Yogurt is a healthy and nutritious addition to your diabetes meal plan. It’s a great option for a quick breakfast, afternoon snack or satisfying dessert. Recent research shows that yogurt consumption may be associated with lower blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, as well as lower blood pressure levels. Read on to learn more about the best yogurts for people with diabetes.
Canadian yogurt – is there a difference?
In yogurt-making, fresh milk or cream is fermented using two different lactic bacteria starters or “cultures:” Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The bacteria are added to heated, pasteurized, homogenized milk, and the milk is then incubated at a specific temperature to maximize the activity of the bacteria. These bacteria convert the lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid, which thickens the milk and gives it the tangy taste characteristic of yogurt. In Canada, all yogurt contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles.
Types of yogurt in Canada
There are many styles and preparations of yogurt available in Canada to choose from:
Stirred yogurt is the traditional type of yogurt made by fermenting milk in a large tank, then cooling and stirring it to achieve a creamy texture.
Balkan-style yogurt is fermented inside individual containers rather than in a large tank. A warm cultured milk mixture is poured into containers and incubated without any further stirring, which gives it a thicker texture. This type of yogurt is frequently used for yogurt that is packaged with fruit on the bottom.
Greek yogurt is strained to remove most of its whey, resulting in a thicker consistency than regular unstrained yogurt, while still preserving the distinctive sour taste of yogurt.
Skyr, or Icelandic yogurt, has a consistency similar to Greek yogurt, but a milder taste. It is made the same way as Greek yogurt but is strained further to make it even thicker.
Probiotic yogurt contains additional strains of good bacteria called probiotics, in addition to regular yogurt’s bacterial cultures, which contribute to healthy gut flora. It has the same creamy taste as regular yogurt.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is similar to yogurt but has a thinner consistency. Thanks to the use of yeast fermentation, kefir contains probiotics and has a slight zesty taste.
Determining carbohydrate content
Most yogurts have a low glycemic index, which makes them ideal for people with diabetes. However, it’s important to pay attention to the Nutrition Facts label to determine the carbohydrate content of the yogurt you’re buying. Choose options that contain 10 grams of sugar or less. Yogurts that contain a total carbohydrate content of 15 grams or less per serving are ideal for people with diabetes.
A few things to watch for when considering the carbohydrate content in yogurt:
- Look for yogurts that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, such as plain, unsweetened stirred yogurt or unflavored Greek yogurt.
- Watch for sugar content among brands of yogurt – and even among flavours within the same brand – as they can vary widely. Additional sugar content often comes from toppings such as fruit, candy, nuts and granola.
- Yogurts that are labeled “low fat” may have a higher sugar content.
The best choice is plain yogurt, to which you can add your own healthy toppings, such as fresh fruit, unsweetened granola or unsalted nuts and seeds. You can better control the amount of carbohydrates, calories and fat in your yogurt serving this way.
The table below shows a selection of some of the best Canadian yogurts for people with diabetes and their nutritional information, listed from lowest carb content to highest carb content per serving.
NOTE THAT THE SERVING SIZE VARIES WITH EACH BRAND AND TYPE OF YOGURT.