Greek. Icelandic. Probiotic. Soy. Whichever your go-to yogurt type is, you’re likely well aware by now that this food comes with more than a few health benefits. Yogurt has long been associated with bone strength, gut health, and weight management. But do you know the other side effects of eating yogurt every day? Because that’s only the beginning.
“Current available scientific evidence shows that intake of yogurt, milk, and other dairy products have very few adverse effects and may protect against many of the most prevalent chronic diseases,” says Brooke Glazer, RDN, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. “Frequent consumption of yogurt has been shown to improve risk factors for cardiovascular disease, to lower diabetes risk, and to enhance immune function.”
According to a 2018 report, the average American consumes about 13.4 pounds of yogurt per year. And is that any surprise? This dairy product is not only super good for you, but it’s also remarkably versatile—you can use it as a base for your morning bowl of granola, as a convenient portable snack for work, or even as a healthy dessert. Nowadays, there are more options than ever to choose from, too, including protein-rich yogurt-based drinks and even frozen treats.
If you’re someone who consistently stocks your fridge with yogurt, it’s important to know the side effects that eating yogurt every day can cause. Here are some health perks—and potential pitfalls—that nutritionists and dietitians want you to know about.
While the word “bacteria” may automatically trigger negative associations, there are also “good” bacteria that are essential to making sure your digestive tract functions properly. According to Glazer, probiotics are live microorganisms found in certain foods that can promote the development of more of that good bacteria.
“I always suggest getting your needs met from whole foods rather than from supplements so yogurt is a great option to increase probiotic intake,” she says.
“There is only so much room in your intestines and so bacteria are constantly battling for control,” he says. “When you consume probiotics regularly, you are ensuring that the ‘good’ bacteria are in charge.”
According to Lindsey Kane, RD and Director of Nutrition at Sun Basket, maintaining a healthy microbiome promotes bowel regularity, reduces bloating and general GI discomfort, and mitigates symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS.
Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal in regards to probiotics.
“Most yogurts undergo pasteurization after fermentation, and this pasteurization process destroys the fragile probiotics cultivated during fermentation, causing you to lose out on any of the benefits they once had to offer,” says Kane.
Hence, Kane and Claybrook both recommend choosing yogurt with a label that indicates it contains live and active cultures.
Provided you’re opting for a product that’s high in protein (such as Greek-style yogurt), there’s a good chance that you’ll feel satisfied after eating it. This is especially true if the yogurt isn’t nonfat.
“Yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse—it is full of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, the triple threat for long-lasting satiety and energy,” says Kane.
This is why yogurt is such an ideal snack option for keeping those hunger pangs at bay.
Speaking of probiotics, Glazer notes that having a healthy gut plays a key role in making sure you can fend off illness by regulating what gets to pass through the lining and enter your bloodstream.
“Kind of like a bouncer that decides who gets to come into a nightclub, our microbiome prevents dangerous bacteria from getting inside our body, thereby aiding immune function,” says Glazer. “Since yogurt contains probiotics that create a healthier gut and the gut regulates immune function, eating yogurt can improve immunity.”
Kane also points out that probiotics have been shown to prompt the synthesis of natural antibodies and immune cells like lymphocytes and Natural Killer T cells, which can attack invading viruses and toxins.
Some brands add a hefty amount of sugar to their flavored yogurt products. While that may make it taste good, it can also cause your blood sugar to surge. That’s why Glazer highly recommends taking a look at the nutrition facts on your yogurt before digging in.
“Some flavored yogurts have 14 grams of sugar per serving so you’re getting 3.5 sugar packets in your otherwise healthy yogurt,” she says.
Considering that the American Heart Association recommends consuming a maximum of 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 37g for men, that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
“While no one food will make or break your health, too much added sugar not only dilutes the nutritional density of yogurt, but it can also cause a spike in your blood sugar, leaving you hungry and hangry rather than satiated, satisfied and energized,” says Kane.
If you’re trying to limit your consumption of the sweet stuff, try plain Greek yogurt—and you can even add a serving fruit on top if it’s too tangy for your liking.
“Naturally occurring sugars, such as from the blueberries, are just fine—they are not exactly the same thing as added sugars,” says Claybrook. “Added sugars should always be avoided.”
Kane suggests drizzling on a spoonful of honey or maple syrup to balance out the acidity of plain yogurt if you’re not a fan of the flavor.
“A dash of vanilla or a pinch of cinnamon also works wonders in creating a sense of sweetness without actually adding any sugar at all,” she says.
Remember those friendly flora mentioned earlier? According to Kane, probiotics don’t just positively impact your physical health, but your mental health as well.
An increasing number of studies have demonstrated that the gut-brain connection definitely exists—and Kane notes that some research has found probiotics to improve anxiety, depression, stress, mood, and memory. While you likely won’t notice these effects after just one serving of yogurt, if you’re eating it on a regular basis, it could definitely make a difference over time.
In addition to probiotics, yogurt is packed with so many other nutrients that your body can benefit from. For example, Kane says you’ll get a decent dose of calcium (for healthy teeth and bones), phosphorus (more bone health), magnesium (which supports energy metabolism, sleep, and mood), and potassium (which regulates blood pressure and muscle mobility and recovery). And that’s not all, either.
“Probiotics actually produce vitamin K as well, which is used for healthy blood coagulation (clotting) to support healing,” says Kane.
The best way to ensure that you’re reaping the full health benefits of yogurt is to take a close and careful look at the nutrition label before adding it to your shopping cart. Ideally, Kane advises selecting one that contains multiple strains of bacteria.
“Think of this as diversifying your roster for a sports team,” she explains. “You need all sorts of players to build a versatile unit, each contributing different skills and talents to create a strong and resilient squad capable of handling any opponent that comes their way.”
Other than that, as long as you go for a product that doesn’t contain heaps of added sugar, yogurt can definitely be a super healthy component of your daily diet.
Get creative with these 26 Things You Can Make with Yogurt.