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MORE Yogurt Options for the Lactose-Challenged

Submitted by on February 18, 2010 – 8:20 pm24 Comments

I’ve written previously about lactose-free and soy-free yogurt options for those among us with uncooperative digestive systems.

The Greek Empire

The yogurt which established a new Greek Empire in your supermarket

But the google-searches for lactose-free yogurts continue unabated, and since I posted that initial article, the only brand of dairy yogurt on the market that used lactose-free milk (True Yogurt) has become unavailable due to the loss of their production facilities.

Despair not, my fellow lactards.  There is another yogurt option that your intestines may find tolerable: European Style yogurt.

You may have noticed the European invasion in your local dairy aisle: there’s a veritable Greek Empire led by brands like Fage, Oikos, Chobani, The Greek Gods, Trader Joe’s Greek Style yogurt and Brown Cow Greek yogurt; then there are the Icelandic Skyrs (Siggi’s), and the continentally-inspired “European-style yogurts” (Cultural Revolution).  What these products all have in common is that they’re strained to remove a large amount of the lactose-containing liquid (whey) found in your typical American-style yogurt, so they’re a) very thick; b) naturally higher in protein; c) naturally lower in carbohydrate.  Now: since all of the carbohydrate naturally found in yogurt is lactose (milk sugar), a lower carbohydrate yogurt means a lower-lactose yogurt. For some people who can tolerate small amounts of lactose but still have trouble with conventional American-style yogurt, these products may be perfect for you.

How low-lactose are European-style yogurts?

Ounce for ounce, your typical European-style yogurt will have about half or less of the amount of lactose as a standard American-style yogurt.  (This is also very good news for people with diabetes, as plain European style yogurts are very low-carb.)

Let’s start with a standard American-style product for comparisons’ sake: a 6oz container of plain, Dannon low fat yogurt, which contains 11g of naturally-occurring sugar, all of which is lactose (milk sugar).  All conventional yogurts will contain roughly this same amount of lactose, which means any additional sugar listed on the label beyond 11g is added sugar for flavor.  (As a sidebar: if you’d like to read more about how much added sugar is too much added sugar when it comes to yogurt, read this response to a reader who asked that very same question.)

By way of comparison, a standard 5.3oz container of Greek-style yogurt contains 6g lactose (or about 7g for brands sold in a 6oz container), which amounts to 45% less lactose than American-style yogurt.

If that doesn’t excite you, there are thicker, more strained versions out there with even LESS lactose.  A standard 6oz container of Siggi’s Icelandic-style yogurt contains a mere 4g of lactose, or 64% less lactose than American-style yogurt.  (It also has 16-17g of protein and 20% of your daily calcium needs.)

2% fat Cultural Revolution yogurt has the least amount of lactose you can find in a milk-based yogurt

If their labels don't lie, 2% fat Cultural Revolution yogurt has the least amount of lactose (2g) you can find in a milk-based yogurt

And finally, there is Cultural Revolution yogurt, whose low-fat version (2%) is an unimaginably low-lactose product: Just 2g of lactose in a standard 6oz container. That’s 82% less lactose than a conventional American style yogurt.  (Note that the whole milk version (5%) has more lactose: 5g per 6oz container.)

One last–and important–lactose-related factoid when it comes to yogurt is this: the live, active cultures (bacteria) in your yogurt will have predigested some of its lactose before you even eat it, which is why yogurts (and cheeses) are often better-tolerated than straight liquid milk in people with some degree of lactose intolerance.

To put this in mathematical terms: a very low lactose yogurt + some lactose pre-digested by the yogurt cultures= a very good chance people with some (but not complete) lactose intolerance will be able to enjoy yogurt again.

Ready to give real yogurt a try again?

My recommendation is always to choose plain (unflavored) European or Greek-style yogurt if you like how it tastes–or if its convenient for you to doctor it up with a touch of your own sweetener or favorite add-in (I’m partial to almonds + 1 tsp honey, or just a sprinkle of granola).

