Can you eat greek yoghurt if you are lactose intolerant?
In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat greek yoghurt if you are lactose intolerant?” with an in-depth analysis of Greek yoghurt and lactose intolerance, the nutritional profile of greek yoghurt, the health benefits of greek yoghurt and some lactose-free brands of greek yoghurt.
Can you eat greek yoghurt if you are lactose intolerant?
Yes, you can eat greek yoghurt if you are lactose intolerant. Greek yoghurt is suitable for lactose intolerant individuals as it has less lactose content than regular yoghurt, milk and even ice cream.
Lactose intolerance is a common disease; however, it is rare in children younger than 5. It is most often seen in adolescents and young adults. On average, 65% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. North Americans, Australians, and White Northern Europeans have the lowest rates, ranging between 2% and 15%. On the contrary, the prevalence of lactose intolerance is 50% to 80% in South Americans, around 100% in American Indians and some East Asians, and around 60% to 80% in Ashkenazi Jews and Africans (2).
That is due to the straining and fermentation process it undergoes. And, in addition, its live and active cultures also help to break down the lactose it does consist of, so you don’t have as much to digest yourself, making it easier for you to absorb. However, for the avoidance of doubt, you can also purchase lactose-free Greek yoghurt.
It has been known for some time that lactose-deficient subjects tolerate lactose in yogurt better than the same amount of lactose in milk. Some of the lactose content of milk is metabolized during fermentation. The majority of lactose remains intact and it is broken down to easily absorbable glucose and galactose by the constituent lactase enzyme of the culture. There is strong clinical evidence in the literature that by consuming yogurt there is marked improvement in lactose utilization. Human studies have clinically demonstrated that following feeding yogurt to lactose-intolerant individuals increased lactase activity in the small intestine of humans is observed (1).
Greek yoghurt and lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance refers to the incapability to digest lactose, which is natural sugar present in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is a clinical syndrome that manifests with characteristic signs and symptoms upon consuming food substances containing lactose, a disaccharide. Normally upon lactose consumption, it is hydrolyzed into glucose and galactose by the lactase enzyme, which is found in the small intestinal brush border (2).
People who are lactose intolerant may experience abdominal pain, diarrhoea, gas and stomach cramps when they ingest dairy. This is due to the individual not having enough lactase to assimilate the lactose or not being able to digest the lactose in the body.
Lactose intolerance does not have to hold you from having Greek yoghurt as it has a very low amount of lactose. That is because, during production, it is strained many times to exclude the whey products. This straining process gives Greek yoghurt its thick and creamy texture, excluding the bulk of the lactose.
In addition, the probiotics in Greek yoghurt help with the absorption of lactose. Yogurt bacteria have been scientifically demonstrated to assist in lactose digestion, reduce or prevent diarrhea episodes, and strengthen immune defenses of the host (1).
There are many reasons to add Greek yoghurt to your diet. In contrast to one cup serving of milk which comprises 12 g of lactose, Greek yoghurt only consists of 4 g of lactose per 6-oz serving, making it a lower lactose food. Yogurt contains varying amounts of lactose and may cause symptoms in some patients. Greek yogurt has the least. Yogurt culture microorganisms can produce β-galactosidase as part of their lactose utilization pathway. This may promote lactose digestion in vivo (2).
In addition to that, Greek yoghurt is a result of the acidic fermentation of milk. Its production starts with the disintegration of lactose into glucose and galactose, which is really helpful for lactose intolerant individuals. It technically indicates that the process of lactose breakdown begins long before you even have it.
The nutritional profile of Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is regarded as a superfood due to its high content of protein and low content of carbohydrates. It has twice the number of proteins and half the number of carbohydrates of regular yoghurt.
A 6-ounce serving of Greek yoghurt provides between 15 to 20 g of protein and 5 to 6 g of carbs. It is also enriched with essential nutrients including calcium, zinc and vitamin B12. Incorporating it into meals may keep you fuller longer because of its protein (1).
The health benefits of Greek yoghurt
Improve bone health
Consumption of Greek yoghurt has been found to improve bone health, as it is loaded with calcium and protein, both of which are vital for bone health. Calcium particularly helps to maintain healthy bones. It can also lower the risk of osteoporosis.
In an American study, yogurt consumption in children (8–18 years) was associated with higher intakes of calcium, vitamin D, and protein and lower intakes of saturated and total fat, demonstrating yogurt’s potential to contribute to intakes of shortfall nutrients, particularly those involved in bone health (1).
The protein-rich content of Greek yoghurt helps people feel fuller for longer, thus reducing their appetite.
High protein greek yogurt has demonstrated the ability to reduce appetite and energy intake in subsequent meals compared to lower protein snacks and snack-skipping (3).
Greek yoghurt contains enough protein, fibrous carbohydrates, and healthful fats that may help in weight loss and in boosting metabolism.
There is an increasing body of epidemiological and clinical evidence to suggest that yogurt consumption may be beneficial to cardiometabolic health. For example, data suggest that yogurt consumption is associated with a smaller common carotid artery intima-media thickness, reduced risk of colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, yogurt consumption has been shown to be inversely associated with long-term bodyweight gain (4).
It also contains probiotics that are beneficial bacteria that help to restore healthy bacteria in the gut (1).
Encourage good mental health
It has been found that consuming Greek yoghurt is helpful for a person’s mental health. This may be due to the association between the gut and brain, and the ability of the gut to produce neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine (5).
Greek yoghurt also provides other health benefits. It may also (1)
- Help build muscle mass.
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.
Some lactose-free Greek yoghurt brands
For people with high lactose sensitivity, there are many lactose-free brands of Greek yoghurt, some of which are mentioned below:
- So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Plain
- Liberté Plain 0 per cent Lactose-Free
- Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free Plain Greek Yogurt
- So Delicious Dairy Free Coconut Milk Flavored
- Yoplait Lactose-Free Vanilla/Cherry/Strawberry/Peach
- Stonyfield O’Soy Vanilla/Blueberry/Raspberry/Strawberry/Strawberry and Peach
- Green Valley Organics Lactose-Free Flavored Greek Yogurt
All these brands are completely lactose-free, with an amazing taste and are great for baking some special fluffy pancakes, or a yummy smoothie.
Other FAQs about Yogurt that you may be interested in.
Can you eat yogurt that has been frozen?
In this brief guide, we have answered the question, “Can you eat greek yoghurt if you are lactose intolerant?” with an in-depth analysis of Greek yoghurt and lactose intolerance, the nutritional profile of greek yoghurt, the health benefits of greek yoghurt and some lactose-free brands of greek yoghurt.
- Chandan, Ramesh C., Akanksha Gandhi, and Nagendra P. Shah. Yogurt: Historical background, health benefits, and global trade. Yogurt in health and disease prevention. Academic Press, 2017. 3-29.
- Malik, Talia F., and Kiran K. Panuganti. Lactose intolerance. StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2021.
- Bridge, Aaron, et al. Greek yogurt and 12 weeks of exercise training on strength, muscle thickness and body composition in lean, untrained, university-aged males. Front nutr, 2019, 55.
- Hobbs, D.A., Givens, D.I. & Lovegrove, J.A. Yogurt consumption is associated with higher nutrient intake, diet quality and favourable metabolic profile in children: a cross-sectional analysis using data from years 1–4 of the National diet and Nutrition Survey, UK. Eur J Nutr, 2019, 58, 409–422.
- Clark, Allison, and Núria Mach. Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: a systematic review for athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2016, 13, 43.