Is Yogurt Good to Eat If You Have High Cholesterol?

Natural Yogurt
A wooden bowl filled with yogurt next to a wood spoon. (Image: Miriam2009/iStock/Getty Images)

Following a healthy diet and making other healthy lifestyle changes can help you lower your cholesterol levels and thus your risk of heart disease as well. Certain foods are better for lowering cholesterol than others. If you like yogurt, opt for a fat-free or low-fat version that contains live active cultures or plant stanols for the best cholesterol-lowering potential.

Live Active Cultures

Not all types of yogurt have the same effect on your cholesterol levels. A study published in the "Journal of Dairy Science" in July 2011 using people with type-2 diabetes found that eating 10.6 ounces of a yogurt containing the live active cultures Lactobacillus acidophilus La5 and Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 each day was beneficial in lowering both total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein compared to eating yogurt without these probiotics. Check the label of your yogurt to make sure it contains these organisms if you're trying to lower your cholesterol.

Fat and Saturated Fat

Eating foods high in total fat or saturated fat can increase your cholesterol, so it's better to choose fat-free or low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt. Each cup of fat-free plain yogurt has just 0.4 gram of fat, including 0.3 gram of saturated fat, compared to 8 grams of fat, including 5.1 grams of saturated fat, in plain yogurt made with whole milk. Nonfat Greek yogurt has a similar amount of fat to nonfat regular yogurt, but whole Greek yogurt has about three times the fat of regular yogurt made with whole milk, so avoid this type of yogurt if you have high cholesterol.

Specialty Yogurts

You can boost the cholesterol-lowering effects of your yogurt by choosing a specialty yogurt with added plant stanols. A study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in April 2009 found that drinking a yogurt drink fortified with plant stanols helped study participants with metabolic syndrome lower "bad" cholesterol, including both LDL and very-low-density lipoprotein, as well as triglyceride levels. This is better than yogurt with probiotics, which only lowered cholesterol and not triglycerides in a study published in "Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism" in March 2009.

Increasing the Effects

You can potentially increase the cholesterol-lowering benefits of your yogurt if you pair it with other foods that may lower cholesterol, such as fruits high in soluble fiber. Apples, apricots, berries, plums, peaches, pears, mangoes and oranges all have at least 1 gram of soluble fiber per serving, making them among the better options.

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