Virtually all flavored yogurts are loaded with added sugar–often over 3 tsp worth in a teensy little container.  (As a rule of thumb, 6 tsp added sugar per day is a good limit for most women.)  Flavored Greek Yogurts are no exception, and all sugar listed on the label beyond the lactose content detailed above is straight up added sugar.  (In fact, I’ve seen many Greek yogurt products with an unheard-of 30g+ of sugar per container!  I won’t name names, but you know who you are, you sugar-pushing bullies…)  Note: if you’re concerned about lactose, you may want to avoid Cabot’s Greek Style Yogurt: their yogurts contain added whey protein concentrate, which contains lactose.  As a result, their Greek Yogurt has the same amount of lactose as your standard, American-style version.

You make a mean Skyr, Siggi.

You make a mean Skyr, Siggi.

If your tastebuds simply won’t adapt to the flavor of plain, then there are some brands that have less added sugar than others.  When I’m not buying plain, here’s what I’d buy:

  • Siggi’s Icelandic style yogurt in Vanilla, Grapefruit, Blueberry or Orange-Ginger  (These flavors have 10g total sugar, or 1.5tsp added sugar.  So does the Acai flavor, but I think it tastes kinda weird.  Sorry, Siggi.)  Plus, its made with milk from hormone-free, grass-fed cows.
  • Cultural Revolution yogurt in Vanilla, Strawberry, Peach or Raspberry.  These flavors have 10g-11g total sugar in the whole milk variety, which is ~1.5tsp added sugar; and only 8g total sugar in the 2% (lowfat) variety.  And bonus, its made from organic milk.
  • Stonyfield Farm’s Oikos Greek-style yogurt in Vanilla only (has 11g total sugar per container, and it’s made with organic milk.)  The other flavors have way too much sugar added for me to recommend them.
  • In a pinch, Brown Cow Vanilla Greek Yogurt isn’t egregious at 12g sugar per container… but it’s pushing the limits.
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  • […] MORE Yogurt Options for the Lactose-Challenged […]

  • Cristyn says:

    Might I also suggest goat milk yogurt by Redwood Hill Farm. I’ve tried the vanilla and it is delicious!

  • Tamara says:

    Great suggestion, Cristyn! A 6oz container of plain goat’s milk yogurt has 7g of lactose, which is comparable to a similarly-sized portion of Greek yogurt. Same caveat about the sugar though: some of their flavored varieties have over 3 tsp of added sugar (20-21g total).

  • Bill says:

    If the high cost is an impediment to daily consumption, try making it yourself for 1/16th the cost. Yes, that is right – in NYC it is 3 bucks for a 6 oz cup or $0.50 an oz or $16.00 a quart. I make a quart of it in my Waring Pro yogurt maker for less than $1.00 including the extra dry milk and electricity. Try it yourself:

    BTW, if you are going to leave a comment, do not use the allowed tag for a link as the Spam Protection will not allow any links – I tried with the above and got an error message: Too many links, you have one link. I tried several times to get the link through but the darn spam protector wouldn’t let the link through.

  • Veronika says:

    For people lucky enough to live in Oregon or Washington there’s a product called Yami It’s organic and lactose free. My 2 year old has issues with lactose, and I’m so depressed that we’re leaving the area and he won’t be able to eat yogurt (he can’t handle Fage at all). Just a heads up, though.

  • Dale Lueck says:

    I have been quite sensitive to lactose for 2-3 years now, but a life long yogurt lover. As a young grad student, I used to make my own yogurt in a thermos bottle to save money. Now I purchase lactose free milk, and make my own yogurt again. I use a greek style starter and strain the product after culturing. I get a delicious thick yogurt with virtually no lactose in one day, with no expensive equipment. Buy two 1.2L thermos bottles with a wide neck, and you get enough strained yogurt to last nearly 2 weeks.

