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This is the Most Unhealthy Yogurt You Can Buy

Make sure to check the nutrition label of your favorite yogurts.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch

You may have noticed the yogurt section of your grocery store explode with options over the last few years. High-protein, plain, flavored, non-dairy, and low-carb are just some of the adjectives used to describe the numerous yogurt options these days. While variety is nice, unfortunately, many of the options available are less than ideal when it comes to nutrient composition. With many options packed with sugar and artificial ingredients and containing little protein, there are characteristics to keep in mind when choosing yogurt for your household. For example, one of the unhealthiest types of yogurt you can buy is one that has a lot of added sugar and very little protein. 

Sugar is one of the more worrisome ingredients when looking at yogurt labels. While some brands use artificial sweeteners to keep calories lower, which may pose its own health concern, many other brands have sugar-dense recipes to meet the taste preferences of children and adults alike.

According to Harvard Health, added sugar can raise blood pressure, increase chronic inflammation, and lead to weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, all of which are linked to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day while men should limit their intake to 36 grams.

yogurt cups

While the majority of yogurt options have some amount of added sugar, dairy-free options tend to be a surprising culprit of added sugar. Many automatically think of a non-dairy option as being healthier; however, these are the varieties I often find to be the most unhealthy. In fact, options like SO Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk yogurt alternative in Raspberry flavor has 17 grams of added sugar in one serving of yogurt. That is nearly 70% of the daily recommended intake for women in one single food item.

These high-sugar amounts are common amongst dairy-free yogurt, and these vegan options can also be low in protein. For example, that same raspberry flavored non-dairy SO Delicious yogurt that has 17 grams of added sugar also has less than 1 gram of protein per serving, which is true for many of their dairy-free flavors.

With such low protein content, these yogurt options don't contribute to minimum protein needs throughout the day and are likely to be less satiating than higher-protein options. This combination of high sugar and very low protein content makes for an undesirable option.

Not all dairy-free yogurts are equal, and there are brands that intentionally develop recipes that have more protein and less sugar, putting them in a healthier category. Amongst all yogurt, dairy-based or otherwise, look for options low in added sugar and with minimal artificial sweeteners. Varieties that come with candy or granola are likely to have higher sugar content, and those that are sweet but have little to no added sugar likely contain artificial sweeteners, another ingredient that has been linked to unfavorable health outcomes in some studies.

When narrowing down the yogurt options to purchase for yourself and your family, look for those with the least amount of sugar and artificial ingredients while providing at least 10 grams of protein per serving.

Kelsey Hampton Abdullah, MS, RDN
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey