Diabetes and Yogurt: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on February 13, 2018Written by Juliann Schaeffer and Marie Beaugureau on June 4, 2015

Overview

Yogurt can be a great nutrient-dense breakfast option or an easy snack. If unsweetened and Greek-style, it’s low in carbohydrates and high in protein. This means it won’t cause blood sugar spikes in people with diabetes, like other sources of carbohydrates.

There may even be additional benefits for people with diabetes. Read on to learn more.

What does the research say?

Fermented foods, such as yogurt, contain good bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics have been shown to improve gut health. Research on gut health is ongoing, but gut bacteria and overall health could play a factor in a number of health conditions, including obesity and diabetes.

Recent research shows that yogurt consumption might be associated with lower levels of glucose and insulin resistance, as well as lower systolic blood pressure. Additionally, a Journal of Nutrition analysis of 13 recent studies concluded that yogurt consumption, as part of a healthy diet, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in healthy and older adults.

What makes a great yogurt?

Most dairy products have a low Glycemic Index (GI). This makes them ideal for people with diabetes. To get the most out of your yogurt, check the labels before you purchase. If you want the gut benefits from the probiotics, choose a yogurt that contains live and active cultures.

Also pay attention to the Nutrition Facts label. Many yogurts have added sugars. Choose options that contain 10 grams (g) of sugar or less. Yogurts that contain a total carbohydrate content of 15 g or less per serving are ideal for people with diabetes.

Look for yogurts that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, such as unflavored Greek yogurt. Check labels clearly, since sugar content among brands — and even among flavors within the same brand — can vary drastically.

Which style of yogurt is best?

Greek? Icelandic? Australian? You may be wondering whether one style is more diabetes-friendly than others. The answer is all in the amount each type of yogurt is strained.

Greek

Unlike regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained to remove liquid whey and lactose. This makes it thicker and creamier. The good news for people with diabetes is that unsweetened Greek yogurt can contain up to twice the protein and half the carbohydrates of regular yogurt. However, whole-milk Greek yogurt can contain almost three times the fat of regular yogurt. Choose low- or nonfat Greek yogurt options if fat is a concern for you.

Icelandic

Technically not yogurt but a “cultured dairy product” made from cheese, Icelandic yogurt is strained even more than Greek yogurt. This makes it thicker and gives it even more protein. An extra benefit of Icelandic yogurt is it’s traditionally made from skim milk. This lowers the fat content. However, “Icelandic-style” yogurts may come in whole-milk varieties as well.

Australian

Australian yogurt is unstrained, giving it a thinner texture than Icelandic or Greek yogurts. The lack of straining also means that it’s not packed with as much protein, and the carbohydrate content hasn’t been reduced. Australian yogurt is traditionally sweetened with honey and made with whole milk. There are skim-milk varieties, too.

Which brands should I pick?

There are lots of options in a grocery store for diabetes-friendly yogurts. Here are just a few to consider:

BrandStyleFlavorServing size (ounces)Carbohydrates (grams)Sugars (grams)Protein (grams)Calcium (% daily value)
ChobaniGreekplain, nonfat5.3 oz.6 g4 g15 g10%
Dannon OikosGreekTriple Zero cherry, nonfat5.3 oz.14 g6 g15 g15%
Dannon OikosGreekplain, whole milk8.0 oz.9 g9 g20 g25%
FageGreekFage Total plain7.0 oz.8 g8 g18 g20%
Siggi’sIcelandicstrawberry and rhubarb, whole milk4.4 oz.12 g8 g12 g10%
Siggi’sIcelandicvanilla, nonfat5.3 oz.12 g9 g15 g15%
SmáriIcelandicplain (pure) nonfat5.0 oz.6 g5 g17 g10%
Stonyfield OrganicTraditional Americanplain, nonfat5.3 oz.10 g8 g7 g25%
WallabyAustralianplain, whole milk8.0 oz.14 g10 g11 g40%

What to watch out for

Calories and carbohydrates can also hide in extra toppings such as candies, nuts, and granola. These can contribute to blood sugar increases.

You’re better off choosing your favorite plain yogurt product and adding in the desired toppings yourself. That way, you can control the serving size and added sugars. Try a combination of fresh blueberries and sliced almonds. You can also add ground flax seed, chia seeds, and sliced strawberries.

As for artificial sweeteners, new research is leading experts to advise caution, especially for people with diabetes and insulin resistance. While they were originally marketed as a way to help people curb their sweet tooth and manage their weight, recent research suggests that artificial sweeteners may actually promote weight gain and changes in gut bacteria.

If you want to steer clear of artificial sweeteners, fresh fruit continues to be a healthier and more natural way of sweetening your yogurt. You can even mix in unsweetened applesauce as a quick way to naturally sweeten your yogurt.

The takeaway

Do's

  • If you want the gut benefits from probiotics, choose a yogurt that contains live and active cultures.
  • Look for yogurts that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
  • Choose flavors that have no more than 10 g of sugar and 15 g of carbohydrates per serving.

Don'ts

  • Avoid yogurt with packaged toppings included.
  • Don’t buy yogurt without reading the Nutrition Facts label.

As with most things, moderation is key. The United States Department of Agriculture currently recommends that adults get three servings of dairy each day. While this recommendation is controversial among some health experts, checking your blood sugar after eating yogurt is a great way to identify how yogurt affects you. Unsweetened plain or Greek yogurt could be a great way for people with diabetes to get a good dose of protein, calcium, and probiotics.

CMS Id: 82804