What is probiotic yogurt?
Is yogurt a probiotic? Is all yogurt probiotic? Is greek yogurt probiotic? What about Skyr & kefir drinks?
Probiotic yogurt health benefits. Is yogurt good for you?
What does live cultures mean? Find out about CFU.
What is the best probiotics yogurt brand? Our guide to choosing probiotic yogurt.
What is probiotic yogurt?
Yogurt is made by adding beneficial bacteria cultures to fresh milk.
The bacteria break down or ferment the lactose (milk sugars), producing lactic acid.
Lactic acid thickens the milk, preserves the milk, keeping it fresher longer and gives the distinctive, delicious tart or sour taste.
Is yogurt a probiotic food?
You’ll see yogurt on a probiotic foods list and fermented foods list, as it is a probiotic rich food.
It is packed full of beneficial bacteria which have fermented the milk, (which is usually pasteurised first) to make it into yogurt.
The natural probiotics in yogurt comes from the blend of bacteria used to ferment the milk into yogurt.
Probiotics Yogurt is produced using a mix of different types of bacteria.
In the USA, the FDA states that fresh, prepared yogurt must contain:-
– Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus
– Streptococcus thermophilus
Other types of bacteria, mostly from the lactobacilli and bifidobacteria family are also added to probiotic yogurts.
Different yogurt brands contain different strains of probiotic bacteria.
Look on your yogurt label, it may list some other strains of beneficial bacteria like:-
– Lactobacillus acidophilus
– L. casei (lactobacillus is sometimes shortened on labels to L.)
– L. rhamnosus
– Bifidobacteria or bifidus
Is yogurt good for you? Yogurt health benefits
Research suggests that eating yogurt containing probiotics can be good for your health.
Scientists have found that some of the probiotic bacteria in yogurts do make it through the stomach acid & reach the gut.
These probiotic bacteria don’t seem to settle long term in the gut but still have some wide ranging health benefits.
Eating yogurt health benefits have been seen in various studies such as:-
– positive effects on brain function (when eaten regularly)
– boosting mood, helping depression
– supporting immune system
– reducing inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease
– reducing cholesterol
– improve lactose intolerance
Lactobacillus strains break down (or digest) some of the lactose (milk sugar) in the yogurt
So people who are lactose intolerant can sometimes eat yogurt without digestive symptoms
– reducing diahhrea after antibiotics
We are only just starting to understand the exact health benefits offered by different probiotic bacteria.
Bear in mind that :-
– effects of probiotics vary from person to person
– types of probiotics in different yogurt brands vary
To get the most health benefits of probiotic yogurt:-
– take it regularly – to replenish your stocks of helpful bacteria (as they don’t stay permanently in the gut)
– choose a live yogurt with many strains of helpful bacteria (check the label) –
– increase your probiotics intake to help your gut bacteria recover after antibiotics / illness / diahhrea
You can combine your probiotic yogurt with :-
– probiotic supplements to boost the numbers of probiotic bacteria in your gut
– other probiotic foods to boost the variety of probiotic bacteria in your gut
– prebiotic foods which act as fertiliser for the probiotic bacteria in your gut
Probiotics yogurt guide:-
What is Live Cultures yogurt?
Live and active cultures are the live bacteria added to ferment milk into yogurt.
The live cultures in yogurt are Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, (as well as other types of beneficial bacteria)
You might have heard different names for these yogurt live cultures, like live and active cultures, or live active cultures.
CFU : Colony Forming Units
CFU or Colony Forming units is the measure of how many live bacteria are present.
You might have seen CFU on your probiotic supplements & also on your yogurt / kefir packaging.
It’s a measure of how many beneficial bacteria (and yeasts) your product contains.
It’s important because it lets you know how many live bacteria (or viable, ie. able to divide & form new bacteria colonies) are present.
In the USA, The National Yogurt Association allows yogurts with 1 million (1,000,000) live bacteria per gram of yogurt, to display the Live and Active Cultures seal (label).
In the UK, manufacturers don’t have to state how many CFUs the yogurt contains.
You can look on the label for the words bio-live, bio yogurt, bio live, live, live and active cultures
So whilst you won’t know how exactly many bacteria are in each gram, the yogurt will contain probiotic bacteria.
Is all yogurt probiotic?
All yogurts are made by adding live cultures (probiotic bacteria) to milk to ferment it into yogurt.
Some manufacturers add extra bacteria to their yogurt brands for health benefits.
To make sure you get the most benefit from your yogurt, bear in mind:-
– some yogurts labelled probiotics don’t contain enough CFUs or the right strains to be effective
– numbers of live probiotics can decrease whilst the product sits on the shelf.
