Yogurt can be part of a healthy diet, but, like any other food, should be eaten in moderation. A balanced, varied diet is necessary for good health. Which type of yogurt you choose is important in determining how much you eat, because some are more nutritious than others; the calories, protein, fat and sugar varies.
Recommended Dairy Consumption per Day
A good starting point for figuring out how much yogurt you should eat per day is the recommended daily dairy consumption. For anyone over the age of 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate website recommends 3 cups of dairy per day. Each cup of yogurt counts as 1 cup of dairy.
Potential Yogurt Health Benefits
Yogurt may have some health benefits, making it a good food to include in a healthy diet. People who consume more dairy products, including yogurt, may have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, obesity and heart disease. The probiotics contained in many yogurts may have beneficial effects on health as well, according to a review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in the digestive tract that help control levels of harmful bacteria and limit the risk for certain health conditions.
Consider the Calories in Yogurt
It's important not to eat so much yogurt that you go over your recommended daily calories. While some studies show beneficial effects for yogurt on weight, others show a potential for increased weight gain in some people with increasing consumption of yogurt, according to another article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014. The calories in yogurt can vary quite a bit, with a 3/4-cup serving of vanilla non-fat yogurt having as many as 143 calories and a 3/4-cup serving of nonfat vanilla yogurt sweetened with a low-calorie sweetener instead of sugar having as few as 73 calories.
Choose Lower-Fat Yogurt
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends choosing nonfat or low-fat versions of yogurt; full-fat versions can provide a significant amount of fat, a large portion of which comes from unhealthy saturated fat. A 3/4-cup serving of plain whole milk yogurt has more than 5 grams of fat, which is about 8 percent of the daily value for fat of 65 grams. Eating 3 cups of this yogurt would use up more than 30 percent of your recommended fat grams for the day. Low-fat yogurt has about 2 grams of fat per 3/4-cup serving, and non-fat yogurt has, by definition, less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, making them better choices if you plan to have multiple servings of yogurt per day.
Skip Sugary Yogurts
Opt for plain yogurt over the flavored varieties, as these are quite high in sugar. Choosing Greek yogurt can lower the sugar content even further, as the whey that's strained out in the process of making Greek yogurt contains much of the natural sugars in the yogurt. The American Heart Association recommends women get no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, which equals about 25 grams of sugar per day, and men get no more than 150 calories, or about 38 grams per day, from added sugars. A 3/4-cup serving of low-fat fruit yogurt can have more than 32 grams of sugar, while the same amount of plain low-fat yogurt has about 12 grams of sugar and nonfat Greek yogurt has less than 6 grams.
Making Yogurt More Nutritious and Delicious
Plain low-fat yogurt isn't necessarily appealing to everyone, but you can take this nutritious yogurt and add other foods to it to improve the flavor and the nutrient content. Consider adding fruit to give it more sweetness, and nuts to add some crunch while increasing the protein and healthy unsaturated fats. Both fruit and nuts contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. Another way to make yogurt more filling is to mix in some high-fiber, low-sugar cereal.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Yogurt and Dairy Product Consumption to Prevent Cardiometabolic Diseases: Epidemiologic and Experimental Studies
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Yogurt and Weight Management
- University of Florida Extension: Shopping for Health: Yogurt
- USDA Nutrients List: Dairy and Egg Products
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: All About the Dairy Group
- American Heart Association: Sugar 101
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients