fat that makes us fat).  Can you see the irony?  For more detail on fat, you can read this post here.

Also, full fat just tastes better and because you are more satisfied and full, you will not eat as much or have seconds (fat fills you up, sugar does not and stimulates you to want more).

My favorite brands

  • I love the very decadent Barambah Organics full-fat natural yogurt.  It is made with non-homogenised dairy and is very rich and creamy; it should appeal to most (I want to write especially children, however, my daughter doesn’t like it and prefers a tangier yogurt).
  • My children’s favorite is Paris Creek Biodynamic Swiss style natural yogurt and from a health perspective, it is perfect (though it is quite sour).  It has no milk solids in it so it is quite a runny yogurt.  It’s also made with non-homogenised milk.  This would be the best choice for those that struggle with lactose intolerance but want to eat yogurt.
  • Meridith Farm Sheep yogurt is also amazing.
  • In the supermarket aisle, the only brand I consider is Jalna Biodynamic full-fat natural yogurt or Five am natural yogurt.

Making the change from flavored to natural
If you or your children dislike the taste of natural yogurt, then you will need to flavor it yourself.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Start mixing the yogurt your kids like, with the natural yogurt you want your kids to eat. Do it gradually and before you know it, you may have converted them to love natural yogurt. I accidently bought a slightly sweetened Greek yogurt last week and thought my kids would love it. Nope, they are so used to unsweetened, they refused to eat it.
  • Try adding fresh or frozen berries.
  • Cinnamon or vanilla powder is a delicious edition.
  • Mix through mashed banana for banana lovers.
  • Add stewed fruit.
  • If you have too, add a little raw honey, maple syrup or rice malt syrup.  If you are converting sugar-addicted children, then just add as much honey or rice malt syrup as you need to get them to eat it, but work on reducing the amount over time until their palate has adjusted.
  • Find a flavor or way of eating it they like and go with it.
  • Also, try different brands of natural yogurt.  The taste and consistency vary significantly.  You may need to try a few brands before you find ‘the one’!

Ways I use natural yogurt

  • Instead of mayonnaise.
  • Mix it with tahini and lemon juice and drizzle over meat, chicken, fish, vegetables or a salad.  This also makes a delicious dressing for coleslaw.
  • Use it in curries to make them less spicy for kids.
  • Make a marinade – add some Morrocan or Indian spices, garlic and or ginger to yogurt and coat your meat.  Delicious!
  • Make a smoothie.  I always add natural yogurt to every smoothie I make.
  • Make some frozen yogurt popsicles- I blend it up, like a smoothie and pop it into a mold for the kids. This is also a great way to use up leftover smoothies.
  • For dessert – the only dessert my kids have (just occasionally) is natural yogurt and frozen berries.  They serve it themselves and then sit and stir it like crazy until it forms a frozen yogurt – better than any iPod app that’s for sure!
  • Make a dip with it (tzatziki).
  • Add it to soups to make them creamy.
  • In fact, in most recipes you can substitute cream for yogurt.

Some of the dishes where you’ll find real yogurt…

Note – I’ve posted instructions for making your own yogurt in the comments below.

Do you have a favorite brand of natural or Greek yogurt?  How do you eat your yogurt?  Love for you to share your ideas below.

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  • Tanya Robertson

    Thank you Georgia! I think this will be my toughest challenge yet with the kids food changes and might take a while, wish me luck! Cody absolutely loves his squeezie yoghurts 🙂

    • Good luck. Just a thought, one of my readers has referred to refillable squeeze tubes that she used for travelling with little ones. I’m not sure where to get them (any one reading this that knows please share). But this may help his transition. I am going to address changing diets and encouraging kids to eat better very soon. G x

      • Jo

        Hi Georgia just wanted to let u know I love your website. Quick question about the yoghurt, I was told to choose one that had the proper probiotic cultures. The one suggested to me was Vaalia which u can buy in the supermarkets. Is this not the case anymore? Does the 5am brand have the same probiotics in?

