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Food & fluids

The active life of yoghurt

Yoghurt is consumed worldwide and is believed to have originated accidentally 3000 years ago in Turkey when herdsmen noticed the milk they carried in animal stomach containers had curdled as it reacted with the natural enzymes present in the stomach pouches.

Although the methods of yoghurt production have drastically changed over the years the broad principles of using bacterium to alter milk is the same.
For those unable to tolerate cow’s milk it may be comforting to know that around the world yoghurt is made using milk from other animals e.g. goats, camels, ewes and water buffalos.
While yoghurt is available using coconut milk the protein is lower and saturated fats and sugar content is generally higher than conventional yoghurt. Depending on your needs Almond yoghurt may prove to be a healthier alternative for those seeking dairy free.

Yoghurt is a “live” food

Yoghurt is made using lactobacillus bulgaricus and stretococcus thermophilus bacteria which convert milk to yoghurt via a fermentation process which converts lactose to lactic acid. This conversion not only alters the protein to create the texture and sour flavour characteristic of yoghurt today but also enables people who may be otherwise lactose intolerant to digest milk more easily.

Yoghurt is considered a ‘live”food as many of the microorganisms it contains also exist naturally in the human gut. Many of these bacterai are beneficial to our health and are known as probiotics such as lactobacilli (L.acidophilis and L. casei) and bifidobacteria (L.animalis and L.lactis)

Market trends

Yoghurt is big business today, available in single serve and kilogram pottles, manufactures are responding to the changing lifestyle of consumers.

According to Euromonitor International 2018 was another year of growth in the yoghurt market in New Zealand with strong innovation happening in the growth of Greek flavours.

Drinking yoghurt is also gaining popularity here particularly the use of drinking pouches and single serve yoghurt that are targeting young children.

yoghurt containing full fat and higher protein varieties; the addition of probiotics and dairy free/soy free alternatives are targeting consumers who may have different dietary requirements,taste preferences and traditions.

The healthfulness of yoghurt

Yoghurt is a healthy, economic and beneficial way to supply the body with macronutrients particularly protein with high levels of essential amino acids of high biological value.

Nutrient content

Yoghurt generally also provides a higher concentration of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc than whole milk.

Yoghurt also contains B group vitamins. Just 100mls of low fat, unsweetened yoghurt can contribute 400kJ (97kcal) and provides the following percentages of RDI (recommended daily intake) for adults: Calcium 16%; Phosphorus 13%, Zinc 6%, Vitamin B2 24% and Vitamin B12 13%.

Yoghurt has many uses

These nutrients make yoghurt the ideal food for adults living active busy lives; children who are growing; athletes needing after sport recovery snacks or the elderly or sick needing an easy to swallow nutrient boost. Ideas for use could include:

Breakfast: Try it with fruit and cereal or served with porridge

Lunches and snacks: Increase the protein of lunches with a pottle of yoghurt or blend yoghurt with low fat milk and fruit to make smoothies for an afternoon /after sport snack

Dinner: Serve as a dessert or as a meal for the elderly or convalescing along with stewed fruit and a protein filled sandwich, or soup and cheese toasty.
Yoghurt can also be used in cooking in the place of cream, in salad dressings, dips, soups and sauces

Yoghurt selection

If you are concerned about controlling your weight or cholesterol level then choose a yoghurt with the following profile/100mls:

Energy level <400kJ
Fat content <3g
Saturated fat content <1.5g
Calcium 200mg

Remember that in the end food is only nutritious if it gets eaten. So try to find one with a healthy profile but also one that you can enjoy. Making your own yoghurt can also prove very easy and cost-effective.

