Health And Wellness

The 15 Best Probiotic Yogurt Brands For Better Gut Health

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woman eating yogurt

While we may not think of bacteria as being healthy for our bodies, probiotics are essential in a balanced diet

And though there are plenty of ways to include probiotics in our meals, yogurt is probably the easiest way. In addition to being good for you, probiotic yogurt is delicious and is an ideal breakfast to eat on the go.

What are probiotics and how do they help with your gut health?

Think of probiotics as good bacteria for gut health. Probiotics regulate the digestive system, increase your body’s ability to absorb vitamins, and may even help with weight loss.

Explains Dr. Sy Powell, Physician and Health Coach, “Eating yogurt helps replenish our bacteria with gut friendly helpful bacteria, also called probiotics. Research shows that people who consume high doses of yogurt might benefit and have less GI disturbances. Specific strains of bifidobacteria lactis and lactobacillus acidophilus support the gut microbiome, and result in decreased constipation and bloating, decreased inflammation, and less risk for type 2 diabetes."

When a yogurt is probiotic, it that means it's made from milk fermented by that good bacteria, usually lactic acid bacteria or bifidobacteria. 

“Fermentation happens when bacteria, yeasts and other microorganisms chemically change a food substance. For example, ethyl alcohol found in our beers, wines and liquors is made by fermenting the sugars found in barley, grapes and rice," Dr. Powell continues. "We call the intestinal bacteria our gut microbiome. It is made of trillions of different bacterias, viruses, and yeasts that work for us to help break down our food. They also help to absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat."

RELATED: Is Frozen Yogurt Good For You?

However, as Dr. Powell adds, those who are lactose intolerant can benefit from these fermented milk products because "eating or drinking a fermented milk product is easier to digest since the sugars are mostly used up by the fermentation process."

Now, since not all yogurts are created equally, it’s normal to wonder: Do all yogurts have probiotics? Well, not necessarily.

In the United States, companies can heat-treat their yogurt after it’s fermented, which kills the live bacteria, meaning that yogurt wouldn’t contain probiotics. It’s also important to consider the types of bacteria included in yogurt, as many products contain additional bacteria in addition to “starter cultures” like Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium.

Since there are dozens of yogurts on the market today — Greek, kefir, organic, non-fat, made from sheep’s milk, and so on — it can be difficult to tell which have high levels of probiotics. Specifically, is Greek yogurt high in probiotics?

Greek yogurt is strained during the process to make it thicker, meaning it contains more protein, but also more probiotics. A study even found that Greek yogurt contains lower sugar than non-Greek brands of yogurt.

Adds Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, "Cultured foods like buttermilk, cultured sour cream, kefir, and yogurt are naturally rich in probiotics. Yogurt stands up well on its own with protein, calcium, and other nutrients. And, in fact, Greek yogurts contain double the protein of conventional types."

So, aside from the consistency of Greek yogurt compared to those with more whey or natural sugar (Greek yogurt has neither), it also contains more probiotics. In addition, Kefir, which is a fermented milk product, has an even thicker consistency than Greek yogurt, and features a larger variety of bacteria and minerals.

But if you’re not a fan of yogurt, does this mean you have to take supplements to get the probiotics? Is it better to take probiotics or eat yogurt?

Taking probiotic pills is a good idea for those with dietary restrictions or allergies, but the downside to this is that though the pills contain more probiotic strains, they lack the additional nutrients you’ll find in yogurt, like calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and others.

These supplements can also negatively affect your digestive system.

According to Dr. Powell, “Don’t over supplement, as a rapid increase of probiotic bacteria in pill form can set off extra gas and bloating from too much fermentation." Instead, she recommends, "Eat yogurt after taking medications that alter the gut microbiome. Eating fermented foods like yogurt to support the gut microbiome is not as potent as supplementing with probiotic pills. But when ingested consistently, in small doses over time, eating yogurt is beneficial.”

Before choosing the best brand for you, which yogurt has the most probiotics?

Unlike thinner yogurts that have added sugar, Greek yogurt or Kefir are great sources of probiotics, and contain more than the run-of-the-mill flavored options.

Suggests Health Coach Marie Frohlich, “The best strategy for using yogurt to support a healthy biome are plain low fat yogurt brands that list at least 2-3 probiotic strains. Some clinical nutritionists recommend Fage as their top choice; others recommend Siggi’s. I recommend reading labels that show the lowest sugar content and highest diversity of probiotics for the best results.”

So, for a yogurt with more probiotics, consider trying plain Greek yogurt or a small amount of Kefir, which has a larger variety of good bacteria.

Also be sure to check the labels of the yogurts you purchase, as some may have added sugars.

Says Dr. Powell, “These good probiotics are found in yogurts that have live cultures and are not loaded with added sugars. Some brands add extra sugar to improve the taste, but it negates the potential health benefits. So, eat yogurt or drink kefir without added sugars. Try adding your own fruit or spices like vanilla or cinnamon to please your taste buds.”