        • Hi Jo, thank you so much.
          Re- yoghurt, just make sure ‘live cultures’ are used, the combination of various types is personal preference. I do prefer organic dairy as I’ve read some concerning reports of animal welfare, medical and chemical treatment of non organic dairy. I’m not so familiar with vaalia, I think that it contains LGG which is good for allergic conditions. Most importantly just avoid flavoured yoghurts. I also like to support Australian owned and made companies (a personal thing). Have a great weekend, G x

  • Karen

    Hi,

    I make yoghurt using two cups of powdered milk in a litre of water to which I have added two big tablespoons of greek yoghurt. Put it in an easy-yo thermos and this way I don’t have to heat up the milk. Then I save two big tablespoons of this yoghurt batch to make up the next one. Somewhere along the line the whole container gets eaten so I buy a container of greek yoghurt and start again.

    If I were to use one of the yoghurts that you recommend as the starter would you consider this to be beneficial yoghurt seeing us I use full cream powdered milk? I usually add one 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract as well just to make it more palatable form my children.

    thanks, K

    • Hi Karen, Good for you making your own. I was hoping someone would post this. You know you can make it easily with full fat milk, this would be my preference as powder is highly refined? In fact the fats in the milk oxidise during processing and form oxysterols, which are suspected as initiating atherosclerotic plaques (cause of heart disease and stroke). I am going to post a comment with instructions for making your own in a minute. Any yogurt containing “live cultures” can be used as a starter. Hope this helps, any more questions please let me know. G x

      • Karen

        Hi Georgia, Thanks for update. I did know you can make it with milk. And I used to do this, but with working, getting kids to school etc etc it often got pushed to bottom of list as I ran out of time and before I knew it we were back to buying yoghurt. When I found the recipe for powdered milk that didn’t need heating I found it easy to get back into making it as I just shake it up and put in thermos before I head off in the morning. However, now you’ve got me thinking again seeing as the powdered milk is processed. Ho hum. It’s the ying and yang: need time at home to make the healthiest options for my family BUT need money to buy organic produce and well pay the bills 🙂

        • Yes, totally understand, it’s a juggling act. Ultimately the call is yours. I have also tried just heating the milk to 43 degrees, culturing and jarring. It worked well, maybe a little looser consistency. Maybe try this, it’s a lot less fiddling around. Let me know if it works out as I’m considering buying a thermos as I think it will produce a more consistent result (and it’s easier) than my blanket, jar, fridge etc; method!! G x

  • Nat

    I LOVE Barambah organics yoghurt. I give Mila the one with the baby on the front bur end up hoeing into it myself. Yoghurt has to be thick for me .

    • It is SO good, except S doesn’t like it! Have you tried their regular full fat yogurt? I’m sure it’s the same as the baby one just better value for money. G x

      • Nat

        Ok I’ll try that next time. Just got more of the other this morning. It has almost clotted cream under the lid- yummo!

  • I was asked on Facebook for details for making your own yogurt in a thermomix. Here is my reply and it is easily done on the stovetop too…I do make yogurt when time permits. It is very easy to do. Simply heat a litre of full fat milk to 80, speed 3 for 10 minutes. Let it sit and cool (stir a few times to keep a skin from forming) to 43 degrees or until you can put your finger in it and keep it there (very scientific I know)! About when the 37 degrees light goes off is good. If it’s too hot you kill off the cultures. You can also do this in a pot with a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Then add one tablespoon (more is not better, the bacteria need room to grow), of yogurt (make sure it is one containing ‘live’ cultures and mix into the milk (10 seconds at speed 4) or stir through with a spoon in the pot. Now pour into a warm clean jar or a warmed thermoserver and put in a warm place overnight or for at least 8 hours. In winter it can take longer to thicken, even up to 24 hours. In summer it thickens faster. Warm the jar or thermoserver by filling with boiling water. Some people place it in a thermos too. Keep it warm in an oven if it has a very low temp setting 20-25 degrees. I personally wrap it in blankets and put it in an insulated bag with a wheat bag or hot water bottle and put it up against my wine fridge (motor makes it warm). Once done refrigerate (it will further thicken when cold). In summer a blanket is all it needs (sounds like a baby).
    Hope this helps, any more questions let me know. G x