– to be sure you’ll get the right number of bacteria, if a CFU count is shown, look for one that says CFU until the end of shelf life (not “at time of manufacture)
– CFUs aren’t shown on the label in all countries.
Our buying guide (below) to yogurts & other fermented foods can help you choose & store probiotic yogurt brands
What is the best probiotic yogurt?
Activia, Yakult, Chobani, Yoplait, Actimel, Danactive are some of the best known probiotic yogurt brands.
They are sold as either probiotic yogurt drinks, (thinner drinking yogurt in bottles) or as thicker yogurt in pots.
Probiotic yogurt brands generally contain similar types of live beneficial bacteria
– lactobacillus, bifidobacteria & streptococcus thermophilus
– all of these have been known and used in the dairy industry for decades, safely and with positive results
So, what’s the best yogurt for probiotics?
– Different probiotic yogurt brands contain different blends & quantities of bacteria.
– Probiotic yogurt brands sometimes call the bacteria in their yogurts by trade names
Danactive (from Dannon) contains a particular strain of L.Casei that they have trademarked as “L.Casei Immunitas”
– This name reflects the positive health effects that probiotics can have on our immune systems.
Activia & Actimel probiotics yogurt brands contain a strain of bifidobacteria called on the label Bifidus Regularis or Actiregularis
– Suggesting that these bacteria support your digestion & “keep you regular”
– Research results & scientific opinions vary as to the effects of these bacteria & whether there are enough bacteria in a serving to have any effect on the gut.
Confusing labels : Which probiotic yogurt is best for health?
– Probiotics are categorised as food supplements, not drugs, as they are not sold specifically to treat a disease
– This means that they are not required to undergo the same stringent levels of testing & regulation as drugs
– It also means that probiotic yogurt labels can’t claim that they treat disease.
– This limits the health claims that can be made by yogurt manufacturers
Why doesn’t my yogurt say Probiotic on the label:-
– Yogurts sold in the EU aren’t allowed to be labelled as probiotic, whether they claim to have health benefits or not.
– So although the label doesn’t say probiotic, many yogurts still contain live beneficial bacteria.
Buying Guide : Probiotic Yogurt Brands
Choose the best probiotic yogurt brand by following this guide to probiotic yogurt brands.
Look on the label:-
The words bio-live, bio yogurt, bio live, live, live and active cultures show probiotic bacteria are likely to be present
If CFU is shown on the label, look for:-
– over 5 billion colony forming units per serving (eg. a cup or pot)
– or 1 million live bacteria per gram
– Ensure the beneficial bacteria stay alive : your probiotic yogurt needs to be kept chilled all the way from the factory to your fridge.
– If the cold storage fails on the journey from the factory to your fridge, your yogurt can warm up, and studies show that some probiotic bacteria will die off
– This could lead to less helpful bacteria in your yogurt
– So always buy from a trusted supermarket or health food store that has reliable cold chain / transportation
– Store your yogurt in the fridge at the recommended temperature
– Eat within the use by date shown on the pot, to ensure the friendly bacteria are still alive
Choose natural, unsweetened yogurts.
– Avoid low fat yoghurts, flavoured with pureed fruit / fruit concentrates with added sugar, sweeteners and emulsifiers
– These additives may slow or stop the probiotic bacteria growing in the yogurt
– Check the label so you know exactly what is in your probiotic yogurt
Try out different brands
– Trial a probiotic yogurt brand for a month or so and see what health benefits you get
– You might want to try different brands until you find one that works best for you
Is Greek Yogurt probiotic?
Probiotic greek yogurt has a deliciously thick, rich taste.
Greek yogurt is made by straining excess liquid (whey) from natural yogurt.
Is greek yogurt a probiotic? Yes : after the straining process, the probiotic bacteria in Greek yogurt are still present.
Greek Style yogurt is different to Greek yogurt.
It has been thickened by adding either milk protein powder, starch or other additives to thicken it.
But Probiotic bacteria in greek style yogurt are still present.
Choose the best probiotic greek yogurt:-
– Both greek style yogurt and greek yogurt have probiotic bacteria present.
Check the label for the ingredients of your yogurt.
Greek yogurt contains milk (plus sometimes cream) and live active cultures.
If you see the following ingredients, it is likely to be greek style rather than greek yogurt:-
– milk solids
– non-fat milk solids
– gum blends
The Science Bit
The information I share on this site distills the research I’ve read on the microbiome, prebiotics & probiotics.
You’ll find links to the relevant research studies on each page.
I’m not a scientist / dietician / nutritionist. I’m a food lover & home cook, putting microbiome research findings into action in my kitchen.
Find out more about the scientists leading research into the microbiome on the FAQs page
Keep Reading : Probiotic Drinks : What is Kefir? Kombucha?