In addition, recommends Dr. Powell, create a balance of probiotics with prebiotics. These can be found in other fermented foods. 

“Don’t forget to feed the probiotic bacteria with prebiotic high fiber foods. Eat more fiber, also called prebiotics — like legumes, vegetables, grains, and nuts — because the bacteria ferment fiber into healthy by-products for our bodies. Putting more fermented foods into your diet is important to support your gut microbiome."

RELATED: 20 Best Dairy-Free Yogurts That Are Both Nutritious & Delicious

We've listed the best probiotic yogurt brands to add to your diet and promote better gut health.

1. Wallaby Organic Plain Aussie Greek Yogurt

This whole milk (4.5 percent milkfat) Greek yogurt is made with organic milk from family farms. It's slow-crafted in small batches and strained, giving it a delicious, rich and creamy texture. Plus, it contains 21 grams of protein per serving, with live cultures.

(Wallaby Yogurt, prices vary)

2. Chobani Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Not only do you get a great source of protein with this yogurt, but it's made with all-natural ingredients. It's also free of soy, wheat, and caffeine, and has no added antibiotics or preservatives.

(Target, $5.59)

3. Yoplait Light Strawberry Yogurt

What's better than a yogurt that's only 90 calories? A probiotic yogurt that's creamy, delicious, and good for you. Now you can have breakfast on the go with added benefits.

(Target, $0.69)

4. Icelandic Provisions Vanilla Skyr Yogurt

Icelandic Provisions Yogurt is a rich source of protein and has a creamy texture. There are multiple flavors, including plain, raspberry, and vanilla. And it offers just 130 calories, 2g of fat, 15g carbs, and 15g protein per serving.

(Target, $1.59)

5. Stonyfield Farm Organic Yogurt

Stonyfield Farm started out making plain, pure whole-milk quarts of yogurt in 1983. But this yogurt is USDA organic, sourced from non-GMO, pasture-raised cows, and is available at most grocery stores. It has cultured, pasteurized, organic whole milk with pectin and vitamin D3.

(Target, $3.39)

6. Dannon Activia Probiotic Blended Lowfat Yogurt

Made with Grade A 2 percent milkfat, Dannon Activia is a delicious way to naturally regulate your digestive system. It's clinically proven to be effective in two weeks when eaten daily, and contains a unique probiotic culture, bifidus regularis, exclusive to Dannon.

(Walmart, $2.12)

7. Bellwether Farms Sheep Milk Yogurt

In addition to an unparalleled texture and tang, sheep's milk is nutritionally superior to cow's milk. It's 60 percent higher in protein and is easier to digest than other dairy products.

(Publix, prices vary)

8. Siggi's Skyr Plain Icelandic Style Yogurt

Siggi’s makes delicious yogurt products with not a lot of sugar and simple ingredients. Their products are based on Scandinavian dairy traditions, such as skyr, the traditional Icelandic yogurt.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

9. FAGE Total 0% Milkfat Plain Greek Yogurt

FAGE Total is a delicious Greek strained yogurt made from a family recipe dating back to 1926. The yogurt is strained after the fermentation process, making it naturally thick in consistency, rather than containing added thickeners.

(Target, $5.59)

10. Brown Cow Plain Cream Top Yogurt

Brown Cow’s Original Cream Top Yogurt is rich and satisfying because they use only whole milk. This yogurt is sweetened with cane sugar and maple syrup, and is made without the use of artificial growth hormones, artificial flavors or artificial sweeteners.

(Wegmans, $0.99)

11. Lifeway Probiotic Low Fat Plain Kefir

Kefir balances your body’s ecosystem, and supports digestive health and immunity. According to Dr. Powell, "Kefir is yogurt’s drinkable, thinner, and tarter version made by fermenting kefir grains. Kefir has a larger variety of beneficial probiotics compared to yogurt, too."

Lifeway Kefir is a creamy and delicious yogurt-like smoothie that helps keep digestive and immune systems intact, prevents common side effects from taking antibiotics, and helps those who are lactose intolerant or trying to lose weight.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

12. Nancy’s Organic Low Fat Yogurt

This yogurt has over 41 billion live probiotics per serving, including L. Acidophilus, BB-12, and L. Casei, all of which are beneficial bacteria for your gut health. You'll also get an immune boost.

(Nancy's Yogurt, prices vary)

13. Maple Hill Creamery Organic Plain Grass Fed Yogurt

With this yogurt, you're getting a yummy treat that's free of GMOs and artificial additives. Even better, the cows are pasture-raised and are never fed corn or grain.

(Whole Foods, prices vary)

14. Forager Project Unsweetened Plain Probiotic Cashewmilk Yogurt

Something can be dairy-free and still taste rich and creamy! Sumptuous vanilla is expertly blended with the rich and creamy base to create a really healthy indulgence.

(Forager Project, prices vary)

15. Noosa Yoghurt in Lemon Australia Style

Made with whole milk and just a touch of honey, you get 12g of protein in every serving. Get that velvety, creamy texture, plus a ton of calcium.

(Target, $1.99)

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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