    • Anouk

      Hi Georgia,
      I have tried a couple of times making my own yoghurt the way you described for in a pot (no Thermomix unfortunately).
      I found that the result was unfortunately quite tasteless and runny.
      I left it overnight in an Easiyo thermos, as I have been making that for a few years.
      I used Barambah Organics full-fat natural yogurt as the culture.
      I feel that the lack of flavour and tanginess means that it isn’t really yoghurt and hence doesn’t have all the goodness.
      Do you have any ideas or further tips?
      Thanks,
      Anouk

      • Hi Anouk. Oh no – look it is not going to make a Barambah style of yogurt as they add milk solids to make it creamy and to thicken it (you can do this too if you like). It is also definitely more tart and runny than a commercial yoghurt – if you have ever tried Paris Creek yoghurt, mine is quite similar. I only use raw milk, so sorry I can’t comment on the results using a pasteurised milk.
        I’ll do a little research and see if I can come up with any more info, G x

        • Anouk

          Thanks Georgia,
          I might pick up some raw milk and give it a go.
          I’ll also try Paris Creek to compare consistency.
          Mine had no tang, which is what concerned me the most. I don’t want to go to the effort to then not have the benefits of yoghurt!

          Thanks for taking the time to reply.
          Anouk

          • Strange, I have had runny batches but it is always tangy. I too use the stove top more than my thermomix – more out of habit having learned on a stove top. Just be very precise with a thermometer is the only other thing I can think of. G x

      • Kate

        Has anyone tried the aldi organic plain yogurt? Wondering if it would be a good choice?

        • Haven’t tried (no Aldi store convenient to me), hopefully someone else can help, G x

  • Vicki

    Hi Georgia
    I’ve just purchased the refillable yoghurt tubes for my 2 kids. They are called Squooshi’s and I got mine from Aussie Bubs. Just google Squooshi and you will find a seller. My kids love the squeezie yoghurt a so at least I can control what yoghurt I put in them.

    • Thanks so much for letting me know. I’m sure Tanya will appreciate it very much. G x

  • Liberty

    Hi!
    What are your thoughts on the tub set Jalna Greek Yoghurt?
    Thanks

    • The plain, unflavoured (not vanilla) is fine and a good choice in the non-organic range. Personally I would choose the Jalna biodynamic but if price or taste is a barrier, then their Greek is next best as it is full fat and has live cultures. G x

  • Tanya Robertson

    Vicki, thank you for the info on where to buy the refillable yoghurt tubes, shall go take a look now! Much appreciated 🙂

  • Sally

    Thanks for opening my eyes in regards to yoghurt. We have always used natural and luckily the kids like it, but me thinking I was making healthy choices have always leaned more towards the low fat varieties, BUT not any more! Who would have thought low fat could be so unhealthy, from now on our house is full fat only, that goes for milk too! Where do you get the Paris Creek yoghurt from, I don’t think I’ve seen it around? – Sally

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  • Great post as usual Georgia, love the detail that you go to. Our favorite Greek yoghurt is five:am organic, we buy it at Woolworths but I think it is also now available in Coles and it is well priced for an organic yoghurt I think around $6 for 750g sometimes $5 when it is on special.

    • I just tried it for the first time this week – delicious and yes, very well priced. Thanks for sharing, G x

  • Emma

    Hi Georgia. I am new to your blog and am finding it very inspirational, and a great nudge to change some of my family’s eating habits back in the right direction, particularly with my fussy 2 yo.
    Couple of questions for you:
    1. Do you have any baking recipes (eg muffins or cakes) using yoghurt as an ingredient?
    2. Do you have suggestions about easy ways to introduce red meat and poultry back into my diet after 15 years of abstinence?
    Appreciate your thoughts
    Emma

