Yogurt: natural, Greek, coconut, high protein

With the ever-expanding range of yoghurts at the supermarket, how do you know which one is right for you? Here is a simple guide to get you started.

Susie Burrell

Yogurts have come a long way since you just had to decide if you wanted vanilla or strawberry to go with your breakfast.

Choices now include plain, fruit, coconut, Greek, high protein, and high protein Greek, plus a growing range of plant-based yogurts that differ significantly when it comes to nutritional profile and taste for that matter.

Here’s everything you need to know about the most common yogurts found in supermarkets and the nutritional pros and cons of each.

Natural yogurt

Not as common these days, plain yogurt is a simple blend of cow’s milk and live cultures that are fermented, thickened, and then packaged without the addition of other fruits, sugars, or flavors. With only zero to 4 percent fat, 5 grams of natural sugars, and nearly 200 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams, plain yogurt is a nutritionally excellent option and offers the benefit of probiotic cultures, which are associated with a number of digestive health benefits. If you can track down natural yogurt in supermarkets, it can be used in baking, enjoyed with fruit or cereal, or in mixed dishes as a low-fat alternative to heavy cream and sour cream.

Professionals: Naturally low in sugars, rich in calcium and a source of live cultures

Against: Difficult to find in supermarkets as most yogurts are Greek or flavored varieties

Muesli with yogurt and blueberries.
Muesli with yogurt and blueberries.Marina Olifante

Fruit yoghurt

Fruit yogurt has come a long way over the past 20 years, with a shift toward lower-sugar varieties versus a tub that could hold up to six teaspoons of the white stuff a few years ago. As a general rule, the less added sugar in a fruit yogurt the better, and there’s a growing range of sugar-free varieties of both plain and Greek yogurt. There are also a small handful of sweet yogurt diet varieties that still contain sweeteners, so wherever possible, look for options labeled as naturally sweetened rather than artificially sweetened options, which are identified by the 1950s description of the additive.

Professionals: Sweeter options that may be more palatable, especially for children

Against: It can be hard to find tasty options with no added sugar

greek yogurt

The key difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is that Greek yogurt is made using different processing techniques where the yogurt is strained and fermented with live bacterial cultures, which concentrate the protein, while also reducing the natural lactose (sugar naturally present in milk) content, creating a thicker product with a stronger flavor. Nutritionally, Greek yogurt contains more protein and less natural sugar, with lower amounts of calcium than other varieties. You can find a range of different Greek options, from reduced or low-fat varieties to full-fat Greek yogurt, which is nearly 10 percent fat. Like regular yogurt, you can enjoy Greek yogurt with your favorite cereal or fruit. Whole-fat Greek yogurt also cooks well and is a great alternative to cream in blended recipes.

Professionals: Higher in protein and lower in sugar than plain yogurt

Against: It has a strong taste and texture, which you may not always like

Neil Perry's Turkish poached eggs with Greek yogurt, sage and chilli.
Neil Perry’s Turkish poached eggs with Greek yogurt, sage and chilli.William Meppem

Greek yogurt

The main difference between Greek and Greek-style yogurt is that Greek-style yogurt is processed differently than real Greek yogurt and is not always strained in the same time-consuming way as regular Greek yogurt. Rather, Greek-style yogurt is processed with a range of thickeners and gums to give it a texture similar to Greek yogurt, but more stable and longer-lasting than fresh Greek yogurt. A fancier product means that if you’re looking for Greek yogurt, opting for the real thing rather than Greek-style is the way to go nutritionally.

Professionals: May be more palatable than Greek yogurt

Against: A much more elaborate form of yogurt

High protein yogurt

This variety of yogurt generally has a Greek yogurt base or extra protein added to target a younger, more active yogurt consumer. The protein content ranges from 10 to 20 grams per 170 to 200 gram serving, compared to half of this in regular servings of yogurt. Protein-rich yogurts can have a significant carbohydrate load with the addition of extra sugar, so you need to pay close attention to labels and ideally look for options labeled with no added sugar. The only downside to most of these high-protein options is that they’re too high in protein for kids.

Professionals: Low-calorie, protein-rich, nutrient-rich foods

Against: Not suitable for children

Coconut yogurt is one of the growing number of plant-based options.
Coconut yogurt is one of the growing number of plant-based options.iStock

Vegetable yogurt

As the demand for plant-based foods continues to grow, there is also a growing range of plant-based yogurt options, including soy, oat, and coconut yogurt, however their distinctive taste and texture cause their popularity to vary. In general, plant-based yogurts offer a minimal amount of protein compared to dairy-based yogurts (zero to 3% compared to 5-20% for dairy) and often have added sugars to make them more palatable. Plant-based yogurts also lack key nutrients, including calcium, that you normally get from plain yogurt. So if you prefer to eat plant-based or need to avoid dairy, always check the ingredients list on your plant-based yogurts and opt for one that contains minimal added sugar, or look for one of the few soy-based options that contain protein.

Professionals: Vegetable option

Against: Not always palatable and lacking the nutritional profile of milk-based yoghurt

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