Guide to Choosing the Best Yogurt

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Guide to Choosing the Best Yogurt

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Yogurt has been loved for centuries for it’s tart taste and versatile nature. It’s one of few foods that is balanced in carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals that also contains beneficial probiotics. Protein, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, potassium, zinc, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus make up the nutrient profile of yogurt (if made from goat, sheep or cow dairy); just one serving can provide 25% of your protein and 50% of your calcium needs. However, the quality of yogurt differs widely by brand, type, fermentation process and source and can become a junk food if not chosen properly. Below is our guide to choosing the most nutritious yogurt.

The Best

Yogurt made from raw, grass-fed sheep, goat or cow’s milk

Raw milk from pasture raised animals provides more readily available proteins, calcium, and enzymes which make the milk easier to digest. Glutathione, one of your body’s master antioxidants, is found in large amounts in raw dairy but virtually absent from pasteurized dairy. For a full summary of the safety and benefits of raw milk, check out this well researched power point presentation from the Weston A Price Foundation.

When raw dairy is fermented into yogurt, the benefits are immense! Goat and sheep’s milk tend to be better digested and are creamier when made into yogurt so people with more sensitive digestion may tolerate it better. You will not find raw milk yogurt in the stores but in Texas, you can buy raw milk from a local farm and make your own yogurt easily at home. This also ensures that the yogurt is actually fermented for 24 hours or more (the best way to ensure that live bacteria are present). Realmilk.com contains a list of farms that provide raw milk by state. Some of these farms also make kefir and yogurt from their milk so you can purchase that directly as well.

To make your own yogurt from raw milk, you can purchase a yogurt maker and a starter culture. When you purchase a starter culture it will come with a recipe to tell you exactly how to start a batch with raw or pasteurized milk (the directions are slightly different when using raw milk). You can also make yogurt in the Instant Pot.

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Investing in a yogurt maker is a super cost effective and easy way to make your own yogurt

Best Store Bought Yogurt Brands

If you don’t have the time or the patience to make your own yogurt, you can find healthy choices in your local grocery store. Look for brands that advertise milk from pasture raised cows, goats or sheep and/or brands that advertise a long fermentation process for their yogurt. You also want to choose yogurt made from full fat milk whenever possible. This post would be way too long if I went through the details but studies have shown that full fat dairy is actually protective against some diseases, including obesity, while it’s low fat counterpart is not. Of course, it is also best to choose plain, unsweetened yogurt and add natural sweeteners like honey and berries yourself to avoid consuming copious amounts of refined sugar that would taint your otherwise healthy food.

  • White Mountain Yogurt – White Mountain is made in Austin and the company is upfront about their fermentation process and where they are sourcing the cows from that provide the milk. They do state on their website that their cows are not 100% grass-fed, but they do ferment the yogurt for 24 hours which would provide the yogurt with billions of live cultures.
  • Stonyfield Organic Grass-fed Yogurts – Stonyfield has a line of 100% grass-fed yogurts with only 2 ingredients: milk and live cultures.
  • Nancy’s Organic 100% Grass -fed Yogurt – The company states that their co-founder checks the yogurt batches each night to ensure the right amount of beneficial bacteria and taste.
  • Organic Valley Grassmilk Yogurt
  • Maple Hill – Their yogurts are 100% grass fed but finding the plain version may be harder at some stores.
  • Redwood Hill Goat Yogurt and Kefir – This is one of the few brands of goat milk yogurt that can be found in stores. They state on their website that their goats diets are 70% grazing (goats eat other things besides grass unlike cows such as brush) and the other 30% is feed that could include soy, corn and safflower meal. The yogurt has tapioca starch added as a thickener, but the kefir does not.
  • Dutch Meadows Farm Grassfed Cow and Goat Yogurt and Kefir – Not available in stores in my area in Texas, but they ship anywhere in the continental US. You just have to order about $75 worth of product and pay a shipping fee. They also have grassfed beef and other natural food products available.

What About Vegan Yogurt?

Vegan yogurts are vastly increasing in popularity as plant-based diets themselves gain more mainstream attention. It is hard to directly compare vegan yogurts as a whole with dairy yogurts because vegan yogurts come from a variety of foods (yogurts made from coconut, soy and almonds tend to be the most popular) and those foods vary in nutrition profiles. Calcium and Vitamin D are naturally occurring in dairy yogurts, but that is not the case in vegan yogurts. Some of these yogurts fortify with these nutrients, but some do not. Most of the plant based yogurts are going to be much lower in protein than their dairy counterparts and have a lot more ingredients as thickeners due to the fact that nut milks require more than just fermentation to thicken. That being said, there are some good brands out there and if dairy hurts your gut, these plant yogurts can give you a good alternative for some good gut repairing probiotics. Below are the best brands (I am not including soy based yogurts in the list since many of the patients I see have sensitivities to soy):

  • Forager Cashew Yogurt – The plain version is low in sugar and uses minimal thickeners (tapioca starch, locust bean gum and coconut cream)
  • GT’s Cocoyo – One of the few vegan yogurts on the market with only 2 ingredients: coconut meat and coconut water. They even have cocoa, raspberry and vanilla flavors that are very low in sugar.
  • Kitehill Almond Milk Yogurt and Greek Yogurt – The unsweetened versions contain tapioca starch and some other thickening agents but are still pretty clean. The Greek version contains 11g of protein which is one of the higher protein vegan yogurts. All of their coconut milk yogurts have way more ingredients and sugar.
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Coconuts and almonds are the most common bases in vegan yogurts

Make Your Own Vegan Yogurt

Vegan yogurts tend to be more expensive than their dairy counterparts so it is definitely more economical to make your own. And since I can only find three brands that make clean vegan yogurts, making your own would also provide more health benefits. An easy coconut yogurt recipe can be found here. If you prefer using almond milk you can use this recipe. One thing to note is that vegan yogurts require some sort of thickener to achieve the same texture as a dairy based yogurt. Agar Agar, kuzu root, and tapioca starch are commonly used and can be found online. Here is a recipe using cashew milk for some variety.

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