MORE Yogurt Options for the Lactose-Challenged
I’ve written previously about lactose-free and soy-free yogurt options for those among us with uncooperative digestive systems.
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.)
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.
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.