Brand Energy Protein Fat Saturated Carbohydrate Sugar Sodium Calcium Probiotic Vit D
  kJ/kcals g g g g g mg mg   ug
Yoplait Berry® 309/74 4.3 1.8 1.3 9.9 9.5 33 127
Yoplait Low fat Fruited Yoghurt® 275/66 4.8 2 1.5 7 7 35 143
Yoplait with real vanilla® 324/77 4.3 1.8 1.3 10.9 10.6 32 127
Fresh n Fruity Simply Apricot® 296/71 3.8 1.4 0.8 10.6 9.2 36 174 0.7
The Collective Straight up® 400/96 5.4 5.9 3.9 5.3 5.3 78 186
Cyclops Greek Yoghurt® 349/83 8.7 2 0.7 8.1 4.7 46 230
Doctors Choice Bio Yoghurt® 264/63 3.7 3.4 2 4.4 3 56 160
Cocowow Dairy free Coconut® 327/78 0.8 6 5.3 5.6 1.5 16.8 N/A
Symbio Probalance Passionfruit® 302/72 4.2 0.9 0.5 10.4 9 38 178 0.7
Dairy Free Yoghurt Passionfruit® 348/83 2.6 1.7 0.8 14 10.3 8.6 N/A
EasiYo Freshly Made Slimmers® 211/51 5.1 0.2 0.1 7 7 47 148
EasiYo Freshly Made Unsweetened® 290/69 3.8 3.7 2.5 5.2 5.2 34 124
Hansells Lite Greek Unsweetened® 278/67 5.7 1.3 0.9 8.2 6.5 55 160
Anchor Protein+unsweetened® 252/60 8.2 1.9 1.2 2.5 2.5 94 198
Yoplait Greek 2xProtein Coconut® 391/93 8.4 2.3 1.7 9.6 9.2 43 260

Ref Foodworks Xyris 9 2018

Health promotion

Research has found that aside from aiding normal energy needs as mentioned above the nutrients found in yoghurt can assist individuals with health problems1 such as:

  • Vitamin D and calcium deficiency
  • Weight management and malnutrition
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Lowered immunity
  • Musculoskeletal health issues
  • Strengthening of bone and remineralization of tooth enamel

Yoghurt and Probiotics

Recent research has focused on the use of probiotics to improve mental health and the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Mental health

In 2014, 70 petrochemical workers took part in a randomised, double-blind and placebo controlled study over a period of six months that looked at the effects probiotics might have on general and mental health.

The trial compared probiotic capsules, probiotic yoghurt and a conventional yoghurt placebo group and found that the use of probiotic yoghurt and capsules improved the workers general health questionnaire scores and also a significant improvement in stress scale scores measuring feelings of depression and anxiety.

While these findings are encouraging more research is needed with other populations before these results can be generalised and also the time frame needs to be extended to determine if positive effects persist long-term. 2

Irritable bowel

Many people are interested to see if their symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be improved using probiotics. Once again there is a lack of long-term positive research into this with most studies only lasting up to six months.

The main word of caution relates to the fact that there are a wider range of probiotic products now on the market that all contain different strains of bacteria and varying doses. People trialling these products do need to be aware that some products contain other ingredients that may increase IBS symptoms (e.g. dietary fibre, oats, FODMAP’s, Fructooligosaccharides (FOS), lactose, fructose, Sorbitol and Xylitol.

Probiotics are considered to be generally safe and if improvements in symptoms occur after a four-week trial period then individuals should continue their use. If you are wanting to try a range of products then select only one product at a time, follow the dose recommended by the manufacturer for 4 weeks before moving onto the trialling of another product. 3,4

Probiotic Eating guideline

 If you are unsure about the probiotic being recommended check out this Probiotic eating guide5

If you would like to discuss your own needs for probiotics, better gut health and the use of yoghurt to meet your current nutritional needs then do contact us

Articles by Lea on similar topics

Whats to drink?
Brain food part 2: Thinking food
8 Healthy tips when making real food choices
Are plant beverages suitable for kids?Juice diets
Milk matters
Milking it:is A2 milk worth the extra cost
Milk myth fact sheet


  1. El-Abbadi NH, Dao MC, Meydani SN. Yoghurt:role in healthy and active aging Am J Clin Nut 2014 May;99(5 Suppl):1263S-70S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.073957. Epub 2014 Apr 2.
  2. Mohammadi AA, Jazayeri S, Khosravi-Darani K, Solati Z, Mohammadpour N, Asemi Z, et al. The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers. Nutr Neurosci. 2016 Nov;19(9):387-95.
  3. McKenzie YA, Thompson J, Gulia P, Lomer MCE (IBS Dietetic Guideline Review Group on behalf of Gastroenterology Specialist Group of the British Dietetic Association). British Dietetic Association systematic review of systematic reviews and evidence-based practice guidelines for the use of probiotics in the management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Oct;29(5):576-92. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12386. Epub 2016 Jun 6. Abstract available from:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27265510
  4. McKenzie YA, Bowyer RK, Leach H, Gulia P, Horobin J, O’Sullivan NA, et al. British Dietetic Association systematic review and evidence-based practice guidelines for the dietary management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016 Jun 8. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12385. [Epub ahead of print]. Abstract available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27272325
  5. Eating Guidelines on How to Choose a Probiotic Dietitians of Canada updated 2018

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

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