Greek, Icelandic and regular yogurt all have their benefits

“Low fat,” “no-fat,” “plain,” “flavoured,” “Greek,” “grass-fed,” and the new kid on the block, “Icelandic,” are all words that describe a variety of yogurt that can be found sitting in the dairy cooler of your local grocery store.

It is ironic how complex yogurt can be considering it originated as a way to preserve milk before we had refrigerators.

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Yogurt is a great way to get a good dose of bone-building calcium into our diet and is also a good source of protein – making it a great snack for kids and adults. But some yogurts may be more like ice-cream with the amount of sugar added to them, so let’s take a look at how to pick the best yogurt for you and your family. 


Choose a yogurt that still has its fat and skip over the “low fat” and “no-fat” varieties, which tend to have added sugar in the ingredient list. Calorie for calorie, refined sugar appears to be worse for your health than saturated fat (the fat found in yogurt), if faced with a choice between a sugary nonfat yogurt and an unsweetened full-fat option, choose the full-fat option!


Look for at least 15 per cent of the daily value for calcium.


Look for no added sugar.  Yogurt naturally contains sugar, about 10grams, but some manufacturers will add even more sugar to add to the sweetness. Some sweetened yogurts have a whopping 18 g of sugar per serving! Sounds more like ice-cream to me! Your best bet is to get plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself with plenty of fresh, ripe fruit and perhaps a little drizzle of honey.

Greek or regular?

Besides being delicious, Greek yogurt contains more protein and less sugar than regular yogurt. This is due to the straining process when making Greek yogurt. Basically, to make Greek yogurt, you take regular yogurt and strain it. This concentrates the protein, making the yogurt thick and creamy. Unfortunately, the strained-away liquid also contains a  third of the yogurt’s calcium, potassium and zinc. Icelandic yogurt is strained Greek yogurt. So more protein and less sugar. Try mixing up your yogurts. One time buy regular, the next time buy Greek and the following time try Icelandic or skyr.


Grass-fed yogurt is made from the milk of cows who consume grass. This milk contains higher amounts of the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat that reduces inflammation in the body and has been tied to a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Grass-fed milk also has five times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional milk. CLA, a fatty acid found in dairy and beef, is linked to protection from colorectal and breast cancers, diabetes and heart disease.


Some yogurts have probiotics added to them by the manufacturer but you would need to eat a lot of yogurt to get a good dose of probiotics. Aim to get your daily dose of probiotics from actual probiotics found in the wellness/supplement section of your local health food store, not yogurt. 

 –  Jess Pirnak is a West Vancouver plant-loving registered dietitian as well as a health coach, writer and advocate for the power of food and its connection to health. For more postings about nutrition visit her blog

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