  • Marsha L says:

    Green Valley Organics makes 100% Lactose-free Yogurt, and it’s
    delicious. They have recently become available at Whole Foods
    in the Boston area. They also make Kefir.

  • lisa says:

    Do you know if full fat vs low fat Greek yogurts are better for lactose intolerant?

  • Tamara says:

    Anecdotally, the lactose in full fat dairy products does seem to be better tolerated than in low fat dairy products for some people, though I believe this is due to the fact that higher fat dairy may actually have less lactose than lower-fat ones. (Lactose is not fat-soluble, so when fat is removed from whole dairy, what’s left is the protein and sugars, which will then be relatively higher as a percentage of the total.) Based on the ingredient labels of Fage Total Greek Yogurt, it does appear that the full fat version has slightly less sugar (lactose) than the 0%, so I think it’s worth a try!

  • amy says:

    i love chatham creamery sheeps milk yogurt..just sheeps milk and culture..nothing else added. no sugar, no pectin, no gums

    the sugar content for 6 ounces is 3 grams..very low lactose and full of medium chain triglycerides and easier to digest than cows milk. it is full fat, but the mct fat profile it offers is great for the body and actually found to be proven fat burning fat.

    it comes plain, maple, blueberry, ginger. its thicker and sweeter, creamier than goats milk yogurt. yum!
    an awesome breakfast, canned pumpkin or squash mixed with sheeps mlk yogurt, cinammon, topped with toasted walnuts.

  • amy says:

    btw green valley organics is low fat lactose free does have fillers though, think pectin or guar gum.

  • Carol Blackburn says:

    I checked on the Fage website and they say none of their yogurts are lactose free. So why are you saying the are gluten and lactose free? Is there a special type that is only sold wholesale or something?

  • Tamara says:

    Hi, Carol,
    In my post, I stated that Greek yogurt has about 6g of lactose, or about 45% less than standard American-style yogurt. I did not claim they are lactose free, so apologies for any misunderstanding!

  • Audrey Lawrence says:

    Hello Tamara,
    You mentioned that the liquid whey was the problem for lactose intolerance when eating yogurt. I eat Chobani and wondered if I pour out any of the liquid whey that accumulates after the first serving (in the 4 serving size container) do you think that would help a little with my mild intolerance? I really hate to give it up but occasionally suffer from flatulence which I think is caused by the yogurt.

  • Tamara says:

    It depends on how lactose intolerant you are, but it certainly won’t hurt! Worth giving it a try for sure!

  • I’ve wondered for a long time if there was another type of yogurt that’s lactose and soy free. The reason is that I’ve never been able to handle dairy products. As a child I had so many ear infections and so many sets of tubes. So, I was taken off all dairy products and that stopped. Anyways, if I ever eat to much dairy my nose starts to run like a sift and sometimes I start to sneeze. That and the change of the weather really does it sometimes. Thanks for the idea.

  • Anna says:

    I am wondering which yoghurt has less lactose in it – fromage frais with no added sugar or greek yoghurt with no added sugar? I can’t seem to find an answer anywhere! Thanks!

  • Tamara says:

    Read the nutrition label and look for the total grams of sugar. All sugar in a plain dairy product should be from milk sugar (lactose). Whichever product has fewer grams of sugar is the one with less lactose.

  • Stacey says:

    Yoplait sells lactose free yogurt!!!!!

  • Brita says:


    I am wondering how you can tell how much Lactose is in yogurt?

    I believe that “Cultural Revolution” yogurt has had a name change, as well. It’s now just “Kalona SuperNatural” yogurt. (Kalona made “Cultural Revolution” before, but just rebranded it.)

    Thank you!


  • Tamara says:

    Look at the grams of sugar listed in the yogurt’s plain (unflavored) variety. The total sugar grams equal the total lactose grams.

  • Sira says:

    how about yogurt that are completely lactose free? The only ones I know about are Lactose free Yoplait and Silk.

  • Noemi says:

    Which yogurts brands are lactose free??

  • Tamara says:

    Green Valley Organics!