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One Major Side Effect of Eating Yogurt, Says Dietitian

Despite what you may think about yogurt, dietitians warn about a potential health risk
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Take your favorite yogurt, add in some granola, a handful of your favorite fruit, and a drizzle of honey, and you've got a delicious breakfast or snack on hand. And with certain types of yogurt, we can get tons of added benefits like protein and probiotics for a healthy gut.

While yogurt can be a healthy addition to our lives, there are some potential risks to look out for. To learn more about the potential side effects of eating yogurt, we talked to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian for Zhou Nutrition and Medical Expert Board member at Eat This, Not That!.

"While yogurt is a good-for-you option as an ingredient in parfaits, as a sub for sour cream, or as frozen yogurt, eating certain kinds can lead to elevated blood sugar," says Manaker. So next time we reach for a carton of yogurt, we may want to keep the added sugar count in mind as one of the major side effects of eating yogurt is elevated blood sugar.

Too much added sugar in yogurt can raise our blood sugar

Whenever we eat something, our bodies get straight to work in order to break down the food we are consuming. When we eat carbohydrates, our body converts these carbs into blood sugar. High levels of blood sugar, which is essentially just the amount of glucose in our blood, can lead to unwanted health problems. "When people have frequent high blood sugar," says Manaker, "they run the risk of experiencing certain effects, like vision problems, kidney disease, and increased risk of developing heart disease."

And what does this have to do with yogurt, you may ask? "While plain-old yogurt contains natural sugars thanks to the lactose that is naturally found in dairy products, many varieties also contain added sugars," says Manaker. "In fact, some as much as 21 grams per serving, which is more than 40% of the daily value of added sugars for a 2,000 calorie diet." And it's added sugar, not sugar derived from natural sources, that we really need to watch out for.

According to a 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, people who got 17%-21% of their daily calories from added sugar increased their chances of heart disease by 38% over a 15-year period. Along with elevated blood sugar and increased risk of heart disease, Manaker says added sugar comes with a long list of health risks. "Sugar does make yogurt taste good," says Manaker, "but eating too much sugar consistently is linked to increased risk of weight gain, developing dental caries, and can totally drain your energy after you experience that infamous sugar crash." (Related: What Added Sugar Does to Your Body)

yogurt label

We can avoid spikes in blood sugar by choosing different types of yogurt

When it comes to yogurt, ingredients are key. Once we know what to look for when shopping for yogurt at the grocery store, we can avoid a potential rise in our blood sugar.

As we are looking for yogurt, Manaker says that "[our] best bet is to choose a yogurt that contains zero added sugars and add fresh fruit or dark chocolate chips if you need a little sweetness with your dish." With this in mind, we can keep our blood sugar at bay without having to give up yogurt altogether.

It may also be helpful to know what types of yogurt usually come with zero added sugar. (Related: What's the Difference Between Greek Yogurt and Regular Yogurt?)

Greek yogurt is low in sugar, extra creamy, and most often very high in protein. They also recommend Icelandic yogurt, which is supposed to be even thicker and packed with more protein because of the lactose-straining process. For those who may not enjoy Greek or Icelandic yogurt and prefer something flavored, Manaker suggests something like Two Good, because "[it] tastes sweet but only contains two grams of sugar, thanks to the use of stevia instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners."

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Samantha Boesch
Samantha was born and raised in Orlando, Florida and now works as a writer in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about Samantha
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