    • Hi Emma,
      I do have some baked goodies using yogurt, but just remember much if not all of the beneficial bacteria are lost to heating.
      I was a vegetarian for 20 years. It was a slow process introducing meat back into my diet. For me it was (and sometimes still is) is struggle, more with texture than anything. I found meat minced or slow cooked (so it was very tender) and combined with lots of other flavour my preference. I like to make casseroles and curries and also include legumes so whilst I’m eating meat, it’s not in massive amounts. As time goes by I have become more excepting of pieces of meat (e.g., steak). I just listen to my body, try everything, and I really do feel healthier at 42 than I did in my 20’s. I believe reintroducing meat into my diet has improved my health and wellbeing enormously (but that’s just my body and personal experience). Good luck, hope that helps, G x

  • Natalie

    Hi Georgia, I have just discovered your site and love what I have found. I’m definitely keen to see lots of ideas for savoury snacks. My kids are 7 & 5 and I am really lucky that they have a love of good foods. However, plain yoghurt is not one of their favourite things. It is such a struggle to find decent yoghurts although I have found Westhaven dairy (a Tasmanian producer) that makes fruit yoghurts with no added sugar, colours, or flavours. I personally love plain yoghurt. Barambah is wonderful but I have to be a little cost conscious so I generally buy the plain Chobani from the supermarket.
    Looking forward to seeing more great posts.

    • Thanks Natalie, appreciate your feedback enormously and have a few more savoury snacks to share that’s for sure. A new brand that’s very similar to Barambah is 5am and its available in the major supermarkets (and often on special) so give it a try. Sounds like you’ll just have to work hard flavouring it yourself to bring them round! G x

  • Marsha

    Hi Georgia. Thanks so much for such an informative site. I would just like to mention our preference for yoghurt. We recently came across 5am organic on special. Immediately fell in love with the taste. We usually buy the greek plain yoghurt but will now alternate between the two. I thought buying the lite brand was healthier but after reading your brilliant explanation of what is best for health we will now change to full fat. Just purchased second tub of 5am and it is more pricey than others but well worth the cost.
    Many thanks
    Marsha.

    • Thanks so much Marsha for mentioning 5am yoghurt. I wrote this post before it was available and yes, it is delicious and buy it often myself. Thrilled you like my website too, G x

  • Amy

    I’m just loving your whole site! The whole house smells absolutely delicious at the moment because I just made the toasted muesli from your rise and shine ebook. I can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow so I can have some. I also make our own natural yoghurt and I found it surprising how quickly my four year old son went from needing a bit of added honey to enjoying it without any added sweeteners. Our 11 month old also loves eating the natural yoghurt with some LSA mixed in. So glad to see that you recommend the Jalna and 5am brands. I used the Jalna biodynamic natural yoghurt to start off my first batch and I sometimes will give my son a pouch of the 5am as a special treat if we’re doing a massive grocery shop. Thank you so much for sharing all of your knowledge on how we can live a little better and more nourished life!

    • Thanks Amy for your lovely message. So pleased you are enjoying my ebook and the site as a whole. It’s also nice for you to share how you’ve successfully weaned your son onto natural yoghurt (without sweetener). Good on you for doing so, his health will benefit in the long run for avoiding extra sugars. Enjoy your muesli G x

  • Linda

    Real yoghurt does not have to be sour. I make my own and if you use the right culture, don’t incubate it too long (there’s less lactic acid) and add full cream milk powder (or strain it afterwards) you can have thick, smooth, creamy, MILD homemade yoghurt.

    • Thanks Linda. By ‘sour’ I was talking from my experience of converting many patients from a sweetened or flavoured yoghurt to natural. They always tell me it’s too sour, even Greek, but, I agree it’s not at all. Yes milk solids do thicken it, I’m just not a fan and like you suggested I prefer to strain it. G x

  • Kayleigh

    Hi Georgia
    I can’t seem to find your recipe on how to make your own yoghurt. Could you please link me or re-wrote to this post please- if love to make it 🙂
    Thanks

    Bodyofnaturenutrition.wordpress.com

    • Kayleigh, there are some rough instructions in the comment thread below. I haven’t posted an actual post, but there are so many ways to do so online. Good luck G x

  • I love this article, I suggest homemade yogurt rather than store bought, for yogurt makers reviews you can visit http://bestreviewz.org/best-yogurt-maker-reviews/, you can add you own ingredients to heme made yogurt. Thank you

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